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CBC eases on news cuts

New plan will trim newscasts to 30 minutes

MONTREAL — In the face of widespread opposition, senior management of Canuck pubcaster the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC) has backed down from a plan to cut all of its local supper-hour newscasts and instead announced Monday that it would be slashing the local newscasts to 30 minutes from one hour.

Two weeks ago, CBC prexy Robert Rabinovitch unveiled a proposal to restructure the TV network by eliminating its 14 local daily newscasts, a move that likely would have cut its workforce by 600. The shows would have been replaced by a national supper-hour news show, but the plan drew the ire of the public and politicians.

On Monday, Rabinovitch modified his cost-cutting plan, announcing the creation of new supper-hour shows consisting of a 30-minute local newscast and 30 minutes of national news.

CBC execs did not reveal how many jobs would be lost under the new plan nor how much the net would save thanks to the cuts.

Still skeptical

Critics of Rabinovitch’s earlier plan were not won over by his compromise solution. The scaling back of the local newscasts will probably entail cutting 400-500 jobs, said Len Deiter, spokesman for the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, which represents 1,500 CBC technicians.

Harold Redekopp, VP of English Television at CBC, said the cuts to the local newscasts were essential to fund the revamping of the rest of the national CBC sked. Execs plans to increase the amount of arts, kids and docu fare on the web.

Rabinovitch met with the CBC board of directors over the weekend; the board approved the revamped plan on Sunday. Execs said the plan will transform the CBC’s English TV network and allow the company to address its long-term identity crisis. “This plan gives us what we need to be recognized and valued by Canadians in an increasingly crowded media landscape,” Rabinovitch said.

The scaling back of the supper-hour shows follows the announcement in February that CBC management was slashing $16 million from its $367 million budget for English-lingo TV and laying off 173 employees.

Other elements in Rabinovitch’s plan include revitalizing the 10 p.m. national news and current-affairs show, expanding noncommercial children’s programming, reducing commercials on CBC’s main news programs and providing a regular noncommercial primetime slot for arts performance programming.

The new supper-hour shows will be launched at the same time as the rest of the CBC fall schedule in early October.

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