Deep Cuts

The broadcasting community was buzzing yesterday about a nationwide slash-and-burn at CITY TV stations.

Rogers Broadcasting, a company for whom I used to be very happily employed, made some deep cuts to its CITY workforce, eliminating about 60 of 1,000 national jobs.  Normally when a broadcaster makes an economically related cut it doesn’t touch the on-air product.  Instead, it doubles the workload of those behind the scenes to make up for those who are let go.  But what we’ve been seeing in this industry are reductions that take away the personalities viewers are familiar with. It happened to morning shows on A channels last year (including here in London) and now it’s happening to CITY stations.  There will be no more CITY news at noon or at five, no 11 pm ‘cast in some markets and the weekend newscasts have also been cut. CITY’s official news release didn’t specifically name personalities who were affected but as I write this, rumour has it that longtime anchors Anne Mroczkowski and Laura DiBattista are among those let go.

Dinnertime news used to be one of a television station’s benchmarks.  Those days are gone and now it’s expendible.  We are our own newshounds now and we’re growing weary of having some laquered and Botoxed talking head tell us his or her version of the day’s events when we can find it ourselves either on a 24 hour news station or online. No one is safe and contracts are meant to be broken. Contrast this news with what’s going on at NBC – Jay Leno going back to The Tonight Show after failing in prime time and Conan O’Brien being paid millions to walk away – and it’s clear, not that the big US networks are in so much better shape but that they’re still living in the past.  Industry insiders predict one of the big three, CBS, NBC or ABC will actually go belly-up in the next year or two.  Their local affiliates are crying poor.  It’s a matter of time until these big paydays are over, for newscasters like Katie Couric and for hosts like Leno.

I know a lot of broadcasters who are very nervous today but the truth is, if they’re going to worry about their jobs they may as well worry every day, not just when there’s a gutting up the street. It seems that only London city bus drivers have job security anymore and they’re clinging to it like monkeys to tree limbs.  In this city they’re fighting to have on-board cameras installed.  God help them if that makes them broadcasters because that job security they cherish will vanish in a flash.