Here & Now format won't be known until fall
The future of CBC Television's Here & Now will not be known until the late fall, a CBC manager said Friday.
To deal with what it called unsustainable finances, CBC has unveiled a new five-year strategy that will shed jobs, eliminate some programming and cut most supper-hour shows to either 30 or 60 minutes.
But staff in St. John's have been told that Here & Now may retain its 90-minute format after a coast-to-coast review is completed this fall.
Andrew Cochran, CBC's senior managing director for Atlantic Canada, said no decisions have yet been made on any of the regional TV news programs, although he suggested that Here & Now's strong audience following will be helpful.
CBC will not be applying an across-the-board method of trimming shows, but instead will pursue an asymmetrical approach, with the top criterion being local success with audiences.
"I have to say that the experience we have in St. John's — and elsewhere in Newfoundland — was highly influential in making that determination," Cochran said.
"That connection that we have to audiences and the service that we provide in Newfoundland and Labrador is a hallmark of what we think we need to be doing across the country."
Here & Now, like CBC's other regional supper-hour shows, expanded to a 90-minute format five years ago, although without an increase in budget. It's not known yet whether the format reduction will be accompanied by any direct staffing changes.
CBC, while admitting that it will be shedding between 1,000 and 1,500 jobs across the country, envisions a public broadcaster that will provide increased digital coverage, but at the expense of conventional television.
"We can't just arbitrarily nip and tuck away or we can't say 'let's do more with less.' We have to actually stop doing things," he said.
Cochran said it is much too early to say how many local jobs will be lost during the transition.
Radio programming, he said, will be "largely unaffected" by the new strategy, he said.
"Radio is such a prized possession of Canadians, and certainly people in Newfoundland," he said.
As well, Land & Sea — which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year — will not be cut. Indeed, Cochran said an announcement will be forthcoming this summer on an additional broadcast slot for Land & Sea.