CBC News slashing 144 positions from local services, Radio-Canada cuts 100

CBC News is laying off 144 people across the country, shrinking English-language local services in a bid to shave $15 million from its operating costs.
CBC News is laying off 144 people across the country, shrinking English-language local services in a bid to shave $15 million from its operating costs. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

TORONTO – CBC is slashing 244 jobs from local news services across the country as its plans to shift some of its limited resources to its digital operations.

The cuts include 144 positions from English-language services and 100 jobs on the French side, which include 20 vacant positions and retirements.

Meanwhile, the public broadcaster is adding 80 new digital jobs as it works towards offering a continuous news stream for mobile users.

Jennifer McGuire, Editor-in-Chief of CBC News, announced the English layoffs in a note to staff, which stressed that no stations would close and all local radio programming would be maintained.

The job losses include 37 positions in Alberta, 30 in Ontario and 25 in British Columbia.

McGuire admitted that “local services will be smaller overall” but said the relative size of each region would remain the same.

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“It hits just about everything, it hits technical, it hits editorial, it hits management and administration,” McGuire said in an interview.

“We’re also looking at efficiencies where we find them and we’re looking at how we work differently.”

Most of the cuts are related to previously announced plans to shorten local supper-hour newscasts to 30 or 60 minutes. McGuire said the shortened newscasts will be introduced in October, as will a plan to broadcast Radio One morning shows on TV.

Shows in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax, Charlottetown, St. John’s, N.L., and the North will be trimmed to 60 minutes, while programs in Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Windsor, Montreal and Fredericton will be chopped to 30 minutes.

But that doesn’t mean less local coverage, McGuire insisted.

“It depends how you define it. We actually see it as being more, but we’re looking at it wholistically,” she said, pointing to plans to add one-minute news updates to the TV schedule and boost CBC’s presence in Fort McMurray, Alta., and Sherbrooke, Que.

The cuts are part of a five-year strategy announced last June by CEO Hubert Lacroix in a bid to increase digital offerings by 2020.

The strategy included plans to cut up to 1,500 jobs, with roughly 500 positions eliminated over the following 12 to 15 months. Spokesman Chuck Thompson said almost half of the 1,500 cuts have now been made or are in the process of being implemented.

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McGuire said some of the 144 positions being cut will be through attrition and retirements, and some staff some could be assigned to the digital side. The moves are expected to shave $15 million from operating costs.

Union leader Marc-Philippe Laurin questioned a plan that he feared would cripple the broadcaster’s ability to serve smaller communities.

“According to their 2020 strategic plan, their intention is to move heavily into the digital world but they’re effectively dismantling other areas of the company,” said Laurin, president of the Canadian Media Guild’s CBC branch.

McGuire said the CBC still has more than 1,100 people providing English-language coverage in 29 stations across the country, plus CBC’s service in the North. The French service will still boast about 500 people, said Radio-Canada spokesman Marc Pichette.

“The commitment to local is there,” she said. “Are we going to do it differently? Yup, we’re going to prioritize digital in a way that we haven’t traditionally, because that’s where audiences are going.”

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