Nova Scotia

22 Minutes producer hopes CBC will reconsider cuts

The producer of This Hour Has 22 Minutes is speaking out about the cuts to CBC and says he's hoping the corporation reconsiders its decision to close its production studio in Halifax.
Mark Critch performs during a segment of This Hour Has 22 Minutes, which is shot in Halifax's CBC production studio. (CBC)

The producer of This Hour Has 22 Minutes is speaking out about the cuts to CBC and says he's hoping the corporation reconsiders its decision to close its production studio in Halifax.

Michael Donovan, the CEO of DHX Media, said the ratings for the past season of 22 Minutes were the highest ever in the show's 19-year history.

"The appetite in Canada for satire and for Canadian content, satire in this conservative world we're in — maybe that's part of why the reason ratings are up," Donovan said in an interview from Cannes, France.

"We're doing, it seems, unusually well lately."

On Wednesday, the CBC announced it expects to eliminate 650 jobs over three years to cope with planned budget cuts outlined in the recent federal budget.

As part of those cost-cutting measures, the corporation announced it will abandon its plans to expand the Bell Road building in Halifax, where it was hoping to consolidate its news and current affairs operations.

Instead, the CBC will sell its buildings on Bell Road and Sackville Street and move to a leased premises in two years.

At that time, the Halifax network production studio — where This Hour Has 22 Minutes is currently taped before a live studio audience — will be closed.

Donovan said he believes 22 Minutes is successful, largely because it's produced in the Atlantic region with a Halifax audience.

"I can't imagine that it will succeed without the audience. The audience is part of the process," he said Thursday.

"The comedy comes of this area, of this soil and it's perhaps an outside perspective. So I don't see moving to Toronto. We'll have to find a mall somewhere and shoot in the middle of the mall."

Donovan said the CBC's Halifax studio has consistently been one of the most productive, dating back to the days of Don Messer's Jubilee.

He criticized the federal budget cuts to CBC — which equals $115 million in funding over three years — as well as Telefilm Canada and the National Film Board of Canada.

"It's interesting that the government, which seems quite prepared to spend several billion dollars on jets that nobody needs, is cutting back the arts," said Donovan.

"That is a signal of what this government thinks of the arts and I think that — obviously I have a strong opinion on this — but I think that is really, really depressing."

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