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CBC's Rabinovitch aims to expand regional services

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OTTAWA - The head of CBC told the Canadian heritage committee he might be reconsidering the cuts he made to regional programming during his first term. Earlier this month Prime Minister Paul Martin reappointed Robert Rabinovitch to a second term, though only for three years. The committee is charged with reviewing the appointments.

Five years ago, one of Rabinovitch's first acts as the new president, was to slash regional programming, cutting supper-hour newscasts from 60 to 30 minutes of regional programming.

Now Rabinovitch says he's rethinking the cuts. "We intend to continue to expand our regional services," he said in a prepared statement. He told MPs he's happy with the work he's accomplished, but the CBC needs more funding reports CBC News.

"I must point out that we have still not recovered from the severe cuts of the 1990s. Our parliamentary appropriation, in constant dollars and including the $60 million in additional funding, is still $415 million less today than it was in 1990, and we are expected and want to do more. "

But Rabinovitch didn't spell out how much more money until he was outside the committee room.

He says he's looking for $100 million more a year for the general budget and $75 million over three years to re-energize local programming.

"You're talking about regional and local. You're talking about 14 supper hours in English, 13 supper hours in French, let alone of expanding into other cities which is something we would also like to do."

London, Ont., is one city where Rabinovitch would like to see a local CBC bureau. He's also looking at restoring some, but not all, local shows back to their full-hour.

But Rabinovitch had no formal plan to lay before the committee and that was something that irked MPs and observers.

"We asked for that 18 months ago. We gave him a year. We haven't seen anything. He had nothing about that today, except talk that he supports regional progamming," said Ontario NDP MP Charlie Angus.

Lise Lareau, president of the Canadian Media Guild, said she's pleased with Rabinovitch's change of heart.

"He's recognizing that to be an effective broadcaster in Canada you have to be in the regions in a major way, and that's good news," Lareau says.
The parliamentary committee will vote on Rabinovitch's renewal on Wednesday.

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