CBC staffer worried stories will get missed

Andrew Robinson
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Grand Falls-Windsor's on-air jobs moving to Gander

CBC's presence in central Newfoundland is taking a hit, and one employee says stories in Grand Falls-Windsor will likely slip through the cracks.

The CBC building in Grand Falls-Windsor will be closed and three editorial positions will move to Gander.

The public broadcaster announced earlier this week its plan to close its office in central Newfoundland's largest community.

No jobs will be lost, but three editorial positions will be moved a one-hour drive down the Trans-Canada Highway to Gander.

"We're being told that the intent from the management perspective is to maintain the same level of coverage within the community," said Harry Mesh, a transmission technician based in Grand Falls-Windsor.

"My personal feeling is that will be difficult to do from 100 kilometres away. I'm sure the major stories will be covered. I guess what you might consider to be the smaller, but interesting, human interest stories, I think will inevitably be lost."

Mesh, who is also Atlantic director for the CBC branch of the Canadian Media Guild, said the change had been anticipated for quite some time.

"I suppose we were a little bit surprised by getting the final word of it," said Mesh, one of two technicians who will remain in Grand Falls-Windsor in a yet-to-be-determined office.

"The corporation did announce about a year or so ago that they were looking to get rid of some real estate, and we did expect that something like this could be coming down the tube."

On-air staff will move to leased office space inside a Gander shopping centre, including those who currently work in the CBC building on Sullivan Avenue in Gander.

"For them personally, it will mean, I guess, making a decision of whether to transfer, commute or leave their positions," said Mesh, who doubts any of the affected employees in Grand Falls-Windsor will choose the latter option.

"It's a rough commute, this time of year especially," he said.

Grand Falls-Windsor Mayor Al Hawkins believes CBC should have taken a different approach to consolidation by moving the positions based in Gander to his community.

"I had been really trying to work with CBC and some of the senior management people over the last three years, promoting Grand Falls-Windsor as the ideal location for the CBC."

Lease agreement

According to Hawkins, the town offered CBC space in its not-for-profit Excite Corporation property at an annual rate of $15-$17 per square foot, heat and light included.

However, Hawkins said details of the lease indicate the public broadcaster ultimately settled for an arrangement that will prove to be more costly.

According to the mayor, a 15-year lease agreement will give CBC 90 days free followed by a year one-to-five rate of $24 per square foot, $28 for years six-to-10, and $32 for the remainder of the agreement. A retrofit in Gander will cost $190,000 plus a 15 per cent fee to be paid to mall administration. Hawkins said CBC will be charged $3 per square foot for heat and light.

Leased office space in Gander will cover approximately 1,500 square feet. The full cost of the lease agreement over the course of 15 years is approximately $621,000, not including heat and light or expenses associated with the retrofit. The Town of Grand Falls-Windsor's offer - assuming CBC were to lease 1,500 square feet of office space - would fall somewhere between $337,500 and $382,500 over the same duration.

"Obviously, when you crunch the numbers, it does not make sense considering what they were offered," said the mayor.

Hawkins added that the move to Grand Falls-Windsor would be less of an upheaval for staff in Gander, given there are fewer than half as many CBC employees in that community.

The transition is expected to take place this summer.

Operations in Grand Falls-Windsor were affected by budget cuts at CBC in 2009, as well. Former "Central Morning" co-host Randy Larcombe and a maintenance technician voluntarily retired that year. Neither position was filled, leaving "Central Morning" with one host based in Gander.

In a story posted this week to CBC Newfoundland and Labrador's website, Atlantic regional manager Andrew Cochran said its two buildings in the central region offered more space than was needed, noting they were built to serve a different era in CBC's history.

"Right now, we have about - actually the numbers are about five times more space than we need between the two buildings," he said in the CBC story.

According to Mesh, CBC's presence in Grand Falls-Windsor dates back to Confederation.

arobinson@thetelegram.com Twitter: @TeleAndrew

Organizations: CBC, Trans-Canada Highway, Canadian Media Guild Excite Corporation Town of Grand Falls-Windsor

Geographic location: Gander, Grand Falls-Windsor, Grand Falls Newfoundland Sullivan Avenue

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Recent comments

  • Bern
    December 30, 2013 - 10:09

    Why the big surprise! We have the Mayor & Council we deserve. Main services at CBC were moved from GFW to Gander four years ago without a peep from mayor, council or government reps. Likewise, home postal delivery by Canada Post is about to cease and the silence is pitiful.

  • Stephen
    December 30, 2013 - 09:53

    Grand Falls-Windsor is a more central locale for CBC than Gander. However if that were the case, Gander would be loosing their CBC. Amalgamation and centralization of media services be it TV or Radio has merit, but something gets lost on the local community end. We have seen the same happen for the once independent local cable TV community access channels that once existed; now replaced by a larger corporate channel under Rogers or Eastlink Cable. Bigger is not always better.