Canada's public broadcaster cuts 657 news, sports jobs

OTTAWA (AFP) - Canada's public broadcaster announced Thursday US$119 million (S$148.5 million) in cuts and the elimination of 657 network sports and news positions over the next two years.

The move aims to turn the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) into "a smaller, more nimble and more open public broadcaster," its chief executive Hubert Lacroix said in a statement.

Lacroix said this was necessary in the face of a transformation of the Canadian media landscape at an "astounding speed." He pointed to an industry-wide softening of the advertising market, disappointing ratings for its English-language television service, much lower-than-expected ad revenues from its French and English music radio stations, and the loss of broadcasting rights for National Hockey League games.

The opposition New Democratic Party, however, blamed Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Tory government for "undermining and weakening" the public broadcaster "with ideological cuts." The government had reduced its support for the public broadcaster by US105 million in its latest budget.

Going forward, CBC and its French-language sister network Radio-Canada will no longer compete with private broadcasters for professional sports rights.

They will also cover fewer events and fewer sports, reducing their involvement in amateur sports and only broadcasting events "that allow us to break even." This decision, however, will not impact the CBC's Olympic coverage.

A previously announced expansion of regional news coverage also will be cancelled.