Layoffs hit TVOntario

BILL BRIOUX - Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:37 AM ET

TORONTO - Say goodbye to Imprint and Second Opinion as layoffs hit TVOntario.

The public service broadcaster, owned and operated by the provincial government, announced its budget implementation plan for fiscal 2005-2006 yesterday and there was plenty of belt tightening. Up to 10 Canadian Media Guild positions are being eliminated, including Imprint host Tina Srebotnjak. As well, six more union jobs -- four full-time and two contract -- were lost among members of Communications, Energy & Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP). That bargaining unit represents approximately 350 of TVO's 550 employees.

The cuts came as $4.7 million of TVO's operating budget was switched to educational initiatives and away from programming.

A spokesman for TVO said that the network was not making any announcements yesterday. A full statement is expected after staffers and affected personnel have been fully briefed. A few insiders told the Sun that there had been rumblings of job eliminations for weeks.

The Guild's TVO branch president, Carol Burtin Fripp, said yesterday that some seniority violations were being looked at in the downsizing. CEP 72M president Marjorie Cromb said management had warned that this would be a very tough budget.

In its 16th season, Imprint -- originally hosted by Daniel Richler -- was well out in front of the current book show craze. CBC's Open Book with Mary Walsh and even an entire channel, CHUM's diginet BookTelevision, may have stolen some of Imprint's thunder in recent years.

Fripp was told that some book reporting would shift to TVO's flagship series, Studio 2. She was also assured that no further cuts were pending to any part of TVO's prime time schedule.

Besides the demise of the health series Second Opinion, the cuts will be felt on other series at both the English and French TVO networks.

In terms of buzz, the provincial broadcaster has fallen off the radar for many viewers as channels explode up the other end of the TV universe. Both Fripp and Cochrane maintain that the channel's membership levels are as strong as ever, with more than 100,000 members making contributions during the last pledge drive.

Currently chaired by Isabel Bassett, TVO was created 35 years ago with the focus on educational programming.


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