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CBC's 'Connect' and 'Dispatches' cut in wake of federal budget reductions

File photo of the CBC building in Toronto. CITYNEWS/Shawne McKeown

The CBC is scrapping CBC News Network’s “Connect with Mark Kelley” and CBC Radio’s “Dispatches” and shuttering news bureaus in Africa and South America.

Marc-Philippe Laurin, president of the Canadian Media Guild’s CBC branch, says the public broadcaster’s news and TV program divisions will apparently bear the brunt of reductions planned over the next three years.

They also include the elimination of 88 news jobs and another 18 positions in the documentary unit.

“It’s not a good day for CBC,” Laurin said Tuesday, when management outlined plans at an internal meeting at CBC’s Toronto headquarters.

“Canadians are really going to see a difference on the TV screen and hear a difference on CBC Radio.”

He said prime time programming will be reduced by about 25 per cent, with the CBC commissioning six fewer prime-time series and launching fewer special events like “Canada’s Smartest Person.”

The reductions are part of 256 job losses throughout English Services expected to roll out over the next three years.

The belt-tightening follows last week’s federal budget, which cut $115 million — or about 10 per cent of the CBC’s overall budget — over the next three years.

Last week, the public broadcaster said it expected to lay off more than 650 people over that period, with the majority to be let go this year.

It said CBC fans could expect fewer new TV shows, more ads on radio and the delay of regional initiatives that were meant to boost local programming.

Government funding makes up about 64 per cent of CBC’s budget and the corporation receives about $1.15 billion a year from taxpayers.

Laurin says he has “some empathy” for the hard decisions facing managers.

“They’re in a tough position. They’re trying to save as much programming as possible, they’re trying to save jobs, they’re trying to save people that create the content that create the programs that CBC airs,” he said.

“They’re trying to avoid as much as possible [running] repeat after repeat after repeat. It’s not what the CBC wants to be, it’s not what the CBC wants to put on the air, it’s not what our members want to see but at the same time we all knew that some hard decisions were going to have to be made because this is a devastating cut to the CBC allocation.”