CBC to Put Morning Radio on TV, Shorten Evening Newscasts

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BY SIMON HOUPT

The Globe & Mail 

Published

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is taking a page from U.S. radio shock-jock culture, putting its early morning local-radio programs on television as part of a strategy to distribute its content on as many different platforms as possible.

In a memo to staff issued Thursday afternoon, CBC/Radio-Canada offers more details on a plan announced in the spring which it believes will help it shift to a digital future.

As part of the plan, the broadcaster will shorten most of its local supper-hour TV newscasts from the current 90-minute offerings. Shows in Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Windsor, Montreal, and Fredericton will be cut to 30 minutes, while shows in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax, Charlottetown and St. John’s will be cut to 60 minutes. In the North, the broadcast will comprise 30 minutes in English and 30 minutes in Inuktitut.

“This is not just about changing the length of supper hours, this is about changing how we serve the audience,” reads the memo. “It is transforming our concentration in communities from mainly over the supper hour, to a comprehensive, four-platform local news service – across the day and on-demand.” The memo was written by Jennifer McGuire, the general manager and editor-in-chief of CBC News and Centres.

The broadcaster will also put its 6-7 a.m. local Radio One morning shows on TV, a once-popular strategy for U.S. radio hosts such as Howard Stern, Rush Limbaugh and Don Imus.

The memo notes that CBC will also “create newsgathering capacity in Fort McMurray, Alta. and increase our newsgathering presence in Quebec’s Eastern Townships, in both cases filing to all four platforms – mobile, web, radio and TV.” It also plans to introduce hourly news breaks during the day and through primetime.

The memo adds: “We will maintain, and in some cases grow, our spending in local investigative journalism.” No details are given.

The memo adds: “Visual storytelling is still important and we will need to consider new ways to assign, newsgather and tell stories on screens from 80” to 2” in size. Mobile and desktop/Web offers new platforms and opportunities for storytelling as well as exchange and engagement with the audience.”

In June, CBC/Radio-Canada executives announced a strategy that would see the broadcaster shift its priorities over the next six years, inverting a paradigm that currently favours TV and radio outlets, followed by Web-based and then mobile platforms. Like most news organizations, CBC/Radio-Canada is experiencing a titanic shift in audience preferences, as users embrace mobile offerings and spend far less time consuming the news on TV.

It will cut up to 1,500 jobs, or 20 per cent of its employees, by 2020.

McGuire insists the move to new platforms does not change the broadcaster’s core mission. “With this change, we remain committed to preserving and strengthening our journalism, consistently delivering breaking news, depth, context, enterprise, investigative, and innovation in storytelling – these are the bedrocks of our strategy. The ways we connect with our audiences will keep evolving. Our commitment to quality journalism and local communities remains steadfast.”

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