DAILY NEWS Nov 14, 2012 9:09 AM - 4 comments

TVO Budget Cuts Mean Staff Layoffs, Focus on Digital Multi-Platform Programming

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The Ontario public broadcaster will see its budget reduced by some five per cent, and that means staff layoffs and an organizational restructuring that focuses on digital content and revenue opportunities.

TVO says it will reduce its current expenses while also re-allocating resources into digital innovation in children's media and current affairs, for a net reduction of $2 million (five per cent of its provincial operating grant or three per cent of its total budget).

The plan involves changes within the organization and 35-40 current employees will leave TVO between now and the end of March 2013.

TVO says there will be fewer staff dedicated to traditional TV production, with multifunctional roles that leverage the efficiencies of digital technology coming online

TVO also it is cutting long-standing shows such as Saturday Night at the Movies, Allan Gregg in Conversation, and Big Ideas.

But the job losses announced at TVO will be harmful to the quality of content produced by the station. "It is a very sad day at TVO. We are losing some iconic shows that have been running for years and it is going to affect a lot of people and their employment here," said Steve Thomas, President of CEP Local 72-M, which represents employees of television channels TVO and TFO in Toronto.

"As a publicly-funded organization, TVO has a responsibility to deliver on its educational mission, with the greatest impact, across multiple platforms," said Lisa de Wilde, Chief Executive Officer. "To do this we must find cost savings in some areas and direct more resources into others."

According to de Wilde, all media are responding to the changing realities of multi-platform content distribution, new business models and financial constraints. In the March 2012 provincial budget announcement, the Ontario government indicated that TVO, like other public agencies, needs to reduce its reliance on government funding to help reduce the provincial deficit. TVO's plan responds to this fiscal reality and allows the organization to build a sustainable financial model in 2013-14 and beyond.

"Streamlined production processes will allow us to create the kind of distinct content that delivers on our mission and to be more productive with every dollar we have," said de Wilde.

Given reduced resources, TVO has made the difficult decision to discontinue three series at the end of the season next spring. This will be the final season for Allan Gregg in Conversation, as well as for the Big Ideas lecture series -- but TVO will continue to present special lectures under its flagship The Agenda with Steve Paikin brand. This will also be the final season of the long-running Saturday Night at the Movies.

"These are tough decisions but times change and we have to adapt and innovate. When Saturday Night at the Movies began almost 40 years ago, it broke new ground but now entire TV networks and web services are dedicated to movies," said de Wilde. "The choices we've made will direct TVO's resources to the kind of high quality educational content that you can't find anywhere else."

At the same time, TVO is focusing on digital innovation in two priority areas that set the organization apart in the media landscape: by expanding 21st century digital learning resources for kids, parents and teachers; and directing more resources into the growth of The Agenda with Steve Paikin and Civics 101 as a multi-platform hub for civic engagement in the big issues of the day. TVO's commitment to support Ontario's independent producers and to bring audiences the best in factual, science, arts, natural history and history documentaries from around the world remains unchanged.

TVO executives will be meeting with the leaders of its two bargaining units, CEP and CMG, and will present the specifics of the changes and the options available to those affected employees.

"The Ontario Liberal government went after the province's teachers, and now they are going after its public broadcaster", said Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union Vice-President Media Peter Murdoch. "It is a failed solution to reduce staff positions to try and improve the situation of the station."

"TVO exists to help make the world a better place, by helping every child in Ontario to develop a love of learning and by enabling every citizen to become an informed and engaged citizen. While some of these changes will not be easy, they will position TVO most effectively to deliver on our educational promise to help to make the citizens of Ontario smarter, more aware and more informed in the years ahead," said de Wilde.

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Reader Comments

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D. Carter

Allan Gregg in Conversation, Big Ideas and occasionally Saturday Night at the Movies are the only shows I watch on TVO - as do most of my friends.
I am curious how they came to the decision to cut two of the more intelligent shows.

Posted November 15, 2012 01:27 PM

K. Astridge

I hope they have reviewed how this will affect their donations. Two sides to the coin. Cutting costs but may also cut viewership due to the shows popularity.

Posted November 15, 2012 09:03 AM

R. Davies

I have not watched Saturday Night at the Movies since the 70s. The focus on educational and civic programming seems sound enough to me. Like many businesses with failing business plans, changes are in order. That usually means layoffs for things that aren't working.
To the author, the word "while" contains an H in that context. Thought you might like to know.

Posted November 14, 2012 12:59 PM

Roderic Brawn

OK, Let me understand this, these people who will leave TVO, where will they go? Will they go to other networks. Well, with the CBC being cut back that makes private networks. For my money most of what is broadcast by private networks is lacking. If they are unemployed, isn't that just shifting their support to the EIC payment fund. When that runs out, or when they will accept wages offered by private sources they have in effect reduced their wages. Maybe, that is the object of the people in charge, to lower the cost of wages in the private broadcasting services, by reducing the number of alternative positions.

Have I got it right?

Posted November 14, 2012 10:36 AM

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