Unifor is calling on the federal Cabinet to direct the CRTC to develop a new funding formula for local television programming, including ethnic programming, saying today’s job cuts at Rogers show why such action is needed. “If the Cabinet can exercise its prerogative to direct the CRTC to implement pick and pay, it can direct the regulator to come up with a fair funding formula to keep much-needed local programming on the air,” Unifor National President Jerry Dias said. Dias said today’s job cuts, coming on the eve of a federal election, are a direct consequence of decisions by the CRTC that have failed to reflect the importance of local programming, news reporting and programming that reflects Canada’s diverse communities.
“Canadian democracy is served best by an informed public. News gathering is being cut just as Canadian voters need it the most,” Dias said.
Rogers announced today that it is laying off approximately 100 people, cutting into local programming and news gathering, as well as dropping the nationally broadcast OMNI News in Italian, Mandarin and Cantonese, and cancelling “V-Mix” and “Bollywood Boulevard”, two English language programs for South Asian audiences across Canada.
In a pivotal speech last January, CRTC Chair Jean-Pierre Blais chastised broadcasters for not allocating more money to local programming.
“Both public and private shareholders of broadcasting assets have a duty to ensure that news reporting and analysis continues to be properly funded,” Blais said in a speech in London, Ontario. “An informed citizenry cannot be the sacrificial offering on the altar of corporate profits or deficit reduction.” Unifor Media Director Howard Law said funding for local programming requires regulations to ensure a level playing field for all broadcasters. Unifor has recommended that vertically integrated broadcasters such as Rogers be required to move profits from the cable side of their operations to the broadcast side, something Unifor will recommend at upcoming hearings.
“The money is there, it just needs to be allocated properly,” Law said. Unifor Media Council Chair Randy Kitt said today’s cuts come after years of job losses at Rogers – nearly more than 200 in two years – while the CRTC allowed funding to be syphoned away from local and ethnic programming.
“These cuts mean fewer reporters on the street, fewer people telling our diverse communities’ stories.”
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