In a stark reversal of decades of support for mandated hours of news production, the federal broadcast regulator announced Wednesday it would allow the CBC to cut back on television news programming.
Many fear the decision could lead to CBC cancelling television newscasts. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) cited the range of other options available in metropolitan areas as a reason for the change.
The Canadian Media Guild (CWA Canada Local 30213), which represents most of the public broadcaster’s workers, called the decision unreasonable. It fears the CBC will use this to cut down on television production in favour of spending on online content.
The CMG said that, if this happens, it could result in permanent damage to Canada’s media environment, and an unfair exclusion for thousands of Canadians who — for a variety of reasons, including lack of resources — access television rather than online news.
The ruling was contentious even at the CRTC, where it was supported by three of five commissioners, with the two dissenters submitting strong arguments opposing it.
“Under the guise of modernization,” the CRTC has chosen to allow the CBC to “kill original production, even after a difficult two years when Canadians saw the importance of trusted news,” said Kim Trynacity, CBC Branch president for CMG. “This is a time to invest more in local and regional news, not less. It’s shameful that the CRTC failed to see that. The impact on service and jobs could be significant.”
CMG President Carmel Smyth said “the ripple effect of cuts in metropolitan centres could affect services in every region and community.”
Smyth also said the union is disappointed the CRTC’s ruling on identifying sponsored content is not strong enough.
The decision included several issues the CMG has strongly advocated for, including promoting diversity and inclusion in hiring and programming.