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CBC shortchanges local programming on road to reinvestment
By  CMG  •  Posted on  April 25, 2016

CBC management announced today how the new $75 million in government funding will be spent this year, confirming that none of the hundreds of jobs cut since 2012 will be reinstated. The “2020 Plan,” announced two years ago, is still on and it is unclear how many of that Plan’s remaining job cuts will go ahead.

A very small proportion – $3.5 million, or less than 5% – is being used to boost news and local programming in English services. It will be targeted to areas where management acknowledged the cuts were too deep but it is not clear how except, in the immediate term, to convert some temporary positions – created to keep programming on the air – to permanent jobs. English services VP Heather Conway said that news management would be developing a plan “to selectively reinvest” in the regions over the next 2 years. One piece of good news is that a once-planned local expansion in London, Ontario, is back on the table. A new digital and radio station will be opened in the coming months.

In all, $25 million of the new money will be used to offset falling advertising and subscription revenue. The remaining $50 million will be shared between English and French services for “reinvestments” in content and digital infrastructure. On the English services side, the biggest reinvestment amount appears to be the $11 million CBC plans to spend to buy scripted programming from independent producers.

“We need more spending in local programming more quickly,” says Carmel Smyth, national president of the CMG. “Two years for a reinvestment plan in the regions is too long, and $3.5 million out of $75 million is much too little. The story of the last 10 years has been the deep cuts to local services across the entire media industry. The CBC should be responding to this. Instead, our members in local newsrooms have told us they are struggling with a lack of resources right now and there’s a real fear of losing relevance if it continues.”

In French services, the biggest investment also appears to be in television, much of it produced out of house. Among other new spending, Radio-Canada plans to launch a new TV current affairs program and will also seek more content from across Canada for all current affairs programming. French services VP Louis Lalande also announced a plan for new cultural TV programming for the regions.

Management said that retraining will continue to be an important part of the shift to digital so that existing CBC employees can move with the work as it evolves. CBC president Hubert Lacroix said that 300 new digital jobs would be created and that it was a priority to redeploy existing employees into the new jobs.

“CMG members have gone above and beyond to create important programming for Canadians during a period of both massive media upheaval and government neglect of public broadcasting,” says Marc-Philippe Laurin, president of the CMG’s CBC branch. “Our workloads have skyrocketed in a stressful environment. We are happy to hear that retraining of employees is on the table to reach 2020 and the continued shift to digital, but we’re thin on the ground. We need more people and support in the frontline work of public broadcasting on all platforms.”

Here are highlights of the announcements:

English services:
– New radio and digital station for London, Ontario
– New daytime TV program to be launched
– New weekly radio talk show
– “Pop-up” bureau in Moscow will continue; possibility of a new bureau in Turkey
– New digital programming in sports, music, arts, short-form documentaries
– Unreserved (radio show based on Winnipeg) will go national
– Investments in CBC Archives, including a special project with Indigenous language experts to preserve some of the only archival material available in Canada
– CBC Player improvements, including a move to an “over-the-top” video service (à la Netflix, and similar to what is already available on Radio-Canada’s tou.tv)
– Additional people and software for digital analytics

French services:
– 11 new television shows for the season as part of a major investment in Radio-Canada’s multi-screen strategy
– New current affairs TV show
– New regional TV shows, and other regional investments to help the shift to digital
– Reduction in radio repeats
– Investments in Radio-Canada archives, in part to improve monetization
– Major investment into digital analytics

For more information, contact CMG at info@cmg.ca .

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