Liveblog of Richard Stursberg presentation on programming cuts

Business Plan Update conference call starts 2009.03.26 14:02. (Printable version.)

STURSBERG: Well, thank you for coming. I know many among you and many of the people on the phone had a pretty horrible morning. There isn’tanything nice about any of this, and I know how difficult it is for so many people here in terms of the people and the shows and the things that we’ve been doing. There isn’t any happy way to do this. There is only a difficult way to do it.

What I would like to try to do today is talk about why we made the decisions we made, and then also show you in more detail – I think everybody has been spoken to in terms of what’s being affected, their shows and whatnot – I’m going to try to show you what’s affected in terms of English network as a whole. The logic of why it’s being done this way.

This is the beginning of the conversation, and we’re going to try to make sure that we create lots opportunities for people to talk and understand what’s going on and why it we’ve approached it the way we’ve approached it.

I know we’ve talked about this a lot in the past, but I do want to remind people, because it’s the core of how these downsizings are going to be managed. Things actually are working very well for us, and I know I’ve said this a number of times, but we need to keep in mind that radio is doing well. Radio’s share is at an all-time high. Television is doing very well. Last time an all-Canadian prime-time schedule has beaten an all-American? Never. Grown by 2 share? Never.

CBC.CA continues to be the number-one Web site in the country, and its growth seems to be accelerating – in unique users, page views, members. So it’s very important because it means all the work we’ve been doing has actually been working. So let’s try to keep our strategy to the extent that we can, given these difficulties.

How many people actually view one or other of our services every week? 20 million Canadians – almost 80% of the English Canadian population. That’s an extraordinary response to what it is we’ve been doing.

So I know we’ve been talking about this yesterday, but I’ll just maybe mention it again today. What we would like to try to do is, to the maximum extent possible, stay on strategy so that when the economy recovers we’re in a position to take advantage of it, and we have not destroyed those things, or have damaged those things, as little as possible.

(Keep Radio One and 2 share, and grow audiences on TV.)

News renewal, underway for two years now, is fundamental to CBC’s brand and has to continue. People in the regions, especially the Maritimes and some parts of Ontario who found the resources available to them have been reduced. We want to try to stay as much as we can anchored in the regions, but it is challenging. And we must, I believe, continue to invest in new platforms, even as we come through this difficult time (so we’re in a better position) so as not make the future hostage to the present difficulty.

Have to manage these resources in the context of our financial situation. How does this business actually work? How does CBC work? These numbers are 2007–2008, the last full year we have numbers for. The green bar is revenue, and the red bar is cost, and I’m going to walk you through this because there’s a lot of misunderstanding of things.

Procured programming means foreign shows – Simpsons, Coronation Street, American movies, etc. They make money, and they contribute to everything we do.

Professional sports makes money.

So one of the implications of this is if you cut these things you dig yourself a bigger financial hole. That’s all that happens. A lot of the conversation that’s take place in terms of Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune in the press is just silly. Either (A) give us more money so we can replace them with Canadian shows or (B) we do less Canadian shows. It isn’t more complicated than that.

TV news loses a lot of money. If that were CTV, it would make money, and there’s some reasons for it, but what it points to is the requirement to continue the news-renewal process. Recommitting to local television news because that’s what Canadians want and that’s where all the revenue is. (Last time we did that, it just dug a bigger hole.)

Drama and comedy: If this were any other place, they don’t make money. They can’t cover the costs. That’s why we have these subsidies. But there’s a problem. If you cut this, then the amount of money you can draw out of the CTF goes down. So you don’t draw the full envelope, so they take the money away and give it to somebody else (like last year with CTV). [Some joke I missed.]

Amateur sports: Bluntly, amateur sports has been carried by the margin in pro sports.

Documentaries: The same issue arises as with Kids. If you start cutting indie producers, you reduce your ability to draw from CTF. In this case, you’ll see that because our docs are half in-house, one of the good things that’s happened is changes in CTF rules mean we’ll able to access the CTF for in-house productions. So Mark’s red bar should come down, which will be good. But we have to continue to commit to it.

Kids and Radio: No revenues associated with either of them. In radio, 85% of costs are people, so that inevitably if you reduce the dollars available to radio, you reduce more people than you would if you were dealing with drama and comedy, because they are completely commissioned. We don’t do it with our own folks.

If we cut the procured programming or pro sports, we dig ourselves a bigger hole. The numbers you saw are before Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy and the new NHL contract. There are no revenue opportunities (on radio), though radio remains central to everything we do in our transformation to a content company but shares in the infrastructure of everything.

Our commitment to local television news is very important – total market value is $162M, of which we take almost nothing. But as others withdraw, like E, A, Global, CTV channels, there is an opportunity, I think. And we can take significantly more revenue going forward (there).

Lifestyle/living shows have been dropped in part because we just couldn’t figure out a way – they were beautiful and were brought in on an extraordinary price point considering how beautiful and polished they were, but we just couldn’t figure out a way of getting them to break even.

The difficulty with a lot of regional production is inevitably it costs more than network. If you make regional shows, you probably make 10 to 12 or 25 on radio (versus one national). That’s just the reality of the regions, which makes it difficult to deal with these cost questions.

Having said all that, we did not approach these reductions as pro rata. We thought that was wrong and would lead us nowhere. We did not want it to be about perceptions of internal equity. Filter the cuts through the maintenance of strategy and economic realities of English services. I don’t want you to think we did this proportionally. We didn’t.

The regions are cut less than they are proportional to the total dollars that are currently invested in them, and radio less than television, though marginally less, I would say.

$85M reduction. 400 people touched by this. Let me rephrase that, there are almost 400 jobs that are touched by it. 400 jobs taken out of English services – approximately 10%. We hope very much the ultimate number of people to be laid off is very substantially less than that.

