CBC restores local newcasts following criticism

The pubcaster said that over the course of the next two weeks, it "will make every effort to have all of the dedicated local shows back up on the main network."

Following the backlash CBC received about its decision to scale back its local supper-hour newscasts in response to the COVID-19 crisis, the pubcaster has pledged to offer “an expanded 30-minute local news segment” for local audiences on CBC News Network, starting today.

“Over the course of this week and next, we will make every effort to have all of the dedicated local shows back up on the main network. We understand the frustration this has caused our viewers and thank them for their continued support and patience as we restore service,” the organization announced via a statement issued yesterday (March 24).

Last week, CBC temporarily replaced its 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. local newscasts in favour of a “core live breaking news service” from CBC News Network, The National and local CBC stations.

As such, this move meant local news teams would have their coverage feed into CBC News Network’s national programming, with CBC’s local stations serving their communities through “robust local radio, digital and social news programming.” The only exception to this decision was CBC North, which the organization said would continue to produce and broadcast Yellowknife’s Northbeat and Iqaluit’s Igalaaq in Inuktitut.

CBC also added in its press release yesterday that since the announcement “CBC News teams across the country have been restoring local news segments.”

According to audience experts, local news is seeking double-digit viewership increases during the pandemic. Nielsen reported that U.S. viewers ages 25 to 54 were watching 10% more news, but the biggest increase, 20%, is surprisingly among ages three to 17 in areas where schools are shut.

In a previous statement issued to MiC sister publication Playback Daily, CBC’s chief of staff to the EVP and head of public affairs Chuck Thompson said the change was a temporary measure and a difficult decision in response to an extraordinary situation. “We trust Canadians will understand the complexity of the situation as we try to maintain essential news and information services to all communities while managing our workforce, many of whom are increasingly working remotely. Their health and safety are a priority,” Thompson said.

He also said that CBC’s colleagues at Radio-Canada, which work on a different size and scale, were not facing the same overload of staffing or resources – meaning that they were able to maintain their regional newscasts.

Notably, P.E.I. Premier Dennis King, media worker union the Canadian Media Guild (CMG) and non-profit Friends of the Canadian Broadcasting called out the CBC for this move – with King requesting Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault intervene and reverse this decision and Friends of the Canadian Broadcasting penning a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. CMG, meanwhile, urged the pubcaster to reconsider and seek the resources needed to provide local TV news in both official languages across the country, “as it is mandated to do.”

On Twitter yesterday, King welcomed back CBC journalists behind local news program CBC News: Compass and thanked local residents who voiced the need for local news.

This story originally appears in Playback.