FRIENDS petition to restore local CBC TV newscasts gaining traction

A petition by independent CBC watchdog, FRIENDS of Canadian Broadcasting, calling on the public broadcaster to restore local TV newscasts is gaining traction.

CBC announced Wednesday it would temporarily air CBC News Network coverage in place of 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. local newscasts in regional markets, with the exception of CBC North, citing the need to consolidate stressed resources. Local stations are continuing to provide local radio, digital and social news programming, and feed into national programming.

The move has come under fire from the Canadian Media Guild (CMG), the union representing the majority of CBC/Radio-Canada employees, as well as the premier of Prince Edward Island where CBC is the primary purveyor of local television news.

As of Friday midday – just 24 hours after its launch – the FRIENDS petition had collected more than 4,500 signatures. It calls on Canadian Heritage Min. Steven Guilbeault to give CBC an emergency cash infusion to ensure the broadcaster can operate at full capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Information is our best defence against this pandemic. In this moment of uncertainty, knowledge keeps us safe and reassures us that we’re in good hands. The last thing we should do right now is cut off our most trusted source of local information,” reads the petition text. “The situation is different across the country. We desperately need timely, accurate, local TV news so we can stay safe and do our part to fight this virus. What’s happening in my region matters most to me right now.”

In a blog post that followed CBC’s announcement Wednesday, editor-in-chief Brodie Fenlon outlined the challenges the public broadcaster is up against.

“A story of this magnitude — one that changes by the hour — places incredible demands on our staff and our infrastructure in order to get the most accurate and up-to-date information to audiences,” wrote Fenlon. “Television is especially resource-intensive, and many jobs are difficult to do at home. Our systems are overtaxed, and we had to make adjustments as a result. So, we made the difficult decision to temporarily lessen that load and consolidate production to ensure we can continue providing an essential service to Canadians.”

That load includes going from broadcasting eight daily live events to 35, according to a memo issued to staff.

P.E.I. Premier Denny King has spoken with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to raise concerns about the cancellation of local programming.

According to a P.E.I. government handout, the Prime Minister committed to having the minister responsible speak with CBC to find a solution for Islanders.


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