Voluntary retirement incentive plan. Anybody who has 85 points or who is 65 or older. If 10 jobs were supposed to go, if people want to take 10 retirements, we’ll wind up those 10 jobs and we’re done. But if 20 people do, we’ll say no; you can only take 10 from that area and we’ll do it by seniority. If we took the 20, we’d be no further ahead.

Released April 6, open for about a month. Then we’ll know how many jobs have gone away and how many are left that we’ll have to deal with.

Say 200 people take the (package). That leaves 200 left. Can we now use the vacancies intelligently and abolish a whole bunch of those? Get another 100 that way? So instead of 400 layoffs, you get about 100. I should just say we have spent a lot of time with the union working on this. On Friday had a meeting with all the unions. Elizabeth and I met with CMG and everybody yesterday. Are trying to figure out the best way to minimize the number of layoffs. Relationship is very good. We’re trying really hard to make sure that we can do this together to minimize people actually laid off.

You will see that some of this is pretty devastating. Radio network shows in Toronto: Cancelled some shows. Inside Track, Out Front. Reduced music recordings by about 50%. Reduce drama, but will do some. Try to make some more synergies with Radios 2 and 3, since they’re both music offerings without getting rid of Radio 3 or cut back Radio 2.

Had already pulled back significantly on travel, discretionary. That will continue.

Many network shows into regions. The Point is gone this afternoon, or I mean The Point will be gone. Live music production capacity reduced. [Gregory Charles show, too? Missed that.] Try to be rational on satellite streams.

Means there will be holes in the schedule. Trying to think of smart way to (repeat our smart programming) so that the quality and density and richness of Radio One will remain.

We have not closed any stations. We have wound up two one-person bureaux – Thomson, Manitoba, and La Ronge, Saskatchewan. These other places have been reduced. The way we try to approach it in this case was a little bit about equity. Cost of providing local radio service per person served; we said we should reduce costs to those places that have the highest cost per person served. Because of the history of the CBC, where it grew more from the east to the west, we find the cost there is higher in the east than in central Canada and the west.

Noon show will continue – reduced from two hours to one. Resources to be reduced and standardized. $500,000 reduction for CBC North.

$5M from network level and 20 jobs, but that will not be 20 layoffs. $9M from network shows in regions. $5M in local regional shows in radio.

Television: Last week we already announced Steven and Chris were gone for next year. When we approached television, the thing we want most to do is to maintain the prime-time schedule, which is where revenue sits and CTF goes. So the first place to trim is non-prime-time. Kids in the morning has no revenue, but we have to be careful with it because it draws CTF dollars. Afternoons: Steven and Chris, Fashion File, the living shows have had to go.

Nice one-offs like Destination we can’t do for the time being. A lot of the big shows, we are going to have to reduce the costs for them. Fred has been busy saying to producers you’ll have less money in licence fees and episodes. The Border, 22 Minutes, Mosque have fewer episodes. $28M there, 110 jobs.

Some digital extension for TV shows: Some of that money has to come out. Not to be confused with something that will come up later. Not sure how to handle this, because when they change the rules for Canada Media Fund, must make shows for two platforms at a time. Careful here or we don’tdraw the fund fully, and that would be a mistake.

Sports: No more Blue Jays, plus a whole bunch of these amateur sports things are gone, though we might do some international figure skating if it’s in Canada. Which is a shame, because we’re big champions of amateur sport. That seems like few jobs compared to the amount of money – a lot of this money is tied up in rights costs, and there are not a lot of full-time jobs. You need a commentator for soccer, but not a full-time commentator.

This is perhaps the most complicated piece. News renewal started 2½ years ago. Let’s grow supper hours back to an hour when we got rid of Canada Now. Have almost doubled their share compared to nadir of Canada Now. Vancouver as testing ground for full integration. Took all of news assets about a year ago and put them all into the news department and took the next big step to reorganize it to provide full integration and meet the requirements of Canadians. We did a lot of research on that: Yes, people wanted context, but also wanted 24/7 news on whatever platform was convenient.

Jennifer and Todd and Seaton and Gino have been heavily involved in working through how this actually works. About 200 people in the news department have been involved in the consultations, with a development process on new shows. Boom, we got blown off course because of the downturn.

Now, unfortunately, news must contribute like everybody else: $7M, about 80 jobs. The difficulty here is executing the news-renewal task while layering in this $7M cut. We literally did not conclude with the Board on final details (on this question of fitting those two pieces together). Will come back April 16 to lay it out for the news department.

Small-market radio news is understood; is part of the cuts mentioned before. Fifth Estate and Marketplace budgets reduced. It’s the other $4M and 50+ people that we don’t understand fully yet.

Important to continue to invest in news platforms. The only areas not seeing reductions, where we’re putting in new money. .CA will have greater functionality, grow it out, because it supports everything – all of the extensions, whether local, sports, whatever. Growth in revenue is all here. Not to say there’s a huge amount of money here yet.

Why cut and also invest? Not to allow the current situation to cut us off, as it were, growth for the future.

Significant reductions in sales/support. Media sales and marketing 22 jobs, communications 12 jobs, a couple of jobs in content management and finance and admin. Production centres, libraries, archives: Still working our way through this, since some of it is caught up in news renewal.

Voluntary retirement: Aren’t we going to get ourselves in a jam with these cuts in terms of increase in the diversity of our workforce? But that’s skewed by age: Younger workers are more diverse. (Taking buyouts) would take pressure off our younger workers, who are more likely to be laid off because of the rules of our contracts.

(Small recap.) What now is left after all these cuts?

Radio and local in all major markets: Morning and afternoon drive shows are intact. Radio One and 2: Denise and Chris are figuring out how to retain the integrity of the schedule by using (unclear). No ads on Radio One or 2. Production efficiencies.

