CBC/Radio-Canada will eliminate hundreds of jobs, cancel some programs and boost ads as part of cost-cutting measures to cope with planned budget cuts outlined in the recent federal budget, the public broadcaster announced Wednesday.

We've made "gut-wrenching choices," CBC president and CEO Hubert T. Lacroix said during a townhall meeting for CBC employees.

Lacroix said the Corporation expects to eliminate 650 jobs over three years, including 475 this fiscal year. He said 60 per cent of the budget goes toward salary and that it would be impossible to take a hit of this magnitude and not affect jobs. Nearly 10,000 people are currently employed full time at the CBC.

Kirstine Stewart, executive vice-president, English Services, said $43 million worth of programming will have to be cut out of the English Services budget, meaning that some current shows in prime time will have to be cancelled and that viewers can expect more repeats.

"We will be making less Canadian content," she said, adding that more details will be released next Tuesday. "It will be more the traditional prime-time schedule that we have in place on CBC television."

She said they will also have to look at reducing programming in news, but that they hope to find savings in production efficiencies by integrating both news gathering and production.

Radio will also see some reductions to programming costs which will include a reduction in the number of live music recordings, Stewart said.

As well, there will be a reduction in in-house documentary production, she said.

The budget released last week said the CBC will lose $115 million in funding over three years. But Lacroix said that unavoidable cost increases and investments mean the corporation faces financial pressures of $200 million.

Lacroix said they hope to offset that with $50 million in new revenues, which would leave the CBC  with about $150 million to account for by way of reductions and operating improvements.

He said the corporation will raise more money by pursuing additional digital revenue. The public broadcaster has applied to the CRTC to add advertising to its two national music radio networks: CBC Radio 2 and Espace musique.

Stewart said it's an "unfortunate situation" to be including ads on Radio 2, but that it was a priority to keep Radio 1, a news- talk radio station, commercial  free.

She said because Radio 2 and Espace musique are more music oriented, listeners tend to be more accepting of advertising.

"We know that in this particular case a lot of people come to Radio 2 because there's no advertising and that's a benefit to them but I think they will come back for the strong Canadian content that we will keep providing."

CBC/Radio-Canada will also accelerate the shutdown of analog television transmitters and lease and sell off real estate at the broadcasting centre in Toronto to raise funds.

Lacroix said the company will have to scale back some of its plans, which includes local service extensions, digital TV services, signature events and cross-cultural programming projects.

Other changes include:

  • For regional expansion, Kamloops, London, Waterloo Region will be delayed three to six months and Saskatoon will be delayed until the summer of 2013. But the Hamilton digital service to proceed as planned, scheduled in 2012-13.
  • Communities where CBC had planned additional service will still proceed, but the corporation will look to digital models like Hamilton to reduce overall costs. Spending will be reduced by slowing down their launches.
  • Radio Canada International (RCI) will also end the production of news bulletins and close its Russian and Brazilian departments.

  • CBC will not expand into a CBC Kids digital channel as quickly as planned. 

The CBC broadcasts in English and French, as well as in eight aboriginal languages, with a mandate to provide distinctly Canadian programming.