CBC planning new cuts: watchdog group

CBC executives are planning a fresh round of service cuts, including making Radio 2 online-only and merging some French and English programs, according to an arm’s-length watchdog group.

TORONTO — CBC executives are planning a fresh round of service cuts, including making Radio 2 online-only and merging some French and English programs, according to an arm’s-length watchdog group.

Friends of Canadian Broadcasting says executives are set to propose several major cuts when the board of directors meets in Ottawa on June 17 and 18. The group says they learned of these plans through “high-level sources inside the CBC.”

“This is very serious stuff. Eighty per cent of Canadians like public broadcasting, and they’re going to be very angry when they hear about this,” said the group’s spokesman, Ian Morrison.

“This is the result of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s antipathy to public broadcasting. We’re going to see it play out in about a month’s time and what we’re doing today is blowing a whistle.”

According to the watchdog, the proposed cuts include a plan to shut down over-the-air distribution of Radio Two — CBC’s FM radio network that plays primarily adult contemporary, classical and jazz — in favour of distributing music solely online.

The broadcaster also plans to significantly reduce CBC-TV’s non-commercial morning children’s programs, such as “Arthur” and “Poko,” the group says. It also says shows like “Republic of Doyle” and “Best Laid Plans” may also be on the chopping block.

In addition, the group asserts that cuts will target more local programming, for example cancelling afternoon Radio One shows in places like Thunder Bay. The Ontario city would instead get programs from Sudbury, some 1,008 km away, Morrison said.

He added that cuts would target French-language services, including uniting some English and French shows. For example, music shows could be combined to provide 80 per cent English and 20 per cent French content. Regional services in Quebec may also be cut to centralize more production in Montreal, the group said.

CBC was not immediately available for comment after Friends of Canadian Broadcasting made the announcement Thursday afternoon. CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson said earlier Thursday that the broadcaster welcomes opinions and debate.

The public broadcaster has been struggling with federal budget cuts and flagging TV ratings and announced in April it would cut some 657 jobs. President Hubert Lacroix has called for a “national conversation” on what the broadcaster should become.

Friends of Canadian Broadcasting also released a video and petition addressed to Harper at friends.ca/FreeTheCBC.

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