Budget Cuts at the CBC and Getting a Job in Journalism
I love writing this blog. It’s an outlet for me to share what I think about movies, TV and Internet, topics that are eternally fascinating to me. At the same time, I’m working on my Master of Journalism degree, improving my writing abilities and my analytical skills. But as of this moment, I have no idea whether there’s a job waiting for me when I graduate. After the federal budget that was handed down this week, my future is even less certain.
Why? Because this year’s budget has put our venerable public broadcaster, the CBC, on the chopping block for a total $115 million in cuts. I’m not saying that all Canadian journalism students are earmarked for careers at the CBC, but the cuts should serve as a wake-up call to all working and up-and-coming journalists in Canada. Sooner or later, our “safety net” will be gone, and we’ll all be on the high wire trying to stay alive.
For my non-Canadian readers, the CBC is our cherished public broadcaster, established in 1936 and responsible for a large chunk of Canadian programming. It generates TV shows, radio programs, broadcast journalism and online news. They also receive huge subsidies from our government. For many journalism students like myself, they’re one of the best options for people who actually want to work as journalists when they graduate (and stay in the country).
People have forecasted the doom of the CBC ever since our current prime minister came into office. It’s popularly thought that Stephen Harper wants to kill the CBC because they threaten his way of governing the country. But the failing of the CBC cannot be blamed on just a particular government’s strategy. For too long, programming decisions and employment practices have eaten away at CBC from the inside out. As I’ve explored the behind-the-scenes atmosphere at the CBC during my studies, it’s something that’s become all too obvious.
The problems with the programming are rampant. The Globe and Mail’s TV columnist John Doyle did a better job this week of explaining it, but the CBC’s lineup is riddled with hokey newscasts that feel stale the moment they air. Their journalistic tone is all over the map. Their entertainment programming is light, fluffy and ultimately forgettable compared to the best stuff from the U.S. and the U.K.
As for the employees, you have reporters who are expected to constantly produce multiplatform content, 24 hours a day if possible. They're rewarded with lower-than-average salaries and gruelling hours. Those reporters (particularly female ones) who want to start families have to sacrifice most of their upward mobility in the corporation to do so. With the federal budget’s cuts inbound, this situation will get even worse.
And that only tells the story of the people who already have jobs. After graduating with a journalism degree, many new journos can look forward to 10 or so years as a freelancer or temporary employee with the CBC before getting a shot at a staff position. As for internships while you’re still in school? The majority are unpaid, and those that do have a stipend are often given to people who have been out of school for two or three years.
Again, with $115 million in cuts, the situation will only get worse. Existing jobs will disappear, and extra duties will be heaped on those who remain. Some might say, “Forget about the CBC. Go to another company, or leave for journalism jobs in another country.” Fine, but the CBC’s position is similar to that of other news organizations. And when the CBC is downsized or even shut down, suddenly you have a lot more professionals competing over the already scarce jobs.
What’s even more worrying is that more money is not necessarily the answer. Take a look at Fox News or CNN, who have experienced 17% and 50% drops (respectively) in viewership since last year. Compared to the CBC, both networks have cash to burn. Clearly, there’s something very different happening in the way people consume news. Organizations like the CBC, Fox News and CNN are lumbering to catch up, which in turn leaves their current staff and prospective employees in the lurch.
Maybe it will take the fall of the established news organizations to determine where journalism is actually going. Obviously, newsrooms can’t continue the way they are, and throwing money at it isn’t going to help. It’s maddening for people like myself and my colleagues to stay on top of it all. The change is probably for the better, but I just wish it would resolve itself soon – there’s only so many journalism jobs I’m going to apply for before I join the “Dark Side”: advertising and PR.
What do you think of the CBC? Will the budget cuts inspire greatness in the broadcaster, or will they torpedo a treasured Canadian institution? Can news organizations like the CBC, Fox and CNN even hope to compete with the current media revolution? Should we journalism students just be trying harder to get jobs? Sound off in the comments section! If you liked this post, share it with your friends and followers, and browse through some of my related articles: