CBC’s worst fears were realised today when the Canadian government cut more than 10% from the budget it shares with its French-language twin.
CBC/Radio-Canada will lose C$27.8m (US$27.8m) in 2012/13 under Canada’s new federal budget, leading to further cuts over the next two financial years that will total C$115m.
The cuts – described as “punishing” by one insider – are expected to hit areas including the public broadcaster’s programming, staff and radio services, though the full details will not be clear for some time.
The government last year told its Crown corporations to draw up plans for cuts of between 5% and 10%, stoking fears that an axe was hanging over the network’s neck.
Those plans have not been made public, though there are indications that the network could reveal details as early as next week.
Network execs “have some big decisions to make. They’re going to have a long weekend,” said Karen Wirsig, spokeswoman for the Canadian Media Guild, which represents 5,500 CBC/Radio-Canada workers.
“Staff are going to be hit no matter what,” Wirsig told C21, “and you can’t have programming without staff.”
Ian Morrison of the independent watchdog Friends of Canadian Broadcasting agreed that the cuts will put “further downward pressure” on programming.
The network did not return calls for comment. In a statement, CBC/Radio-Canada said it will look for a way to follow the budget that “doesn’t overly compromise” the remaining three years of its plan to boost its regional and Canadian content, and its use of digital technology.
The network is supported by a combination of ad revenue and roughly C$1.1bn in government money.
It is not clear if the cuts will affect the annual C$60m of so-called “top up” funding the Ceeb has also drawn from Ottawa since 2001. Those funds are earmarked for programming and are not officially part of the net’s federal allotment – though heritage minister James Moore, whose department oversees CBC, indicated last year that the extra cash might be cut. Calls to the ministry of finance were not returned.
Ottawa will over the next three years also trim the budgets of the National Film Board of Canada by C$6.7m and national funding agency Telefilm Canada by $10.6m.
The budget is the first since the Conservative Party was returned to power last year with a majority government.