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CBC North staff ‘feeling the stress of change’ amid cutbacks

CBC North’s managing director says job losses and a shift from TV to digital are taking their toll on staff.

But Janice Stein told Moose FM she is convinced morale remains “very good” inside the CBC’s Yellowknife newsroom, and insisted “it’s actually a very exciting time” for CBC employees.

CBC North has cut five positions in recent months and its Northbeat English-language early evening newscast has been halved. The hour previously reserved for Northbeat is now occupied by two, virtually identical, back-to-back 30-minute broadcasts.

Stein says the reduced Northbeat offering will be balanced by the introduction of one-minute hourly TV news updates throughout each afternoon, and an increased online presence.

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“Online, we’re planning a service that will go 24 hours a day and on weekends,” she said.

“The broadband issue in the North is a big one. There is no question about it: the technology is not as advanced in the North as it is in the South. But in terms of Facebook? Facebook is very popular with our audiences in the North.”

Last week, CBC North’s newsroom published the results of an access to information (ATIP) request targeting its own management – including Stein.

The request forced the publication of budget details that “CBC North management refused to release” according to the corporation’s own news story. That financial information suggests spending on programs in the North is set to drop by around $600,000 year-on-year, to $11.4 million.

Stein did not accept it was out of the ordinary for a reporter to ‘ATIP’ their own management, in the same building.

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“Every Canadian has the right to do ATIPs,” she told Moose FM.

“Our staff are very up-to-date on what’s going on with our budget in the CBC. I do quarterly updates with staff where I lay out the whole budget – what we spend on this, what we spend on that, where we’re saving money.

“Any Canadian can do an ATIP. There’s nothing I can say to that. Our reporters are ATIPing all the time.”

Stein rejected a related interview request from her own newsroom, but she told Moose FM the incident was not indicative of a breakdown in relations.

“I think people are feeling the stress of change,” she conceded. “Change is difficult under any circumstances and we’re going through a lot of change right now, developing this new, digital service.

“I think morale is pretty good. We’re doing a staff survey so we’ll have a better judgment of that when we get a report back.

“You’ve got to remember the reporters. They work very hard. There’s a limit to how much we can put on people.”

Stein had no information on whether further cutbacks could be expected, but said: “I’ve been with the CBC 30 years and I’ve lived in a world of cuts that whole 30 years.”

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