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CBC expansion plans: more details and some questions

We’ve combed our notes from various meetings and here is what we`ve gleaned so far on the CBC’s proposals for the first major expansion of radio, TV and internet services this decade.

The plans hinge on whether the CBC gets new money from Ottawa ? it wants $80 million annually by 2007-08 to boost local and regional programming and extra funding from the Canadian Television Fund to add English TV dramas. Although the government has not responded, the CBC will go ahead this fall with three pilots to return hour-long, suppertime newscasts to St. John`s, Edmonton and Montreal.

Other locations given as possible candidates for expanded newscasts are: Toronto, Vancouver, Halifax, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary, Regina, New Brunswick, Charlottetown, Windsor and CBC North. These would not go ahead unless the CBC got additional funding from the government.

News integration key to expansion
Stursberg told staff that news integration is key to increasing local news programming. Edmonton was chosen for the pilot because TV and radio news “are already integrated.” Montreal was chosen because English and French news are already integrated.

“It’s great to see a return to full-hour newscasts in the regions,” says Lise Lareau, National President of the Canadian Media Guild. “But we have some concerns about the emphasis being placed on integration and so-called efficiencies because we haven`t been told anything about what is expected of employees to make this work.”

The plan also contemplates adding full-service English radio stations in mid-sized centres across the country (Saskatoon, Hamilton, Kelowna, Kitchener-Waterloo/London and Kingston) and bureaus in Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Kamloops, Nanaimo, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Oshawa and North Bay. Possible new French news bureaus are proposed for Yarmouth, Summerside, Saint John, London, Brandon, the Peace River district and Kelowna. Examples of new cbc.ca markets were Edmonton, Saskatoon, Victoria and Windsor.

Doubling of English TV drama
Stursberg announced a plan to double English TV drama programming by 2006-07 by adding two new 13-episode dramas, a new 30-minute comedy, a made-in-Canada soap opera and some high-impact specials. He said the new programming would be bought from independent producers ? and therefore doesn’t necessarily mean more jobs at the CBC. The CBC would pay for the added drama by “redirecting resources” and seeking a bigger share of the Canadian Television Fund.

On the plus side, Stursberg said news and sports programming would continue to be produced in-house. It is not known what changes will occur in sports with the loss of CBC’s bid to broadcast the 2010 and 2012 Olympic Games. We will forward you information on this when we get it.

For more information, please contact the Guild (guild@interlog.com) at 1-800-465-4149 or 416-591-5333.

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