Canada's CBC cuts 650 jobs, retreats from sports to trim costs

Thu Apr 10, 2014 2:29pm EDT
 
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TORONTO, April 10 (Reuters) - Canada's public broadcaster will no longer bid for professional sporting rights and will slash more than 650 jobs in the next two years as it tightens its belt following a slump in ad sales and previous cuts to its funding from the federal government.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation said Thursday it would cut C$130 million ($119 million) from its budget immediately and halt planned regional expansion, but still look for ways to cover events of national importance such as the Olympics, to which it remains committed.

"As the media landscape changes, CBC/Radio-Canada will also need to re-imagine itself," the broadcaster's chief executive, Hubert Lacroix, said in a statement.

CBC blamed its financial challenges on slumping advertising that has hit the entire industry, disappointing ratings for some programs, weaker-than-expected ad revenues from two radio stations, and the National Hockey League's decision to leave CBC to sign a broadcast deal with cable company Rogers Communications.

Rogers, which is also Canada's largest wireless telecom company, last year signed a C$5.2 billion deal to lock up NHL rights for 12 years, elbowing out rival BCE Inc whose TSN sports channel had previously held most of the rights to show the country's most popular sport.

As part of that deal, Rogers agreed to sub-license some hockey games, including playoffs and the Stanley Cup, to the CBC for four years. CBC also retained its highly rated "Hockey Night in Canada" program, a national institution that it has aired on Saturdays since the 1950s.

CBC has struggled to maintain its programming, particularly in television, since the federal government slashed its funding by 10 percent in 2012.

That prompted CBC to rely more on commercial advertising and to cut some foreign language services.

($1 = 1.0913 Canadian Dollars) (Reporting by Alastair Sharp; Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson and Bernadette Baum)