CBC North reverses decision to consolidate morning newscasts in Northern Canada

Following backlash from staff and listeners, CBC North has reversed its decision to centralize its morning radio newscasts in Yellowknife, its managing director announced Wednesday morning in an internal email. (Alex Brockman/CBC)
CBC North managing director Janice Stein has announced that the broadcaster will not be making any changes to its English morning newscasts in Canada’s northern territories of Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut.

The announcement reverses a decision, announced Monday, to consolidate local radio newscasts to one pan-northern morning newscast, read from Yellowknife.

“Overall the response we received from staff and the community was not supportive of the change,” Stein wrote in an email to staff.

Stein wrote that while the original change was made with the “best of intentions,” management realized they needed time to reflect on the impact of the potential change on staff and listeners.

The about-face comes after major backlash from newsroom staff, listeners, and politicians, including the premier of Yukon, Sandy Silver.

Janice Stein, managing director of CBC North, reversed the decision on Wednesday. (CBC)

On Tuesday, Silver asked fellow northern premiers Caroline Cochrane of the Northwest Territories and Joe Savikataaq of Nunavut to join him in writing a letter to Catherine Tait, the president of the CBC, asking her to reverse the decision.

“As I’m sure you will agree, this decision will negatively impact residents in all three territories,” Silver wrote, adding the territories are unique and that CBC’s contributions to the North are vital.

Opposition party members in the Yukon legislature also filed notices of motion calling for a joint letter.

On Wednesday morning before the decision, a spokesperson for Tait said that her office had not yet received a letter from Silver, but that they would “review carefully once we receive a copy.”

Iqaluit Coun. Kyle Sheppard had said the Nunavut market is “underserved by all types of media.”

Yukon Premier and Finance Minister Sandy Silver at a budget address in March this year. On Tuesday, Silver announced in the legislature that he had written a letter to other Northern premiers, asking them to call on the CBC president to reconsider a decision to amalgamate CBC North’s regional radio news summaries. (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

CBC Radio is one of the main forms of communication throughout the territory, particularly in its remote communities, Sheppard said.

“People tune in at specific times to news that actually matters to them,” he said. “And for that to be changing to a format that’s going to take away that local content, and replace it with other regional local news from regions that really don’t affect our lives, is a little bit concerning.”

Sheppard said Nunavut shares the same political players and policies, which make stories about each of the territory’s diverse fly-in communities relevant to one another.

CBC in Nunavut does broadcast news reports outside the territory to Nunavik and Nunatsiavut, but Sheppard said those stories are still relevant because of a shared culture.

Heated response online

After the initial decision, listeners flooded social media with opinions.

People across the North vented their frustration with CBC North’s decision to centralize its morning newscasts in Yellowknife on social media after the news broke Monday.

As of 6:30 p.m. MT Tuesday, CBC Yukon’s Facebook page had 60 comments in response, many of them negative.

Stein had said the decision will help free up Northern reporters to engage with small communities, and to deliver richer content on regional radio shows outside of the newscasts.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canadian Indigenous broadcaster launches French-language national news program, CBC News

Finland: Press Freedom Index: Finland climbs to second place, Norway keeps top spot, Yle News

Norway: Arctic-based news site Independent Barents Observer launches Chinese-language section, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Moscow-based media pretends to bring “objective” environmental journalism to Barents region, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: Alaska’s public broadcasting stations trying to make up for loss of state funds, Alaska Public Media

Katie Toth, CBC News

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