Television: The only reason we do it is to make Canadian shows. To hold to the Canadian content we do. 80% in prime time will remain Canadian. We’re going to increase the overall CanCon by about half an hour – get rid of Martha Stewart and Simpsons and replace with another American show, leaving a half-hour (to add). Will let us maximize revenue, CTF.

News renewal continues. If we execute it, will steal market share from all our competitors and end up with a news offering stronger than anybody else and much more valuable. Principal news sources for people are newspapers, conventional TV, CBC Radio. Those are the great news sources and they’re all under enormous stress. They want to walk away from news. So CBC becomes even more important in that environment.

Regions: No stations closed; two one-man bureaux closed.

.CA: Incremental dollars.

Current TV Canada: Money’s still there for that.

We used to have the online sales outsourced to AOL; brought it in-house.

Just to conclude, this is a really horrid situation. And the size of the cuts is very extensive: about 10% of the jobs, about 12% of total budget. This cut is bigger than the cuts Global took in people – 7.8% of workforce there. Cannot underestimate the severity of what is happening. This is going to be a very difficult process for the next number of months and maybe beyond that.

It’s also going to have knock-on effects to a lot of people (live music, independent producers, actors, musicians, directors). We are, as it turns out, the absolutely overwhelmingly most important commissioner of every kind of cultural product in the country – whether it’s songs, whether it’s shows, whatever it may be. So when we get hurt, it has a more devastating effect than when anybody else gets hurt.

We’ve tried to do this is in a way that is as intelligent as sensitive as we could. Nobody’s happy with the outcome because there is no happy outcome. The least bad way possible, if I can put it like that.

Q&A

  1. Q. from Al at the National, at CBC for 15 years: Tensions that exist between you and us in news/current affairs/documentaries. Whether it’s good or bad, it exists. You mentioned share. Those numbers would be different if you looked at 2008–09. Issues other than share, like impact, why Canadians watch CBC. I want to focus in on the Fifth Estate. I don’t work there, but it’s a program that illustrates the tension for the last few years. It’s been beaten and bruised for a number of years. Budget come down, fewer shows, moved from Wednesday to Friday. If you are fan of it, you aren’t going to like what’s going on.

    — So what’s the question?

    — Let me just finish. We don’t get many opportunities. $1.7M for the Fifth Estate and Marketplace: The Fifth Estate is a program that contributes to the Canadian discourse in a way (out of proportion to its share). Lottery coverage, Schreiber/Mulroney. They get talked about by other media.

    — I’m going to cut you off, because there’s a lot of people.

    — I want to get to the retirement thing. You could have every host of the Fifth Estate retire because of the 85/55 formula, senior people retiring, and the program having a lot less money. It’s symptomatic of the whole thing. Problem in terms of the value that’s being put on things outside of ratings and share. (Applause.)

    A. Let’s talk about that. Is anybody happy with this? No. I’m a little bit surprised, frankly, at the premise of the question, because over the course of the last number of years, the news department has been essentially been held harmless. And we’ve said to increase the amount of news that we’ve done. We’re prepared to put resources in to do better news. The size of the cuts associated with the news department is smaller compared to what’s going on in lots of other places, so I reject the premise heartily.

    We want to maintain our investigative capacity. We’ll see on the 16th, where we go through the entire structure of the news. Central component is investigative stuff.

  2. Q. from Steve, TV technical: VRIP. How exactly will the process work? Will the department recommend individuals that the VP will consider?

    A. The department will have this number of jobs. Everybody who would like to take the retirement incentive can (to the maximum). Entirely voluntary.

  3. Q. from woman: Are they losing any positions? [First part unheard.]

    A. Management in the CBC is about 8.9% of total complement, senior management 0.5%. Cuts will fall pro rata on everybody, so you can expect 8.9% of cuts to fall there.

  4. Q. from Alison Dempster, Sudbury: I feel I was duped yesterday when you said you were making regional stations a priority. 17–21 cuts, potentially 8 in Sudbury, none for Toronto, Ottawa programming. I feel you’ve just cut us loose. I have a hard time seeing any so-called internal equity, as you put it.

    A. Nobody wanted to cut Sudbury, Sydney, anybody, but we had to cut something. Highest cost per Canadian served. [Remainder of answer missed.] Is it going to make anybody happy? I don’t think so.

  5. Q. from man: Internet to be increased and digital. Does this mean we’re going to see ads on the CBC Web site?

    A. You already do. Been there forever, really. Obviously you’re not going to the CBC Web site enough. Yeah, absolutely. We’ve been selling it aggressively. Two years ago the rules were more restrictive on Web than on TV, which we changed.

  6. Q. from woman (Gillian Findlay?): I’d like to set the record straight, because you’ve said a couple of times there have been no cuts to current affairs. Our program has an operating cut every year of the last three years. Marketplace is now a half-hour program. My question, if you’ll just let me finish, is we get a subsidy (and the purpose is in part to) subsidize this programming that the privates do not do. You said we were going to grow investigative reporting. By your own won numbers you’re going to lose a number of people who do investigative reporting, so how are you going to grow it?

    A. CTV does do current affairs; they do W5. We get a subsidy for that and for radio, drama, comedy, kids’ shows, for all sorts of different things. Nobody wants to do this, and I’m not sure exactly how to respond when people say “We’re of more value than anybody else.” More valuable than radio, than kids’ programming? I don’t know how to deal with that. Nobody wants to do this, but this is where we find ourselves. So the question is, I think how do we do it in a way that will be the least painful for the overall organization? This is the best we can do with the problem.

    (Inaudible interjection.)

