The public broadcaster said Monday that CBC and Radio-Canada will each cut about 250 jobs, with the balance of the layoffs coming from corporate divisions such as technology and infrastructure.
It has also identified about 200 currently vacant positions that will be eliminated.
Some of the cuts — amounting to 10 per cent of the organization's workforce — will be made immediately while others will be carried out over the next 12 months.
Catherine Tait, CBC/Radio-Canada president and chief executive, said the bulk of the layoffs won't be carried out until April 1 and the specific staff, departments or programs affected is still in flux because jobs could be saved if the broadcaster's revenue or funding increases.
"The reason we're doing it in this phased-in approach is in order to be able to retain flexibility to respond, if our fortunes do improve, and to be able to protect as many jobs as we possibly can," Tait said Monday in an interview.
But she acknowledged the phased approach could weigh on the morale of staff, who could wind up working for months uncertain whether they will have a job.
"The more transparent we are, the better our relationship with the employees, but with that transparency, in this case, comes uncertainty, and so that's the hard piece that we're going to have to manage," Tait said.
CBC attributed the cuts to "the same structural factors affecting all media companies," which the broadcaster specified include rising production costs, declining television advertising revenue and fierce competition from tech giants.
The Crown corporation also expects to see reductions in parliamentary funding beginning in the next fiscal year, including the end of $21 million in specialized funding it has received annually since 2021 to help the broadcaster cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.
CBC had been "very blessed" not to have had to make cuts during the health crisis, Tait said.
"We made it a priority during the pandemic to protect our employees to the maximum because we knew how much people were suffering during that time," she said.
"I'm afraid that's a little bit of what we're living today, is coming out of the pandemic thinking that we did believe that the economy would bounce right back and we'd be in better shape than we're in. (But) we see that the entire media sector — private and public — are all under the same financial stresses."
CBC had already begun taking action to resolve its budgetary challenges earlier in the year, when it cut more than $25 million in spending on travel, sponsorships and marketing, postponed some technology initiatives and limited filling vacant positions.
The cuts announced Monday will go deeper and affect a wide swath of the workforce, which included 6,500 permanent employees, about 2,000 temporary workers and roughly 760 contract staff at the end of March.
Along with the job cuts, CBC will be reducing its English and French programming budgets, including about $40 million in independent production commissions and program acquisitions. It said the move would result in fewer renewals and acquisitions, new television series, episodes of existing shows and digital original series.
"Will it be a dramatic, go-to-black in prime time for the public? No, it will not," Tait said.
"But it will hurt over time because it means more repeats and it means fewer new shows to celebrate and fewer new series to participate in all the awards that we get."
Some series will not be renewed as part of the cut and Tait warned CBC may not be able to create more miniseries like "BlackBerry," "Bones of Crows" and "Swan Song" "because we simply don't have the budget for it."
News media companies in Canada and elsewhere have spent the last decade or more laying off staff to cope with shrinking advertising revenues amid a broad digital shift.
This year alone, National Post publisher Postmedia Network Corp. in January laid off 11 per cent of its editorial staff, Bell Media eliminated six per cent of its workforce and the publisher behind the Toronto Star cut 605 jobs when its local newspaper chain Metroland Media Group filed for creditor protection.
The cuts at CBC come as the government is reviewing the broadcaster's mandate and has been reshaping its approach to tech companies, which have swallowed up much of the country's advertising revenues, hurting news media organizations.
In May, then-heritage minister Pablo Rodriguez said he was seeking ways the federal government could boost funding to CBC, helping the broadcaster rely less on advertising.
His mandate letter from the prime minister said the goal of providing more money to the CBC and Radio-Canada is to eliminate advertising during news and other public affairs shows.
In its 2022-23 fiscal year, CBC's television advertising revenues amounted to $288.6 million, with $215.5 million from TV advertising and $73.1 million from digital marketing.
CBC reported $515.5 million in revenue in its fiscal 2023, down nearly 21 per cent from the year before, when the Tokyo 2020 and the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games were held in a single fiscal year, boosting revenues.
Its government funding totalled $1.27 billion in its fiscal 2023, up slightly from $1.24 billion a year prior.
However, in the most recent federal budget, the Liberal government asked every department and agency to propose ways to cut spending by three per cent.
Speaking to reporters in Ottawa ahead of CBC's announcement Monday, current Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge said the final decision on cuts for the broadcaster "has not been made yet." Tait said the three per cent reduction was baked into Monday's announcement.
St-Onge also used her appearance to push back on notions that the Online News Act, which forces tech giants Google and Meta to pay for news they link to or repurpose on their platforms, triggered the cuts.
She said the law, which recently spurred a $100-million deal with Google to compensate journalism companies, was bringing "new revenues" into the system.
However, the Liberal government has hinted that it will cap the amount of money CBC and Radio-Canada could get under the Google deal.
CBC has also been affected by Facebook and Instagram owner Meta blocking its Canadian users from accessing news content in recent months.
— With files from Mickey Djuric in Ottawa
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2023.
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