Sweeping changes at CBC News

More than 1,000 staffers are shuffled in the changes that include The National expanding to weekends, flanked by local and online news.

The National has a new look and Newsworld has a new name following a massive reorganization of CBC’s news division, which, after three years in the making, was revealed Wednesday at network headquarters in Toronto.

The changes include expanding the flagship newscast into the weekend and rebranding the cable channel as CBC News Network, effective Monday.

‘We have re-imagined all of our news programs, whether on Newsworld, the main network or on Radio One. The result is the most sweeping reorganization and relaunch in CBC’s history,’ EVP of English services Richard Stursberg (pictured, left) told reporters and staff gathered at the splashy presentation.

The overhaul resulted in one main newsroom for online, radio and television operations with a centralized multi-platform assignment desk, while over 1,000 employees have been reassigned or seen their roles change.

The National – which stays put at 10 p.m. ET, despite rumblings to the contrary – gets a new look, a faster pace and will see anchor Peter Mansbridge stand rather than sit behind his desk. A 10-minute local newscast, put together in each regional centre, will follow.

The National will also now run on Saturdays and Sundays, at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. respectively, and in a 10-minute online version.

CBC is hoping the changes will boost The National‘s audience, which this fall has been dwelling around the 500,000 mark (2+) – significantly behind competitors CTV and Global.

CBC News Network boasts a new schedule, a new set, increased onscreen data and new anchors including Anne-Marie Mediwake, who will take on morning hosting duties from 9 to 11 a.m. Business gurus Amanda Lang and Kevin O’Leary will front the half-hour Lang & O’Leary Exchange weekday afternoons at 4:30 p.m., while Ottawa-based Evan Solomon hosts a two-hour Power & Politics session beginning at 5 p.m. Veteran journalist Mark Kelly fronts the prime-time show Connect with Mark Kelley, aiming to engage Canadians through tools such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and Skype.

Jennifer McGuire, GM of CBC News, says the overhaul was a ‘daunting’ task, further complicated by the nearly 800 job cuts earlier this year – as CBC faced a $171 million budget shortfall.

The job cuts ‘shifted our gears for sure,’ she told Playback Daily after the presentation. ‘When we started, we were talking about an investment process, and then CBC ended up downsizing.’

McGuire (pictured, right) says CBC News would have pushed more towards 24/7 coverage in the regions, and would have had a second prime-time show on CBC NN, had it not been for the cuts. She insists that the changes ‘positions [CBC] well, and is a place to grow from.’

CBC also announced yesterday it has expanded its News Express airport network to Ottawa International Airport, growing its reach by about 4.3 million passengers.

News Express, which airs finance, sports, weather and national and international news alongside advertising on ClearChannel Outdoor screens, will also be expanded to Edmonton and Winnipeg by the end of the year.

From Playback Daily