    Are they of greater value than Little Mosque on the Prairie? I’d say no. I’d say they were of equal value. Let me put it to you this way, just for fun – (hooting). Hold my jacket now; we’re going to take this outside.

    I think it is invidious and unfair to start this kind of conversation. I don’t think it helps collectively and doesn’t help each other. It isn’t right to say I’m more important than you are. It will pull us apart at exactly the time we need to be pulling together. (Applause.)

  7. Q. from man: I’d like to clear up the confusion about Fifth Estate. But we did take a cut last year in the middle of the season, is that not the truth?

    A. Yes, and you made more shows.

    — So how is that holding news harmless?

    — The premise of the question was untrue. Overall budget for news and current affairs has remained constant. I don’t know where this comes from and I think it’s unfair and I think it’s wrong. That’s what I’m saying.

    — It is the case that every survey shows that what Canadians want is news and current affairs above all else. And yet, you’re asking in the case of the Fifth Estate, at the risk of being parochial, that we should take a 20% hit. So you’re taking a core element of your business –

    — I don’t know how to respond to this. Radio is a core element. So is kids.

    — How can you justify the Fifth Estate taking a 20% cut?

    — We said we would not make pro rata cuts.

    — I understand that, but I’m asking why you can justify this particular cut. (Agrees with no pro-rata cuts.) I’m asking you for the calculus.

    — There was no mathematical formula behind this, if that’s what you want. In the context of things, this is not an unreasonable thing to do. That was the beginning and the end of it. Should it have been 1.1? 900,000? 1.3? There’s no science in this. This was the best we know how to do at this point in time.

    (Interrupts the questioner.)

  8. (Inaudible question.)

    A. No. (Groaning in room.) No. Come on. How is that fair, you know? Essentially, you’re saying – I don’t want to get into it. The press is on the phone. Essentially you’re saying we matter more than anybody else. (Shouting in the room.) I’m sorry if you don’t like the answer, but it’s the best answer I’ve got.

    Jennifer: At the end of the day, nobody wants to cut, but we’ll make sure that we uphold the quality of what we do. Look at new ways of doing what we’re doing. The assumption that we can’t do it, which is where we’re starting from here, is a false assumption.

  9. Q. from Kathy in Thunder Bay on phone: I will take one minute, because it is rare we get to express our opinions. I’ve worked in about six to eight CBC locations, network, regional, and local, and if you believe that a per-capita cost is an equitable way to cut, then I’m not sure you really understand how important CBC is in small centres. All of those people become the parents of the grandparents of people who move to (big cities) and continue to watch and listen to CBC. When the economy recovers, will management promise/guarantee/undertake to restore jobs, particularly in small locations?

    A. No.

    — Thank you!

    — In fairness to all Canadian citizens, we’d open another radio (station). Would we do that in favour of restoring (what we had)? Why do some people get better service than others? I don’t understand that.

  10. Q. from woman from Marketplace: I look at quarterly reports of corporations outside the CBC, but I don’t think I’d be impressed with our ad revenue and how we were spending our money. I feel like the downturn is hiding problems with management and ad sales. Where were things before the downturn?

    A. It’s not complicated. We have a very big problem in terms of television: Most other entities have very significant specialty holdings; we have one of any consequence, News world. We have a huge structural problem. Ad revenue of specialties has been going up despite the fact they also get cable fees; ad revenues of conventionals have been going down despite the fact they produce overwhelmingly the most Canadian programming. Then we had the economic collapse. If we were the only one collapsing, I would be very concerned as to whether our marketing and sales group was any good.

    Sorry, can I just finish? The Summer Olympics? We did great there too; that was before the downturn.

    The target actually was set, if I’m not mistaken, 10 years ago, so it was a little artificial. Global has essentially written off its conventional TV networks. Put ’em up for sale; there are no buyers. I read the prospectus; there’s nothing there to buy. They used to trade at $20; they’re trading at 5¢. CTV the same; $100M loss on their conventional business. It’s happening to everybody. How’s that?

    (Inaudible retort.)

    — The situation that they have, NBC, ABC, CBS, it’s the same for all the conventional broadcasters in North America; there is no difference.

  11. Q. from John, Digital Archives: Out of crisis can come ingenuity, and I think we’re about to cross the Rubicon. I kind of felt for you and the management team in yesterday’s broadcast. I understand and appreciate the trouble you went through. But we need your help, and we’re in this together, and this is a time for solidarity as much as it is for divisiveness and anger. (Applause.) The question becomes: What are we all prepared to do? I’m going to give up one day a month of unpaid leave for a year if we can work it out. Many I’ve talked to are willing to do the same. Save jobs, save money, maintain the quality of show we’re accustomed to such as Marketplace and Fifth Estate. Take this information to the prime minister, the minister of finance, and the minister of heritage.

  12. Q. from Michael Hughes, lawyer: As I understand it, this profoundly depressing situation stems in large part from the callous turndown of the Harper government and the heritage minister of our request for bridge financing. “I can’t play favourites for CBC when the privates are going it alone.” CTV and Global are now running to the CRTC and asking for help (in a handout from the CRTC to the extent it can give one). I read the notes for the president’s quite stellar speech today in Montreal, but I hope we are doing whatever we can to get back to the PMO and Cabinet and say the model you used to turn us down with has a fallacy now because privates are asking essentially for a bailout. Otherwise you’re going to be perceived as frankly stabbing the CBC with a major cut. Are we doing that?

    A. The president told the Empire Club he wanted a meeting with the prime minister; has never been offered such a meeting. He made exactly that point (in today’s speech): “I do find it difficult there are rumours to the effect they are considering bailing out Global and CTV but won’t lift a finger to help us. We still don’t have the $60M or capital budget signed up five days before end of fiscal year. Not a problem of money, but one of governance and good management.” Have to get to a point, president says, where we are tread more respectfully. (Applause.)

