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Confusion after CBC President’s remarks on digital only CBC service

CMG members have been confused and alarmed by comments made in the press yesterday by CBC President Catherine Tait.  

“The head of the CBC says it is preparing to end traditional TV and radio broadcasts and move completely digital, as audiences shift to streaming, but the move is unlikely to happen over the next decade.”
Source : The Globe and Mail

After she initially suggested that CBC would cease to deliver programming on TV and radio within a decade, she later walked back those comments.  Union officials have confirmed with other CBC senior managers that there is no imminent plan that would lead to any job loss, but Catherine Tait’s comments have caused concern nonetheless.

Arriving five months before the end of her mandate, Catherine Tait’s assertions regarding the future of CBC television and radio create unnecessary anxiety and confusion in its workforce, and most likely in the minds of Canadians in general.

It’s disheartening that this declaration from the CBC president was shared out of the blue, without a chance for CBC workers who create the programming, and the public who rely on these services, being able to weigh in. With contract negotiations on the horizon, the CBC Branch Executive Council is working hard to improve its relationship with management in order to achieve a mutually acceptable Collective Agreement in the new work context as we emerge from the pandemic.  

CBC/Radio-Canada’s workforce has always been at the forefront of technological change, delivering reliable services to Canadians, first on radio, then on television, and now on any other medium that becomes relevant.  We understand the importance of a digital first strategy to remain relevant, but disagree with a digital only approach.

We have been providing quality services on more and more platforms in communities across the country with shrinking resources. All while our pay has failed to keep up with inflation for over a decade. CBC employees have been limited to a 1.5 % yearly salary increase since 2009.  

CBC must continue to deliver on its mandate as stated in the Broadcasting Act:

“…the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, as the national public broadcaster, should provide radio and television services incorporating a wide range of programming that informs, enlightens and entertains;  …the programming provided by the Corporation should: … be made available throughout Canada by the most appropriate and efficient means…”

A recent Canadian Media Fund study shows a strong majority of Canadians (84% anglophones, 81% francophones) watch live TV, and TV sets remain the primary device to watch television content for 78% of anglophones and 88% of francophones, up from the same time the previous year. As for radio, in survey after survey, Canadians have said how much they appreciate CBC Radio programming.

As we learned while covering post-tropical storm Fiona in Atlantic Canada in September 2022, analogue local radio and TV services can become critical tools to deliver information to Canadians when the infrastructures supporting Internet and Cellular services are down. For many Canadians, analogue radio and TV services are always critical as their Internet and Cellular services are not reliable or sometimes even available.

Regarding CBC funding, the union agrees with Tait on one thing: Canada’s national public broadcaster is severely underfunded and adequate resources are needed to sustain the sheer volume of news and programming in English, French and the many Indigenous languages delivered every day by dedicated CBC/Radio-Canada workers. However, as Tait pushes back on Bill C-11, the CMG cautions that advertorials can harm CBC’s brand, and in the age of ‘fake news’, that can be dangerous for CBC.

This is a time to recognize the incredible work CBC workers do, not diminish it; a time to champion a robust national and accessible public broadcaster, not undermine it. CBC/Radio-Canada is a crucial national connector, and any threat to diminish is a threat to our Canadian cultural identity. 

CBC Branch Executive Council 

National CMG Executive Committee

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