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Another layoff day at CBC: so sad and so inconclusive

It all seems so familiar. Waiting for the CBC job cut announcement that’s been looming for weeks, and then hearing it, for yet another time, another year. But this year’s version somehow seems so … hollow.

We know that taking 800 jobs out of the CBC will have immense consequences, yet we have no faces or programs to attach to those job losses. In most cases, people are going home tonight not knowing how or if their own show or their own workplace will be affected. At Radio-Canada, we did learn that weekend news shows are being scrapped except for the one in Ottawa, the TV noon shows in Ottawa, Quebec and Moncton are gone, and the morning radio show in Windsor is being cancelled. But the details are coming out painfully, one piece at a time.

We don’t who will leave or even whether it will be by their choice or by layoff. Will the CBC be permitted to offer voluntary incentive packages to people who have the so-called 85 formula (years of service plus the years of age equaling 85 or more)? It’s up to the Heritage Minister to grant permission for that, according to CBC CEO Hubert Lacroix. And we don’t know when that permission may or may not come.

It was a day all about numbers; the $171 million needed to balance the budget, the $125 million that may come from a sale of assets, TV’s share of the cut (83%), radio’s share of the cut (17%). A lot of numbers, dissected many ways.

Yet at the end of the day, we know very little except the CBC is once again not being supported by the government, for no reason other than straight politics being played by Harper’s PMO. Stephen Harper mused about privatizing English TV as far back as 2004 and we all know about last year’s culture cuts. He’s been able to defend not providing the bridge financing by calling the base $1.1B allocation “record financing”, when even his Heritage Minister James Moore has acknowledged it’s not actually the most ever. On Friday, Moore more properly used the word “straight financing”. (As far back as 1990-91, the CBC was getting just under $1.1B which in today’s dollars would be $1.5B. So much for record financing.)

The numbers obfuscate so much. Tomorrow, we will learn details about program cuts. We are sad tonight, but I know we’ll get mad tomorrow.

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