The CBC told staff at Newsworld International (NWI) Thursday that it will shut it down on July 31, bringing an end to an 11-year-long venture that brought CBC journalism into the homes of many American TV viewers.
Newsworld International is a 24-hour global news and information channel that is available in almost 20 million homes in the U.S. through satellite-based distribution services like DirecTV. It's also available through some digital cable providers.
Even though the CBC has not owned the channel for five years, CBC has continued to provide much of its news and information content to a U.S. audience.
In 2004, a group led by former U.S. vice president Al Gore bought NWI from Vivendi Universal. Gore said at the time that he wanted his new channel to aim at the 18- to 34-year old viewer.
Earlier this week, Gore outlined more of his plans for the channel. It will be rebranded and renamed as "Current" and will relaunch August 1 with a focus on attracting a younger audience.
The channel plans to encourage viewers to contribute their own programming to the channel via the internet.
- FROM Apr. 5, 2005: Gore launches youth-oriented TV channel
The CBC currently has a contract to supply content to the channel. But with the change in programming focus, the contract is not being renewed following its expiry at the end of July.
Attempts to keep NWI alive 'unsuccessful'
CBC News management, while praising the quality of NWI's programming, said the decision to close it was beyond CBC's control.
"A few months ago, we were advised that the content supply arrangement will likely not be renewed," said CBC News Editor-in-Chief Tony Burman in a statement.
"Since that time, the CBC has been aggressively exploring alternate arrangements with the Gore Group and a myriad of other distribution partners throughout the United States in an effort to secure an ongoing future for NWI," he said.
"Unfortunately, these discussions have been unsuccessful."
Burman said it became clear during those discussions that the people running the U.S. satellite and cable distribution world think there are already too many news and information channels and that there's no market for another international service.
"At the CBC, we don't accept this analysis but there is little at this point that we can do," he said.
NWI was launched in 1994 as a joint venture between the CBC and Power Broadcasting Inc. In 2000, they sold NWI, along with the entertainment channel Trio, to Barry Diller's USA Network for $155 million.
NWI was subsequently sold to Vivendi and then to Gore's group.
More than 50 people work at NWI. Some will be reassigned and others can exercise "bumping" provisions in collective agreements to find work in other CBC operations.
"We are unhappy that this showcase of CBC journalism in the U.S. will be shut down," Burman said.
"And we are particularly saddened that a group of dedicated and gifted CBC News employees have been caught up in the middle of this."