Television news cuts at CBC will hurt Canadians - CAJ

OTTAWA, June 27, 2014 /CNW/ -  The Canadian Association of Journalists expresses its concern over the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's decision to reduce its workforce in coming years by up to 1,500 employees.

On Thursday, the CBC released its 2020 strategy, a plan that effectively inverts the public broadcaster's priorities. The CBC will reduce spending on in-house television production and shift focus to mobile and digital platforms, and achieve the job cuts largely through attrition—300 employees would leave the company every year, the corporation claims.

Many supper-hour newscasts will drop from 90 minutes to 30 minutes, and the CBC is considering the sale of some of its properties—including its Toronto headquarters. The changes come about as a result of the loss of advertising revenues tied to NHL broadcasts and stagnant funding from the federal government.

This will make it particularly challenging for the CBC – especially in its English-language television units – to retain viewers in a marketplace where private networks' news programs are heavily subsidized by profitable U.S. programming bought on the cheap.

Canada ranks third from the bottom in a 2011 Deloitte audit on per-capita funding for public broadcasters, spending $34 per person. Only New Zealand and the U.S. spend less while Norway spends $164 per person on its public-broadcasting system.

"We appreciate the foresight involved in a shift to mobile and digital platforms, because audiences demand that kind of investment," CAJ vice-president Nick Taylor-Vaisey said. "But shorter newscasts produced with fewer resources will inevitably make journalists' jobs more difficult on a day-to-day basis.

"A well-funded public broadcaster challenges all journalists working in privately owned media to do better. A CBC-TV news department that is a shell of its current self helps no one."

Earlier this year, the CBC won five CAJ awards and was a finalist in 13 categories.

The CAJ is Canada's largest national professional organization for journalists from all media, representing almost 600 members across the country. The CAJ's primary roles are to provide high-quality professional development for its members and public-interest advocacy.

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SOURCE Canadian Association of Journalists

For further information: Nick Taylor-Vaisey, CAJ vice-president, 647-968-2393, nick@caj.ca