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Yukon premier says CBC abandoning mandate over newscasts


Yukon Premier Sandy Silver on Tuesday urged his territorial colleagues to unite in condemning CBC North's decision to soon scrap territory-specific morning newscasts in favour of one, pan-territorial news broadcast.

CBC North managing director Janice Stein announced the decision to staff on Monday. She said the move would free up resources to do more reporting, for more platforms.

Staff and listeners have since expressed profound misgivings. One Yellowknife-based lawyer said the broadcaster was reneging on its commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action in making the move.

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If the CBC's plan goes ahead, from January, the NWT, Yukon, and Nunavut will no longer each have their own five-minute newscasts – read by their own journalists – during weekday morning shows.

Instead, each show will host the same five-minute newscast, produced in Yellowknife, covering news from all three territories.

Stein earlier told Cabin Radio the move would not amount to a reduction in the corporation's journalism but would, in fact, mean more reporting from smaller communities. She said this would be achieved by moving resources – staff, in other words – out of the studio and into a field reporting environment.

This would happen in Yukon and Nunavut, where the current newsreaders will become part of the broader newsroom and reassigned. In the NWT it's not clear how additional reporting will take place as the existing newsreader will remain in-studio, tasked with producing the pan-territorial newscast.

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Stein said she "cannot see" managers changing their minds about the shift.

However, Premier Silver launched a broadside against the decision later on Tuesday, writing to NWT Premier Caroline Cochrane and Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq to seek their support.

"As I am sure you will agree, this decision will negatively impact residents in all three territories," Silver wrote in the letter, which was tabled in the Yukon legislature and tweeted by the Yukon Liberal caucus.

Silver attached a separate draft of a letter addressed to the CBC's president and chief executive, Catherine Tait.

In that letter, Tait is told: "We call on CBC to stand by its mandate, as stated in the 1991 Broadcasting Act, and ensure that programming reflects Canada and its regions to national and regional audiences, while service [sic] the special needs of those regions.

"We value the CBC and its contributions to telling the vital stories of Canadians across the North. CBC has consistently been a strong voice for northern culture and has gone to tremendous lengths to share northern stories with the entire country.

"To lose the regionally specific news coverage would greatly diminish the voices of northerners and decrease their access to important information that impacts their daily lives."

The letter urges Tait to reconsider the decision "and ensure that consideration is given to the distinct cultural and regional differences that exist across the North between three separate and distinct territories that comprise 40 percent of Canada’s land mass."

Neither Cochrane nor Savikataaq had issued an official response as of 6pm on Tuesday.

'Little in common'

Meanwhile, in a separate letter to CBC president Tait, Yellowknife lawyer Garth Wallbridge said the corporation was ignoring the Calls to Action published by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015.

Wallbridge says the CBC made a commitment to be "properly reflective of the diverse culture, languages, and perspectives of Aboriginal peoples" – and to amalgamate the existing range of morning newscasts would break that promise.

"These three territories collectively have a population of 50-percent Indigenous people, from all three of Canada's constitutionally recognized Indigenous peoples: the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit," the letter continues. "I suggest that an Inuk from Pond Inlet, a First Nations person from the Yukon and a Métis from the NWT have little in common by way of culture, languages and perspective, but for being Indigenous Canadians."

Wallbridge asks Tait "to please confirm that the CBC has abandoned the TRC's Calls to Action." He adds: "If you have not, then please explain how CBC intends to honour their stated commitment to Canada's Indigenous people and to the taxpayers who fund the CBC."

Stein, the CBC North managing director, was understood to be booked as a guest on her own broadcaster's Wednesday morning NWT radio show.

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