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CBC, Media Guild, square off over cuts, but new show is planned

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TORONTO - Having made several decisions to axe or alter shows, the CBC recently issued redundancy notices to over 30 staffers and contract employees.

The Corp. recently decided to cancel newsmagazine shows Disclosure and Sports Journal, shutter a sports documentary division, as well as combine Play and Hot Type. The union representing 6,000 CBC employees, the Canadian Media Guild, was not amused. It issued a recent press release saying that CBC made the cuts "in spite of an earlier assurance� that the Corporation was seeking redeployments for members affected by program re-organization," said its release.

"It's now more than obvious that Corporation officials lied to us at that meeting," says Dan Oldfield, CMG senior staff representative. "It's also interesting to note that several members with more than 25 years of service have been targeted - clearly not the most junior employees, as required by the collective agreement."

The notices are not terminations - they constitute the beginning of a process which may result in layoffs. "The Guild will do everything it can to ensure that employees' rights are protected and maintained during this difficult process," says CMG national president Lise Lareau.

Lareau told www.broadcastermagazine.com that she fears these won't be the final cuts. "We're still waiting to see if another shoe is going to be dropped," she said. "I suspect there's more stuff to come� another contraction of some kind."

Lareau says costs have risen for the CBC while at the same time it's tried to put on its best efficiency face. However, its level of government funding has stayed the same in the face of those rising costs, she says. "For the past five years, its focus has been to show its main funder (the federal government, i.e. Jane and Joe Taxpayer) that it's efficient and bottom-line oriented. So far, that ability has not paid off," she said.

"These are tough times for the CBC."

As well, the CBC has been able, due to a surplus, to avoid pension contributions, for several years. However, says Lareau, it must now kick in $40 million to that pension plan.

The CMG largely objects to the way the cuts were handled and Lareau insists that alternative jobs for the more senior people should have been found before walking papers were issued, not after.

However, that search is now on as the CBC and CMG work to place those senior people whose positions were eliminated into jobs occupied by less senior people, who may then be out of work.

"All parts of CBC have been affected, not just English television," said CBC spokeswoman Ruth-Ellen Soles, of the budgetary decisions made. She also pointed to a $10 million cut from the usual government contribution in fiscal 2004 as an additional factor.

While Disclosure and Sports Journal received some critical acclaim, it was not reflected in viewership, which led to their cancellation.

However, some of those working on the shows have been or will be reassigned to a new nightly news and current affairs program which will air beginning this fall at 8 p.m., Monday to Thursday on CBC Newsworld. That show, however, has no name, hosts or anything else.

Play and Hot Type will be combined, providing entertainment segments to other CBC programs, says Soles. "There will be a limited series of Hot Type style programs," she explains.
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