The CBC building at the corner of Third Avenue and Elliott Street in Whitehorse on Nov. 19. CBC North reversed a decision to eliminate English local morning newscasts on its radio stations early next year, just two days after the news drew outcry from staff, politicians and listeners alike. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

CBC North reverses decision to replace local a.m. newscasts with ‘pan-northern’ model

Staff at CBC Yukon felt ‘shock and disappointment’ over the original plan, made public Nov. 18

CBC North has reversed a decision to eliminate English local morning newscasts on its radio stations early next year, just two days after the news drew outcry from staff, politicians and listeners alike.

CBC North managing director Janice Stein announced the reversal to staff in an email sent just before 8:30 a.m. on Nov. 20.

“Overall the response we received from staff and the community was not supportive of the change,” the email reads.

“As a result, we are not making any changes to move from three English morning newscasts in Yukon, NWT and Nunavut to one English pan-northern morning newscast from Yellowknife.”

Newscasts are unique, five-minute-long segments on local news played at 6:30 a.m., 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. that are part of the English morning shows in all three territories.

Stein had announced the move to a pan-Northern morning newscast to CBC North staff in an email Nov. 18. The change would have seen all three territories receiving the same news package in the mornings beginning in January.

CBC North already uses a centralized newscast for afternoon shows.

The change with the morning newscasts had left CBC Yukon staff in a state of “shock and disappointment,” assignment producer and Canadian Media Guild (CMG) local branch president Mark Evans said on Nov. 19.

One CBC Yukon staffer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to fear of reprisal, had said the decision “essentially eviscerates our news coverage for the Yukon,” and that staff had not been consulted or warned about the decision.

Another said a pan-Northern newscast would not meet local news needs, noting that the three territorial capitals “have a full slate of issues that are unique to them.”

A third staffer said of going to work on Nov. 19, “I just wanted to cry and throw up all day.”

The change also triggered outcry from politicians — in a rare show of unity, members from all three territorial parties tabled motions in the Yukon legislative assembly urging the reinstatement of local Northern newscasts.

Premier Sandy Silver separately tabled a letter he wrote to his counterparts in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut requesting that they sign on to a joint letter to CBC president and CEO Catherine Tait. His letter to the premiers noted every member of the Yukon Liberal caucus would be sending letters too on behalf of their constituents.

As well, Yukon MP Larry Bagnell told the News he’d written to Stein requesting a meeting, and that he’d escalate the issue to the federal heritage minister if CBC North “won’t reconsider the decision or have some positive rationale for it.”

Stein had said in an interview with the News on Nov. 19 that the decision, made at a managers’ meeting last week, was final, and that the transition would allow staff to “get out of the studios and into the communities.”

She was not available for comment before press time on Nov. 20, but, in her email announcing the reversal, wrote that the change had been “made with the best of intentions.”

“However, we realize we need more time to reflect on the impacts to staff and the community we serve,” the email says. “We acknowledge the consultation and communication fell short for where it should have been and for that we apologize.”

It adds that management “will be meeting with small groups to talk about the decision and its impacts” over the next few days.

“Please be assured that we are still committed to telling local stories and will continue to tell stories that matter in our communities,” the email reads. “But understanding the challenges of the changing media industry, we will look to you to help us determine how we will achieve our goals with the resources we have available. This will allow us to refocus energy and resources on CBC’s stated digital-first strategy.”

It’s unclear if moving to a pan-Northern morning newscast is now off the table, or simply on the backburner.

Reached the morning of Nov. 20, Evans, the CBC Whitehorse union president, said staff were just beginning to trickle in, but that morning newsreader Elyn Jones was “pleased” with the news.

Evans said he anticipated there would be a sense of “great relief” from the rest of staff.

“It’s something we’ve been talking about over the past few days, seemingly non-stop and everyone was so upset about it and angry and disappointed that I can’t imagine it’s anything but relief,” he said.

“… We’ve been hurt and our listeners have been hurt.”

Evans said he believed management’s decision to reverse the change was largely due to responses from listeners who value the localized newscasts.

“I believe managers heard from them and we’re gratified that listeners spoke out so loudly and strongly,” he said. “And I think that is ultimately what managers recognized, that the newscasts are important and they’re valued.”

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

Correction: This story has been edited to remove an incorrect time slot for the morning newscast.

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