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Layoffs shine a light on weak points in the media industry

Whew. Since the start of 2009, there’s been a whirlwind of bad news with reports of the death of the media industry alternating with emerging ideas of what the industry is becoming. And at many of our employers, we are now seeing the human faces of the media cutbacks.

We in the union biz move into a different gear when layoffs are announced– a too-familiar routine of studying names, talking to everyone affected, figuring out alternatives, quelling fears and rumours and hopefully arriving at some solutions for affected members during a traumatic time.

Upon studying those lists a bit more dispassionately, it’s amazing how widespread the cuts are and how every job classification is well represented. However there are some trends that emerge.

Digital technology:
You can’t help but notice that out of the 350 job cuts at CBC (outside Quebec), one of the biggest single clusters of affected classifications in a single area is TV editors, with the largest number in Toronto. That’s the dramatic impact of desktop TV and other digital developments. At S-Vox (formerly Vision TV), the year started with a management plan to lay off editors and producers and combine the job into something called “preditors” — a perfect metaphor for the devouring of jobs partly caused by digital technology.

Small getting hit big at CBC:
There has been a lot of discussion about the disproportionate impact of the cuts at CBC on local news, particularly radio in smaller markets such as Sudbury, Windsor, Thunder Bay, Saint John and Sydney. Not only do these cuts exacerbate a void that the private sector is leaving, they also go against CBC’s own strategy (remember “Hot, Live and Local” when it was unveiled in December?). They also seem to contradict all studies that show Canadians value local coverage the most in their news.

CBC Radio loses original programming:
We shouldn’t forget that CBC programming is being reduced across the board. Programs are being cancelled or scaled back on Radio 1, Radio 2 and Radio 3, and those cuts are being felt particularly by our members in Vancouver, where approximately 17 radio jobs are being cut. Aamer Haleem, host of the cancelled daytime show The Point, will be leaving CBC at the end of the season after only a year on CBC radio. Radio 3 hosts Tariq Hussain and Lauren Burrows are also leaving because of the reduction in original programming as the satellite and web versions of Radio 3 get merged into a single entity. Across the country, the regional noon-hour shows are being reduced by an hour on Radio 1. On Radio 2, there will be less live music as Canada Live is cut back from a two-hour, seven-day show to a single hour from Monday to Friday. No one else does work like this anywhere in the country.

Impact on a new generation:
Because of the way layoffs work, and the nature of the projects that have been cancelled, employees who’ve just started their careers are feeling a lot of the impact. For example, TV programs such as CBC’s Steven and Chris Show and the regional “Living In

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