The CBC is shifting its priorities from television and radio to digital and mobile services, a move that will reduce staff, and supper-hour news broadcasts and programs produced in-house, says CBC president and CEO Hubert T. Lacroix.
“We used to lead with television and radio. Web came and then mobility came. We are reversing, we are inverting the priorities that we have,” Lacroix said, referring to the broadcaster’s 2020 strategy. “We’re going to lead now with mobility, we’re going to lead with whatever widget you use.
"You’re going to see an investment in mobility that’s going to rise as the investment in perhaps television ... is reduced.”
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Lacroix said there will be job cuts over the coming years, but they will be made in "prudent steps."
In 2020, the corporation will have 1,000 to 1,500 fewer employees. This would be in addition to the reductions announced to date.
Currently, 1,000 employees are eligible for retirement. And through attrition, about 300 leave every year, according to the broadcaster.
“The goal is that to be able to meet a financially stable and sustainable CBC/Radio-Canada, we have to reduce the infrastructures ... but we also have to reduce the number of people who are working at CBC/Radio-Canada,” Lacroix said.
In April, Lacroix announced that funding shortfalls and revenue losses had forced the broadcaster to cut $130 million from its budget this year, a move that the CBC said will eliminate 657 jobs over the next two years and take the network out of competing for the rights to broadcast professional sports.
CBC's executive vice-president of English Services, Heather Conway, will be taking calls from the public on CBC Radio's Ontario Today on Friday June 27 after the noon news.
But Lacroix characterized Thursday’s announcement as “a good day, it’s an important day. This is a plan that’s going to work.”
No stations to close, Lacroix says
Lacroix said CBC won’t close any of its stations across the country, but the base service will go to 30 minutes. Most of the 90-minute evening television newscasts will be reduced to either 30 minutes or 60 minutes, he said.
Heather Conway, executive vice-president of English-language services, said it's unlikely the CBC will reduce all TV supper-time shows, adding there will still be "a couple" of 90-minute news broadcasts.
Those services will be augmented by mobile and web services.
Meanwhile, the CBC's move to “significantly reduce” in-house production across the organization will exclude news current affairs and radio. This will mean the CBC will directly produce fewer documentaries and purchase more from other production companies.
“Why are we doing this? Again, to scale it down, to be able to open our content creation to other actors, other participants in the cultural industry,” Lacroix said.
'We're in the business of content'
A number of CBC personalities have gone public with their opposition to the cuts.
Lacroix said this doesn’t mean the CBC is “out of docs [documentaries],” but instead will use the whole of the creative community to fill the slots.
“To be the public broadcaster, we don’t need to be always the producer,” he said.
The CBC also plans to cut its real estate presence in half by approximately two million square feet.
At the Montreal station, for example, there will be a “substantial reduction in square feet.” Toronto will also try to reduce its real estate by acquiring new tenants.
“If there should be an offer on the building, yes, we’d take it, but the offer on the building would not necessarily mean that we’d move away. We’d become a tenant.
“We’re not in the business of real estate. We’re in the business of content,” Lacroix added.