CBC/Radio-Canada says it is considering “protecting information” from cuts

After announcing the elimination of 800 positions on Monday, CBC/Radio-Canada was questioned on Tuesday about the impact that these cuts will have during the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) hearings. The public broadcaster, however, remained very vague, suggesting that it was doing everything to minimize the impact on its news content – ​​and on regional news in particular.

“We are unable to provide details today. But we look to protect local content, we look to protect information,” CBC vice-president Barbara Williams told the CRTC.

For two weeks, all major players in the Canadian media industry have been invited to testify before the CRTC as part of a broad consultation which aims to establish a new regulatory framework now including major international platforms.

As luck would have it, the transition to the public broadcaster took place the day after the announcement of major cuts within the public broadcaster. In total, CBC/Radio-Canada will lay off 600 employees over the next year, both in its French network and in its English network. Some 200 vacant positions will also not be filled. This means that 10% of the state company’s workforce will be cut, unless there is a major turnaround.

The question of media aid

For the public broadcaster, these cuts are proof that CBC/Radio-Canada must be entitled to the money that digital giants will soon inject into the Canadian media ecosystem under the Online News Act.

However, not everyone is of this opinion, in Quebec in particular. The Quebec Minister of Culture, Mathieu Lacombe, also believes that only private broadcasters should be able to receive the $100 million that Google recently committed to paying to the media every year, since CBC / Radio-Canada benefits from public funding that others do not have.

“We really don’t understand why we would be excluded from a contribution [des grandes plateformes]. We have a mandate which is very clear, which is enshrined in the law. And therefore, like all other broadcasters, we should access [ces contributions] too,” replied Dany Meloul, interim vice-president of French services, on Tuesday. “Yesterday was a very difficult day at CBC/Radio-Canada. And if the public broadcaster is in this position currently, it shows [comment il y a urgence d’agir] “, she argued, referring to recent cuts.

Mme Meloul and his CBC counterpart, Barbara Williams, testified for more than an hour before the CRTC on Tuesday. Catherine Tait, the number one at CBC/Radio-Canada, was not present.

Towards a compulsory contribution?

CBC/Radio-Canada, like most Canadian broadcasters who have appeared before the CRTC over the past two weeks, is pleading for the federal body to impose a contribution on the digital giants. This would then be redistributed among Canadian media through a fund.

Netflix and Spotify, among others, tried to dissuade the CRTC last week from moving forward with such a measure. The giant Netflix thus suggested that a forced contribution could dissuade it from producing Canadian content. As for the music platform Spotify, it mentioned an increase in subscription costs if the CRTC adopted this approach.

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