  13. Q. from Yellowknife: Asset sales. Won’t we be missing the $125M in fiscal 2010 because we won’t have those assts to sell again?

    A. Essentially correct.

[Scribe ended at 2009.03.26 15:22.]

48 comments:

  1. Anonymous
    Posted April 1, 2009 at 9:39 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    In response to Mark Dowling @ 9:53, March 29:

    By asking that question you are missing the point! HNIC in Punjabi costs VERY LITTLE. There are two commentators, that’s it. It’s about promotion and strenghthening OUR GAME amongst new Canadians. It goes well beyond the tiny cost put into it. It’s about making a Canadian institution ACCESSIBLE to a larger audience. And only CBC would do that.

    Besides, HNIC makes THREE TIMES what they put into it. They have that luxury.

  2. Mark Dowling
    Posted March 29, 2009 at 7:52 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    How much revenue does Hockey Night in Punjabi bring in?

  3. Anonymous
    Posted March 29, 2009 at 12:48 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    John Corcelli always goes into a pinko rant at those things.

  4. Anonymous
    Posted March 28, 2009 at 8:37 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    The biggest problem right now with the CBC is employee morale and has been for some time. It goes far back to the lock-out, which already left a bad taste in people’s mouths. The terrible news of layoffs just makes it worse. I don’t know anyone who was completely happy before.

  5. Anonymous
    Posted March 27, 2009 at 10:52 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Let’s a take a step back for a minute. What do we see?

    A systematic dismantling of the most important broadcaster in our country at a point in time when the service is most needed.

    Coincidence?
    Not on your life.

  6. Vigilante
    Posted March 27, 2009 at 9:29 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    And see, I agree with 11:11 too. Not so much that the CBC is underfunded, but the funds aren’t being put to their optimal use.

  7. Vigilante
    Posted March 27, 2009 at 9:15 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Ahhh…that’s more like it, 10:18. Thanks for clarifying that.

    I agree with you on the long term prospects of investing in the website. Sure, they did say that about TV 60 years ago. And there were innovators, but I’m sure nobody dumped all their eggs into one basket.

    If we’re going to talk about investing in cbc.ca then I have another question. At this time, when all these people are being laid off, does it make sense to invest heavily where there isn’t an audience? Barry says there isn’t a significant audience and I believe him. In the short term where cuts are being initiated in sectors where there are established audiences, it doesn’t make much sense to be dumping your eggs in a hole and hoping they’ll grow to bear fruit.

    Plant a seed, by all means, and nurture it. But don’t expect that little seed is going to feed you through the short term. It won’t happen, no matter how much Miracle Gro you dump on it.

    Right now you’ve got good eggs. Use ’em where they’ll be put to their best use.

  8. Anonymous
    Posted March 27, 2009 at 9:11 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Barry, Vig, others,

    cbc.ca is a victim of spin just as CBC Television is. It's been called #1*** for a few years.

    *** News & Information site, compared to other media companies, Canadian audiences at home, verified by Comscore.

    With someone like the deputy of CBC Television in place, you can make numbers dance to present any kind of story you wish, good or bad.

    As for cbc.ca, it seems crazy that an entire system that is both content and delivery system is put under a single budget and evaluated. It's like taking all of the transmitters, master control, IT, production, financing and content for CBC TV under a single budget and asking if it makes sense. There are portions of it that are more efficient than others in terms of traffic per dollar spent. There are others that serve the mandate well, and integrate with other media.

    I consider it tragically underfunded, and it is missing an any number of opportunities to reach Canadians. RS calling CBC a content company is yet another half truth.

    I'm sorry people are losing jobs. I'm also sorry we have a small group of senior people in place that are uninspiring and elitist.

  9. Anonymous
    Posted March 27, 2009 at 8:18 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Vig and Barry, just to clarify – Sturberg misspoke when he said "#1 website". The slide he was showing at the time was labeled something like "#1 Canadian news & information site." Doesn't show in the transcript, obviously.

    As for beating an American lineup, I think he's talking about Global, not CTV.

    A last point about CBC.ca – it's easy to pile on it, particularly in hard times, and ignore the direction the technology is headed. They said the same thing about TV 60 years ago. But CBC's announcement is consistent with almost every other downsizing media outlet. Canwest said the same when they did their layoffs. BBC is slashing almost £400m but upping web spending 27%. Newspapers continue to move online.

    Also, while the audience numbers don't match TV, neither does the spending. The last published number of CBC.ca employees – admittedly out of date by a couple of years – was around 200, or 2% of the corporation. In other words, shutting down the entire internet operation would only solve one quarter of this year's layoffs. That might appeal to some, but it's not much of a long-term strategy.

  10. Anonymous
    Posted March 27, 2009 at 8:15 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I’ve gotten to the point where I’m sort of glad I wasn’t renewed. Missing the backstabbing catfight that’s ramping up will likely make me a happier person.

    When I had to go to ‘Respect in the Workplace’, I was really surprised that the CBC was once such a toxic environment. I no longer find that hard to believe.

  11. Anonymous
    Posted March 27, 2009 at 7:46 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    The Hour has no competition? Um…anyone heard of The News? Every single person I know has it programmed into their brain that 11 pm means go to CTV or City TV to watch The News.

    The Hour is hardly the problem with the CBC. It has an incredible online presence. No other program could battle in that timeslot.

  12. Vigilante
    Posted March 27, 2009 at 7:38 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Thanks, Barry. Translating it to the number one Canadian news site makes much more sense than what they actually said. Stursberg should have said that in the first place.

    Then again he wouldn’t have had a bunch of people wondering what they’re missing.

