Cuts announced at CBC Whitehorse

There will be fewer voices heard on CBC Radio One this fall. Wednesday, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation handed out "redundancy notices" to four Whitehorse CBC staffers.

There will be fewer voices heard on CBC Radio One this fall.

Wednesday, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation handed out “redundancy notices” to four Whitehorse CBC staffers.

It was part of a cross-country downsizing effort by the national broadcaster.

“People are very disturbed,” said Russ Knutson, union representative and producer for CBC Whitehorse.

“What we’ve been hearing across the country is that people are hostile and depressed. Here in Whitehorse it’s subdued; we’re distressed because we’re losing friends and colleagues in the building and across the country.”

In March, the CBC learned it was in a massive deficit and would have to cut jobs and sell off assets to remain viable.

Nationally, about 300 positions will be cut to make up a $171-million shortfall in the corporation’s budget.

“This doesn’t mean that 300 people will be walking out the door,” said John Agnew, head of CBC North.

The actual number of full-time jobs lost will be closer to 170, said Agnew. The number effectively represents 10 per cent of the CBC workforce.

But the number of people who will be losing work could actually be closer to 800, said Knutson.

“If you take into account temporary and contract workers as well as retirements, the number is higher. It doesn’t look as bad as we thought in March, but it’s still a huge, huge issue.”

Although four redundancy notices were served to CBC staff in Whitehorse, it is likely that only one reporter and one producer will be cut, said Knutson.

Currently, CBC Whitehorse employs roughly 20 reporters and producers.

Knutson said he couldn’t reveal who was served the notices. By September it will be more clear who will lose their jobs, he said.

More redundancy notices will be served in the coming weeks, said Agnew. To date, five staff with CBC North have been handed notices.

The job losses sting, but CBC cuts were deeper across Canada than they were in the North, said Agnew.

“Given what’s going on across the country, the number of redundancy notices we delivered was actually not as bad as it could have been.”

This is because CBC North offers an essential service to people who may not get any radio service otherwise, said Agnew.

As staff is reduced, programming will be cut back.

“There’s no question there will be less programming,” said Jeff Keay, head of media relations for CBC in Toronto.

One of the local radio programs on the chopping block will be Sunday’s True North Radio. As well, the regional unit responsible for funneling national news up north and northern news to the rest of Canada will be eliminated.

Nationally, hour-long shows like Definitely Not the Opera will be reduced to half-hour shows.

“The cuts make it challenging to plan and focus on programming,” said Knutson, who says they still don’t know how they will be filling the gaps in programming.

Keay says that if the economic situation improves, it’s possible that by next year jobs may be reinstated.

But there’s always the chance that things could get worse.

“We don’t know if this is the beginning or the end of the bad news,” said Knutson.

Contact Vivian Belik at vivianb@yukon-news.com