TV to take brunt of painful CBC cuts

"It's been a tough day for the broadcaster and an interesting challenge," CBC/Radio-Canada president and CEO Hubert Lacroix told the media.

“It was not a fun day,” a grave CBC/Radio-Canada president and CEO Hubert Lacroix told the media Wednesday after the CBC began to unveil plans to deal with its $200 million budget cuts.

“We’ve been handed a number, [and] it’s going to mean a very different broadcaster,” he said during a sombre conference call after earlier in the day telling CBC/Radio-Canada employees that job cuts were inevitable after Ottawa slashed the pubcaster’s annual Parliamentary appropriation by $115 million over three years.

Kirstine Stewart, CBC EVP English Services, added that the broadcaster sympathized with Canadians over the extent of the coming cuts to the broadcaster’s TV and radio programming offerings.

“There is no way to reset targets just by efficiencies. Unfortunately,  programming will be affected,” Stewart added, with CBC English Services facing $86 million in cuts over three years, leading to 256 lost full-time jobs.

The estimated programming cuts will amount to $43 million, which is likely to herald reduced series orders and shrinking license fees for indie producers.

CBC/Radio-Canada’s French Services will absorb another $64 million cut over three years, while  yet another $50 million is to be cut from Radio-Canada International and “corporate components.”

Stewart said that the CBC’s TV programming will see the greatest reductions, with fewer original CBC shows to air, even as the pubcaster works to protect banner shows like The Current and The Fifth Estate.

“[The cuts to English services] invariably affects the amount of programming we can commission on television for primetime,” said Stewart.

“It will increase the repeats we have on primetime, and will, to a lesser extent, affect some radio programming. Television is definitely taking the brunt of this cut,” she said.

Stewart said during the call that programming decisions will be made in the upcoming weeks, with primetime renewals and commissions to be announced by the end of April.

Lacroix also told listeners that the move to add advertising and sponsorships to its two national music radio networks, CBC Radio 2 and Espace musique, was due solely to the budgetary challenge.

“There’s nothing today in terms of the choices we made – whether its transformation of RCI or whether it’s adding ads on CBC Radio 2 or Espace musique – that are choices we would [make] in a normal environment,” he said.

From Playback Daily, with files from Etan Vlessing