Canadian b'casters continue scaling back

Astral plans 23 layoffs; Canwest axes noon newscast

TORONTO -- Canadian broadcaster Canwest Global Communications has canceled its Global Television's noon newscast from Toronto, while rival Astral Media has cut 23 jobs from its English-language radio station business.

It's the latest evidence that Canadian broadcasters continue to slash costs and jobs to weather the economic downturn.

The job losses at Astral, Canada's biggest radio station operator with 88 outlets, comes after its CAN$1.1 billion ($866 million) acquisition of Standard Radio in 2008.

Alain Bergeron, vp brand management at Montreal-based Astral Media, said the broadcaster did not plan job cuts at its cable channels and pay TV service, the Movie Network, at this time.

Elsewhere, Canwest Global will follow up plans to scrap its Global Toronto morning newscast and in its latest cost-cutting move cancel the noon show as well to eliminate an entire shift at the TV station.

Canwest Global spokesman John Douglas did not specify the size of anticipated job losses, but it is understood that as many as 35 positions could go.

Other recent retrenchment includes Rogers Communications, the country's largest cablecaster and mobile phone provider, asking employees at its 70 print publications to take a voluntary pay cut by working four days a week, rather than five, to avoid yet another round of pink slips amid declining ad revenue.

Peter Murdoch, vp media at the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, which represents Canadian broadcast employees, criticized the latest job losses, but added that they were part of an industry decline.

"We're all getting really battle-weary of yet another program cancellation and yet more people losing their jobs, and on it goes," he said.

The latest cost cutting follows job losses at Canwest Global and rival media groups CTVglobemedia and Quebecor Media as Canadian consumers and advertisers pull back on spending.