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CBC and its Friends squabble over The National

The Friends of the CBC and the CBC itself are quarrelling about rumoured changes to The National, the Corporation's flagship news program.

Earlier today, the Friends of the CBC issued a news release predicting the move of The National on weeknights from 10:00 p.m. to 11:00. The release went on to say:

FRIENDS believes CBC may fill the 10 pm weeknight spot which would be vacated by The National with entertainment programming, possibly of non-Canadian origin.

"Funding cuts may have left the CBC struggling to make ends meet, but only someone who does not understand or care about the CBC's public broadcasting mandate would come up with this plan," said FRIENDS' spokesperson Ian Morrison.

The release also included a letter to CBC president and CEO Hubert Lacroix, urging him not to allow The National to be moved.

At the Corporation's official blog, Inside the CBC, reaction was swift and negative:

"There has never even been any discussion of moving The National," Kirstine Layfield, General Manager of CBC English Television said in a letter she sent to Morrison this morning. She said the rumours were "unfounded" and "strange."

"Let me be clear, this is the furthest from our plans and strategy as one can possibly conjure," Layfield wrote. She added that the idea of filling the time slot with imported entertainment programming is "ludicrous."

Vancouver blogger Tod Maffin, a longtime CBC watcher and contributor, was even less sympathetic. In a post titled "With friends like FRIENDS, who needs enemies?" Maffin argued that moving The National would make no sense:

The National pulls in huge numbers — it's the country's most-watched newscast. What on Earth would the CBC be able to put there that would capture the same numbers? The only shows that pull the same kind of audience are major American brands like CSI Miami and So You Think You Can Dance. Do you really think the CBC would replace the country’s top news show with something like that?

Besides the massive protests that would ensure, the CBC would be in violation of its license by going over the allotted foreign time. As well, the CBC would have to buy the programming alongside CTV, Rogers, and Global at the latest L.A. screenings in May. Nobody from the CBC — not one — was there soaking up the sun and free booze.

Maffin concluded his post by noting that Ian Morrison has since "backpedalled on his original claim, rephrasing it as 'a discussion'...

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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