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CBC says it is cutting 600 jobs, some programming as it slashes budget

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TORONTO -

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and Radio-Canada will eliminate about 600 jobs and an additional 200 vacancies will go unfilled as it contends with a $125 million budget shortfall.

The public broadcaster said Monday that CBC and Radio-Canada will each cut about 250 jobs, with the balance of the layoffs coming from corporate divisions such as technology and infrastructure. Some of the cuts will be made immediately while others will be carried out over the next 12 months.

It has also identified about 200 currently vacant positions that will be eliminated.

The cuts were attributed to "the same structural factors affecting all media companies," which CBC specified include rising production costs, declining television advertising revenue and fierce competition from tech giants.

The Crown corporation also expects to see reductions in parliamentary funding beginning in the next fiscal year, including the end of $21 million in specialized funding it has received annually since 2021.

"CBC/Radio-Canada is not immune to the upheaval facing the Canadian media industry," said Catherine Tait, CBC/Radio-Canada president and chief executive, in a written statement.

"We've successfully managed serious structural declines in our business for many years, but we no longer have the flexibility to do so without reductions."

The broadcaster had already begun taking action to resolve its budgetary challenges earlier in the year, when it cut more than $25 million in spending on travel, sponsorships and marketing, and it postponed some technology initiatives and limited filling vacant positions.

These cuts will go deeper and impact a wide swath of the workforce, which included 6,500 permanent employees, about 2,000 temporary workers and roughly 760 contract staff at the end of March.

Along with the job cuts, CBC will be reducing its English and French programming budgets, including about $40 million in independent production commissions and program acquisitions. It said the move would result in fewer renewals and acquisitions, new television series, episodes of existing shows and digital original series.

"We understand how concerning this is to the people affected and to the Canadians who depend on our programs and services," Tait said.

"We will have more details in the months ahead, but we are doing everything we can to minimize the impact of these measures."

News media companies in Canada and elsewhere have spent the last decade or more laying off staff to cope with shrinking advertising revenues amid a broad digital shift.

This year alone, National Post publisher Postmedia Network Corp., in January laid off 11 per cent of its editorial staff; Bell Media eliminated six per cent of its workforce and the publisher behind the Toronto Star cut 605 jobs when its local newspaper chain Metroland Media Group filed for creditor protection.

The cuts at CBC come as the government is reviewing the broadcaster's mandate and has been reshaping its approach to tech companies, which have swallowed up much of the country's advertising revenues, hurting news media organizations.

In May, then-heritage minister Pablo Rodriguez said he was seeking ways the federal government could boost funding to CBC, helping the broadcaster rely less on advertising.

His mandate letter from the prime minister said the goal of providing more money to the CBC and Radio-Canada is to eliminate advertising during news and other public affairs shows.

In its 2022-23 fiscal year, CBC's television advertising revenues amounted to $288.6 million, with $215.5 million from TV advertising and $73.1 million from digital marketing.

CBC reported $515.5 million in revenue in its fiscal 2023, down nearly 21 per cent from the year before, when the Tokyo 2020 and the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games were held in a single fiscal year, boosting revenues.

Its government funding totalled $1.27 billion in its fiscal 2023, up slightly from $1.24 billion a year prior.

However, in the most recent federal budget the Liberal government asked every department and agency to propose ways to cut spending by three per cent.

Speaking to reporters in Ottawa ahead of CBC's announcement Monday, current Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge said the final decision on cuts for the broadcaster "has not been made yet."

She also used the appearance to push back on notions that the Online News Act, which forces tech giants Google and Meta to pay for news they link to or repurpose on their platforms, triggered the cuts.

She said the act, which recently spurred a $100 million deal with Google to compensate journalism companies, was bringing "new revenues" into the system.

However, the Liberal government started hinting recently that it will cap the amount of money CBC and Radio-Canada could get under the Google deal.

CBC has also been impacted by Facebook and Instagram-owner Meta blocking its Canadian users from accessing news content in recent months.

-- With files from Mickey Djuric in Ottawa

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2023.

CTV News is owned by Bell Media, which is a division of BCE.

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