Hopes have been dashed that CBC News Network would be able to maintain its documentary acquisitions despite Canadian government cuts.
The troubled public broadcaster’s 24-hour cable news channel has halved the airtime of its documentary strand The Passionate Eye, reducing the long-running show from four nights a week to two. It will now air only on weekends.
The loss of airtime will mean fewer slots for non-Canadian titles, according to the channel’s doc chief Catherine Olsen.
“There will be less acquisitions and presales,” Olsen told C21 on Monday at the Hot Docs festival in Toronto.
Olsen said it was too soon to say if the loss of spending will be proportional to the loss of airtime. The picture at CBC is expected to become clearer at its May 10 upfront.
The Passionate Eye, which favours docs centring on current or recent events, buys more foreign titles than CBC’s other two doc strands. Eco-skewing The Nature of Things and the more generalist Doc Zone, both on the main network, are required by its licence to be almost entirely Canadian.
CBC, its specialty channels and its French-language counterpart Radio-Canada were among the doc-friendly organisations decimated by recent budget cuts that have cast a pall over this year’s Hot Docs. Telefilm Canada and the National Film Board also lost 10% from their coffers.
Some had hoped that the cuts might lead CBC to make more acquisitions as it veered away from costly commissions.
Not so, said Olsen, although CBC News Network will “still acquire and invest in international docs,” adding: “There’s always room for good Canadian second windows.”
CBC has said it will commission the same number of independent docs while cutting back on in-house productions. Both Doc Zone and The Nature of Things will commission 13 one-hours per year, for airing in primetime on Thursdays, barring any schedule changes.
The Ceeb also part-owns specialty channel Documentary, though its budget is unaffected by the government cuts as it draws all its cash from advertisers and subscription fees. It will make 10 commissions as usual in the coming broadcast year.