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CBC/Radio-Canada to cut 10 per cent of workforce, end some programming as it faces $125M budget shortfall

Pedestrians cross the foyer of the Radio-Canada headquarters in Montreal in October 2023. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Pedestrians cross the foyer of the Radio-Canada headquarters in Montreal in October 2023.

Photo:  (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

RCI

Public broadcaster says most cuts will take effect over the coming year

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation/Radio-Canada announced Monday that it plans to cut about 10 per cent of its workforce and axe some programming to cope with a potential $125 million budget shortfall.

In a news release, the public broadcaster said it plans on cutting 600 union and non-union positions across the entire organization. The corporation said about 200 vacant positions will be eliminated on top of that.

CBC and Radio-Canada, the French-language arm, will each be cutting in the range of 250 jobs, while the rest of the cuts will come from the technology and infrastructure department and other corporate divisions, said the corporation.

CBC spokesperson Leon Mar said some of the cuts will begin immediately but most will take effect over the coming year.

CBC/Radio-Canada — which received around $1.3 billion in public funding in the 2022-2023 fiscal year — also announced Monday it will reduce its English and French programming budgets for the next fiscal year and cut about $40 million from independent production commissions and program acquisitions.

Mar said that will mean fewer new television series and fewer episodes for existing shows.

The corporation said earlier this year it had begun cutting $25 million through measures such as limiting travel, sponsorships and marketing, and delaying technology initiatives.

The public broadcaster blamed its budget issues on rising production costs, declining television advertising revenue and fierce competition from the digital giants.

CBC/Radio-Canada said it's also grappling with forecast reductions to its parliamentary funding beginning in the next fiscal year. A fund to help the public broadcaster offset revenue losses during the pandemic is also ending, it said. The fund supplied the CBC with $21 million a year for two years.

We understand how concerning this is to the people affected and to the Canadians who depend on our programs and services. We will have more details in the months ahead, but we are doing everything we can to minimize the impact of these measures, said CBC/Radio-Canada president Catherine Tait in a prepared statement.

Time to re-think CBC's mandate: journalism prof

Chris Waddell, professor emeritus at Carleton University's school of journalism, said the cuts come as no surprise at a time when news organizations around the world are struggling.

The author of the book The End of the CBC? said it's time for the federal government to take a serious look at the role of the public broadcaster.

I would argue that they should get out of everything except news and current affairs. Get out of entertainment programming, get out of children's programming, get out of sports programming as well. There are other people who do that, he said.

They're trying to do everything for everybody. And in a time of declining advertising revenue and competition, you can't afford to do that anymore. You have to pick areas that you think you can be good at and better than anyone else and focus on them.

Waddell said he'd like to see CBC stop taking private advertising dollars and allow other organizations to take its content.

What we need to see, I think, is a very different CBC that has no advertising, that focuses on narrower things, whose content is available to anyone free that wants to use it. Because that would be a big help to small news organizations and local news organizations that have lost their own reporters, he said.

And also because most Canadian news organizations have pulled out of international news coverage. CBC still is in international news coverage and should be doing more in international news coverage, I would argue. And make that available to any broadcasters or any websites in Canada as well.

WATCH: Heritage minister discusses CBC's future

Federal minister on CBC/Radio-Canada’s future

Amid reports of pending job cuts, Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge says CBC/Radio-Canada plays a unique role in informing Canadians domestically and internationally.

The layoffs at CBC/Radio-Canada are just the latest disruption in Canadian journalism in recent months.

Earlier this fall Nordstar, the company that owns the Toronto Star and other newspapers, announced that it would be seeking bankruptcy protection for the unit that owns more than 70 local newspapers and cutting about 60 per cent of its total workforce — about 600 jobs.  

In June, Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE) Inc. announced it would be axing 1,300 positions and closing or selling nine radio stations.

At the time, Bell — the parent company of CTV National News, BNN and CP24 — said the job cuts were a response to unfavourable public policy and regulatory conditions that it could no longer wait out.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has tasked Heritage Minister Pascal St-Onge with updating CBC/Radio-Canada's mandate. Speaking to reporters Monday, St-Onge said she hopes to start that process as soon as possible.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has frequently pitched defunding CBC. (new window)

At a recent policy convention, the party's Quebec caucus defended keeping Radio-Canada. (new window)

Catharine Tunney (new window) · CBC News ·

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