  13. Anonymous
    Posted March 27, 2009 at 7:28 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Does anybody have a report on the
    catfight between Stursberg and Jillian
    Findlay after the presentation?

  14. Anonymous
    Posted March 27, 2009 at 7:13 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Too bad people are losing jobs, but not gonna miss The Point and In The Key of Charles.

    And Little Mosque On The Prairie? It’s just not funny. I say scrap it and hand the money saved to The Fifth Estate.

  15. Barry Kiefl
    Posted March 27, 2009 at 6:57 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    “CBC.CA continues to be the number-one Web site in the country” needs translation, i.e, it is often the number 1 Canadian news site (excluding weather). But, as I explained in an earlier post, cbc.ca has a very small share of the total web audience and is dwarfed by the audience of CBC radio and TV.

  16. Allan
    Posted March 27, 2009 at 6:32 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    She states:
    for the first time in our history an overwhelmingly Canadian prime-time schedule of homegrown dramas, comedies, documentaries, current affairs and sports has drawn more Canadian viewers than the overwhelmingly U.S. schedules of the privates.

    I must be mis-reading that because it strikes me as an astounding statement.

    what CBC show is beating Canadian Idol and the other CTV hit shows?

  17. Vigilante
    Posted March 27, 2009 at 6:18 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Layfield claimed CBC TV was number one in what country? This country? Maybe he meant M5W 1E6? Did they secede? Was that some secret part of the Charlottetown Accord that slipped through without anyone noticing?

    The Quebeckers are gonna be pissed.

  18. Allan
    Posted March 27, 2009 at 5:45 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Did someone mention The Hour?
    Ooooh, my favorite topic.
    Some points:

    Go back and listen again to the At Issue clip.
    Gregg and Chantal are for leaving everything the way it is.
    Only Coyne voices the concerns of many Canadians, and if you listen closely, he points mainly to a weakness on the english side of CBC TV, and specifically the evening hours.
    Now what could he be thinking of?
    I say he’s referring to The Hour, the program that has soured everyone to the “new” CBC.

    It’s been mentioned they get amazing guests.
    That is laughable. Not the guests, but the thinking that getting them is any kind of achievement at all.
    A sick joke. Shall we look back to all who “got” Tom Cruise.
    Give anyone a national broadcast and have American celebrities come on to plug a business and you’ve got The Hour.
    They’re co-operation with being interviewed has nothing to do with George, and even George has to admit that.

    As I’ve said before, you can put anyone in that red chair across from Lilly Allen and people will watch. Maybe not Andrew Coyne, but enough people.
    I think the average is 120,000 viewers a night.
    But what would the numbers be if CTV applied the same format and put Ben Mulroney in as host. Betcha he could get the same and even better numbers regardless of his insipid, no-talent approach.
    There are students who could do these shows. Almost anyone could do these shows. What’s Ghomeshi doing? The Hour, and at least he gets musical performances out of his guests. Not The Hour, that would cost extra. And the main appeal to the CBC of The Hour is that it is so incredibly cheap to produce.
    Celebrity interviews always are.

  19. Aigle
    Posted March 27, 2009 at 5:21 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Thank you Joe. I never thought I would say that, but I mean it.

  20. Allan
    Posted March 27, 2009 at 5:19 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I don’t doubt it for a sec., Vig.
    I just ask myself, what other Canadian web page can compete with the resources and budget of the CBC.
    Same with The Hour and YouTube.
    What’s the accomplishment here?
    The CBC says it isn’t intimidated by the internet. But why would they be when they have millions to spend on it and no requirement to make a profit.
    The thing I have trouble wrapping my head around is the claim by Layfield that CBC TV is number 1 in this country.

  21. Fake Ouimet
    Posted March 27, 2009 at 5:15 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    There’s only one Grand Canyon, but there sure are a lot of rocks. The one and only Fifth Estate crushes kids’ shows in importance. It is easy to argue that very young children should not even be watching television.

    Anonymous at 10:21, I understood Stursberg’s point; it’s just that his point is bullshit. If everything is equally important, why aren’t the budget cuts strictly “pro rata,” as he terms it?

  22. Tom
    Posted March 27, 2009 at 5:10 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I hate to join this discussion shitting on The Hour, but well, I have to respond to some of the comments.

    The Hour is a perfect example of an inconsistent program. You conviently chose ratings of 184,000, a fairy good night for a show that also gets half that other days of the week.

    You CAN compare CTV News to The Hour tbecause it’s in the SAME timeslot. So there’s potential.

    And no, the guests are not always spectacular. Sometimes, but not ALL the time. And I’m not naming names.

  23. Vigilante
    Posted March 27, 2009 at 4:36 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I will agree with you, 9:22, Alexa is shit for accuracy. I knew that when I mentioned it. But as far as traffic rankings go for a po’ girl like me who has no access to something “reasonably accurate” and isn’t privy to the CBC’s logs…it’s all I got.

    My point though was if Stursberg has said that cbc.ca is the number one website in the country, then I want to see proof that backs that up. Because I ain’t buyin’ it.

  24. Anonymous
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 9:48 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Fifth estate crushes Little Mosque. Sorry. No question.

    Also, massive propers to Fake Ouimet for un-shit-canning self to volunteer to cover shit-canning of the 800.

    Heroic.

    Allan is still a douchebag though for hating on CBC.ca

  25. Fake Ouimet
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 8:00 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Many stations air kids’ programming. Few stations air investigative journalism, which is, in any event, more important than TV for kids. A small hypothetical reduction in kids’ programming has almost no effect compared to the reductions Fifth Estate has actually suffered.

  26. Anonymous
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 7:22 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Vigilante – Alexa is considered useless for web stats because you need to install the alexa software. Nobody uses it as a reliable source. Sadly, Comscore is all that is out there, and the comparison between it and actual CBC logs is huge. Comscore admits its’ algorithms are imperfect as well.

