Richard Stursberg leaves CBC

Richard Stursberg, head of CBC's English services, is leaving after six years in the position.
Richard Stursberg speaks at a TV launch in September 2009. ((Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press))

Richard Stursberg, head of CBC's English services, is leaving after six years in the position.

CBC president Hubert T. Lacroix announced his departure Friday in a statement to employees.

Lacroix gave no reason for Stursberg's departure, which is effective Friday.

"When Richard was appointed executive vice-president of CBC Television six years ago, he brought with him a revolution that shook the foundation of the organization and eventually of the whole of our English services," Lacroix said in his statement.

"He challenged every premise, attacked conventional wisdom, and uprooted whole parts of the internal culture. Six years later, the institution is better off than it was. I want to acknowledge his success in turning CBC Television around and thank him for his contribution."

Kirstine Stewart, currently general manager of CBC Television, is to take his job as executive vice-president of English services on an interim basis.

Under Stursberg's leadership, the CBC integrated its English-language services — radio, TV and internet, in an attempt, he said, to make content more broadly available across more platforms.

He was executive vice-president of CBC Television during the eight-week lockout of CBC employees in the fall of 2005. In his most recent position, he oversaw a downsizing of the CBC workforce in 2009 at a time when the public broadcaster faced a $171-million shortfall.

Stursberg also was controversial for his more commercial approach to TV programming, including the introduction of factual entertainment TV and the addition of American shows like Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune to the CBC schedule.

He also fought for more flexible and generous financial terms for the public broadcaster from the federal government.

Bill Chambers, CBC vice-president of communications, said CBC is a very different corporation than it was five years ago, largely because of Stursberg.

Chambers declined to say whether Stursberg had been fired, saying the change is "not about where we are" but "all about the future and the way we are going forward."

He referred to Lacroix's statement that said CBC and Radio-Canada are developing a new strategic plan over the next five years.

"This is the opportune time to bring new leadership to English services and to ensure alignment of the senior team on the future of the public broadcaster," Lacroix said.