CBC cuts 800 jobs

Canadians push the government to lend money to the national broadcaster

CBC, Canada’s national television and radio network, will likely lay off 800 employees and implement major cuts to programs and services according to its 2009-2010 business plan, announced two weeks ago.

The cut-backs come in the wake of dramatic decreases in advertising income, which at one time accounted for one-third of the CBC’s revenue.

“We’re projecting a revenue shortfall of $171 million,” said Jeff Keay, CBC spokesperson. “The CBC has less flexibility, because we can’t go to capital markets for revenue.”

Keay said the programming reductions would be widespread, including cuts to news, children’s programs, radio programming, and music recording.

The cuts will be equally distributed throughout English-language CBC, French-language CBC, and Radio Canada, and will include cuts to CBC Montreal and other regional stations. CBC’s total workforce will be reduced by approximately ten to 12 per cent, and 393 employees are slated to be laid off from anglophone programming.

According to James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Conservative government will not increase funding to the CBC to compensate for the drop in advertising revenues.

In an email to The Daily, Moore wrote that the Conservative Party has supported the CBC with a record $1.17 billion this year, and cannot scrounge up any more money for the network.

Last fall, the CBC approached the government and requested a “bridge financing” plan. The plan would provide the CBC with increased loans to survive the downturn, which would be paid back in later years.

The government subsequently turned down the CBC’s request, forcing the CBC to dip into their reserves to mitigate a $65 million shortfall last year.

Moore explained that the Conservatives worried the bridge loan would have burdened the CBC and tax-payers in the long-term, especially if advertising revenues remained sparse in the coming years.

In response to the government’s decision, the global action web movement avaaz.org’s 300,000 registered Canadian members initiated a petition urging the Conservatives to provide loans to the CBC.

“The government is the only source of [CBC’s] funding, and the government is denying it to them,” said Ricken Patel, co-founder and executive director of avaaz.org.

Patel said the petition was presented to the government last Friday, accompanied by several other displays of protest, including a plane over Ottawa flying a banner in support of the CBC.

Patel believes that the cut-backs within the CBC are part of a larger trend involving the consolidation of media by large private conglomerates, many of which are allied with Canadian political parties.

“The decision to deny bridge funding was an ideological decision. The government has an ideological preference for privatizing the CBC,” said Patel.

Patel said that it is vital to preserve the CBC as an independent, impartial public media outlets, and a source of Canadian culture.

“The [purpose of CBC] is not to turn a profit, but to be a powerful source of Canadian culture, to provide an independent, non-corporate, Canadian perspective,” said Patel. “Big business has no incentive to promote Canadian culture.”