    “Let me just be the first to say that Fifth Estate absolutely fucking is more important than kids’ programming and Little Mosque on the Prairie.”

    Written like someone who doesn’t have kids.

    It’s subjective. You’re comparing one show to an entire block, with potentially three demographics in it. And I will be the first to say kids is more important than the Fifth.

    Mosque? Won’t miss it in the slightest.

    RS not being able to prioritize shows is bullshit. He and his girls in scheduling and development do that every single day. They decide what lives and dies, then they change their minds. And they rarely seem to let things build, but that’s life. Lying that he can’t prioritize is an attempt at sainthood.

    You know what saints get.

  27. Anonymous
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 7:19 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Now with the CBC cuts so harsh it’s only natural for people to wonder how many better shows could be saved if the fattened calf that is ‘The Hour’ were cannibalized.

    Solidarity! We’re in this together! Go team!

  28. Anonymous
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 7:03 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Don’t bother defending the Hour on Teamakers. The CBC cuts aren’t a result of management failure, the Harper government’s hostility towards public broadcasting as a while, the international economic collapse, the across-the-board decline in ad revenue for broadcasting everywhere, or long-standing dysfunction within a huge corporation with a near-impossible mandate. Nope. It’s all George’s fault.

  29. Anonymous
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 6:49 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Look at the numbers for Tuesday

    The Hour – 184
    The Daily Show on CTV – 202
    Colbert on CTV – 150

    I may not know much about television but I do know that ‘The Daily Show’ is off this week and Colbert suffers for it. But if you’d like I’ll gladly concede that ‘The Hour’ did have almost better numbers Tuesday, during a week when almost no one with a pulse watched ‘The Daily Show’ in repeats.

    There’s no “uptight aristocratic agenda” in criticizing ‘The Hour’, even in the best of times. Tolerating ‘The Hour’ has become a Canadian national passtime and the sentiment is shared by all walks of life. Now with the CBC cuts so harsh it’s only natural for people to wonder how many better shows could be saved if the fattened calf that is ‘The Hour’ were cannibalized. The talent that works so hard to book their excellent guests could surely function just as well outside of Toronto, no? Or is this incredible show of exceptional production skill dependent on geographic proximity to George himself?

  30. Anonymous
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 6:48 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    … everyone loves it when you present your point of view by saying:

    “you know nothing about television”

    and

    “you really have no real clue on how media actually works”.

    Please. Grow the fuck up.

  31. Anonymous
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 6:35 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Even if you compare the numbers to when it airs on the comedy network at the daily show and Colbert air at 11 and 11:30 at the comedy network they are close to the same numbers as The Hour.

    When you reference CTV news, it is not something comparable. National news broadcasts are always going to be rated higher, their profile is higher, they have a wider demographic. It would be like comparing Da Kink in My Hair to The National, or Surviorman to Hockey Night in Canada. Those comparisons don’t make sense.

    You have to compare a show like the Hour to something similar to it programming wise. So what is similar to it in its relative programming area, what are the other networks offering at that time slot that is similar. If you exclude Newscasts, it is things like Sportscentre, ET Canada, Colbert / Daily show etc.

    American programs have bigger profiles. Even if you think The Hour is promoted heavily, if you think the reach and penetration of The Hour, is comparable to The Colbert report you really have no real clue on how media actually works.

    So the fact that The Hour does comparably well to these shows, and is even in the same ball park, again is an indication of some level of success.

  32. Anonymous
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 6:07 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Seriously… the Hour is one of the most promoted shows on the network.

    And The Hour, on at 11:00 beat Colbert, which is on at 12:30am? No shit.

  33. Anonymous
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 5:46 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Anonymous @ 5:51 PM, March 26, 2009:

    “The Hour – 184
    The Daily Show on CTV – 202
    Colbert on CTV – 150″

    – What did CTV News with Lloyd Robertson at the same time (11pm) get?

    – “The Hour doesn’t get promotion” – Hahaha
    I’m sorry, George’s face is posted on billboards across the city, commercials on Cineplex…

  34. Anonymous
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 5:06 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Sorry, What do the number mean

    The Hour 184
    Daily Show 202
    Colbert 150

    ????

  35. Barry Kiefl
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 4:52 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Vigilante; some web audience perspective for you and CBC:

    Comscore, the ratings company that advertisers and web sites use to measure internet audiences in Canada, reports that Canadians on average spend about 450 minutes per week, about 7.5 hours weekly, using the net, which includes internet use at work. That is but a fraction of the time Canadians spend with radio and TV. CBC subscribes to Comscore and uses its data in annual reports, etc. Comscore releases data for 15,000 different web sites each month. MSN, Hotmail, Google, etc. tend to dominate the top 10 and command large shares of total internet use because so much use is related to sending and receiving email and searching for information. Also, many of these domains have dozens of sites embedded into one domain. cbc.ca was ranked 20th among all web sites in a recent Comscore monthly report. Its monthly reach was some 4 million users; however, reach over a month can be a very misleading metric. cbc.ca has only about 500,000 daily users who spend on average less than 10 minutes on the site and its share of all internet use is typically only about 0.2%, a function of the many competitors, Canadian and international, on the net. cbc.ca’s average audience at any given moment is about 3,000 users, about equal to the number of viewers to a very small specialty TV channel or listeners to a CBC radio station in a single, small community. If cbc.ca were to grow its audience tenfold, cbc.ca’s audience would still be smaller than Newsworld’s.

    While the internet is growing and morphing into a necessary utility (I couldn’t run my business without it!), investing resources in cbc.ca is unlikely to result in any significant audience when compared to CBC radio and TV.

