Belts tightened at CBC

With a $45-million budget shortfall and a crap economy, CBC is locking down discretionary spending but not talking layoffs - yet.

Fending off a $45-million budget shortfall and the impending global recession, CBC is putting a freeze on discretionary spending but is not planning layoffs, at least for now, CBC/Radio Canada president Hubert T. Lacroix told jittery employees on Friday via an internal memo that was released to the media.

Lacroix said the two key revenue drivers for CBC/Radio Canada – TV ad revenue and parliamentary appropriations – faced uncertainty and likely cuts. ‘We are projecting a deficit in our television operations, though not to the extent of our competitors, and our levels of federal funding are never guaranteed,’ he added.

As of Oct. 31, the CBC faced a $45 million budget shortfall caused by lower ad revenues.

‘The impact on advertising revenues on the French side of the house was slower to take hold and has been less severe, but [French services EVP] Sylvain Lafrance and his team have also been taking appropriate action to adjust,’ Lacroix explained.

At least for now, the CBC does not plan to go the way of Canwest Global and CTV and trim staff. ‘We are looking to push forward with solutions that won’t involve cutting jobs,’ the CBC president argued. ‘Changing circumstances might challenge us in this regard, but we’re putting our people first in all of this.’

The CBC will impose a freeze on discretionary spending, defer or cancel capital expenditures, if warranted, and review all new hires at the vice-president level. ‘We are targeting a significant reduction in travel, hospitality and duty entertainment and an additional reduction in overtime expenditures, which will also be managed at the vice-presidential level,’ Lacroix said. ‘If it’s not absolutely strategic, it’s gone.’

The public network has come under fire in the past week from newly installed heritage minister James Moore and Quebec newspaper accounts for alleged lavish personal spending by senior CBC execs on travel and hospitality. The CBC shot back Thursday that the corporate spending complied with network policy.

The austerity measures at the CBC follow rival networks unveiling cost-cutting programs. Canwest was first, announcing 560 job cuts, followed by CTV imposing a freeze on hiring and discretionary spending and contemplating layoffs after a network review.

From Playback Daily