  36. Anonymous
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 4:46 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Anyone witness the Stursberg-Finlay altercation after the presentation? It seems buddy wasn’t joking about taking it outside…

  37. Vigilante
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 4:16 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Did Stursberg say CBC.CA was the number one website in Canada? Uhh, not exactly. If we’re talking about homegrown sites then the Government of Canada is number one. Then TDCanadaTrust, then the CBC (which ranks 28th overall and is just above PornHub.com). I’d love to know where the “number one” came from.

    Check it out for yourself on Alexa. Yes, that sounds like a porn name but it’s not. Sorry to disappoint.

  38. Anonymous
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 4:06 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    The Hour has an audience because its time slot offers no competition and they miraculously book quality guests.

    Yes, clearly there’s no workers whose jobs would be lost behind the booking of quality guests. Surely movie stars, authors, tv personalities and politicians just miraculously drop from the sky at showtime.

    It wouldn’t have anything to do with people who work on the show. Thinking that would be just silly. It might direct misplaced anger where it should be placed, rather than on the backs of other CBC employees who, like you, are just trying to make a living.

  39. Anonymous
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 3:51 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    No competition ? This proves you know nothing about television.

    Late night television is one of the most competitive time slots of television. You are competing against news and sports shows, in addition to all the big talk shows like Letterman, Leno etc.

    Look at the numbers for Tuesday.

    The Hour – 184
    The Daily Show on CTV – 202
    Colbert on CTV – 150

    The fact that The Hour, without anywhere near the profile or promo budget can be even close to those shows in tantamount to the fact that people do watch it.

    If you have ever seen the numbers for other Canadian broadcasters (including the CBCs) attempts at late night Canadian (or non Letterman / Leno programming) compared to The Hour, you would probably better understand why it is still around.

    If it was screamingly boring it would have gone the way of all those other shows, and people wouldn’t watch it. But the numbers show that people are, but believe whatever you want to believe – I am sure you will just find another way to bash the CBC to fit your uptight aristocrat agenda.

  40. Anonymous
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 3:49 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Steven and Chris has an audience. Just because you’re not watching during the day doesn’t mean that no one else is.

    I love how people are all ‘OMG CBC might turn on itself!!!’ Guess what? Ragging on The Hour, Steven and Chris, Little Mosque, whatever means it’s already started. Stay classy, ya’ll.

  41. Anonymous
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 3:46 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    It many not work for stodgy Canadians that want the CBC to be only Classical music and news, but The Hour does have an audience, it is bigger than you might think.

    This cultural elitism around programming that thinks that some are of more worth than others is idiotic and ill informed.

    THANK YOU. Many of the shows that people /at the CBC/ think are useless or should have been gone ages ago are shows that Canadians actually WATCH. I’m not saying any area deserves more cuts than an other, but come on people. There’s room for all kinds of content, not just what is deemed ‘worthy’.

    ‘High Culture’ vs. ‘Low Culture’ is so pre-millennial.

  42. Anonymous
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 3:41 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    3 reasons:

    1: Steven and Chris isn’t really a talk show.

    2: Steven and Chris is on during the day, when no one is watching.

    3: Steven and Chris has been cancelled.

    I suspect a fourth reason is that The Hour gets under people’s skin for its general smarmy Toronto-hipster vibe.

    The Hour’s numbers, by the way, are not that hot. And the “internet audience” so-called is not generating any revenue, so that alone can’t save the show.

  43. Anonymous
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 2:40 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    The Hour has an audience because its time slot offers no competition and they miraculously book quality guests. Other than that the show is poorly written and screamingly boring. Compromising ‘The Fifth Estate’ or ‘Marketplace’ today for the sake of leaving ‘The Hour’ intact is obscene.

  44. Anonymous
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 2:24 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    You can’t compare the two programs, the air in much different time slots and appeal to completely different demographics. It is like comparing apples and oranges. Also the Hours budget is tiny compared to both Fifth Estate and Marketplace, for the amount of hours of programming it creates.

    The Hour has an online following in Canada and internationally that dwarfs both of those programs.

    It may not be an easily measured success in ratings, but the revenues it generates are large, and it does have a massive Internet audience and is one of the few CBC shows that works for that demographic.

    It many not work for stodgy Canadians that want the CBC to be only Classical music and news, but The Hour does have an audience, it is bigger than you might think.

    This cultural elitism around programming that thinks that some are of more worth than others is idiotic and ill informed.

    What are the highest ratings shows on CBC ? Shows like HNIC, Dragons’ Den, Merceer, 22 minutes etc. All of these shows have audiences for a reason. CBC now beats Global in primetime for a reason, people watch it. Regular people.

    Other broadcasters including the much regarded BBC, have very similar programming to these shows, because a public broadcaster shouldn’t just appeal to cultural elites it also should temper this with programming that has a wide appeal.

  45. Su
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 2:07 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Great question. What about George’s The Hour? That program’s ratings are dismal and a small fraction of what Fifth Estate and Marketplace are bringing in.

  46. Anonymous
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 2:03 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    My wage increase for doing the jobs of 2 different people? 3%. THREE percent. The corporation saves a huge amount by cutting two 2/3 time jobs and giving me 1 full time job. And I get a 3% increase.

    Fuck your fucking bonuses right in the fucking ass.

    Bonuses are just socialism for the rich, it’s all board members rubbing each other’s backs. Go work for the privates if that’s what you want.

  47. Anonymous
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 1:55 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    If no one is more valuable than anyone else why are only a few entitled to bonuses?

  48. Anonymous
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 1:53 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Anyone who has ever said shit about Fake Ouimet should shut the fuck up and say thank you for his ongoing work and commitment. We’re lucky to have supporters like Joe and Allan. They will help get us through this mess.


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