04/10/2014 12:30 EDT | Updated 06/10/2014 05:59 EDT

CBC to cut 657 jobs, will no longer compete for professional sports rights

Funding shortfalls and revenue losses have forced CBC/Radio-Canada to cut $130 million from its budget this year, a move that will eliminate 657 jobs over the next two years and take the network out of competing for the rights to broadcast professional sports, the public broadcaster says.

"Very tough and controversial choices needed to be made and were made," CBC president and CEO Hubert T. Lacroix said at a townhall meeting with staff Thursday.

Lacroix said CBC could no longer compete against private broadcasters that have specialty sports channels and multiple media platforms. The result will mean "substantially reducing" the size of the sports department and covering fewer sporting events, including amateur sports. But the CBC will still compete for sporting events of national significance, like the Olympics.

Among the cuts, English Services will slash $82 million from its budget and eliminate 334 full-time jobs.

Lacroix said the broadcaster looked for solutions to shield Canadian programming in prime time and its commitment to the regions and digital from cuts.

"We were not able to protect these priorities as much as we would have liked to. And Canadians will now notice," he said.

Radio will also reduce some of its live music performances and some local musical performance shows will be cancelled or consolidated into regional shows.

Losing the rights to broadcast Hockey Night in Canada to Rogers was a significant loss, but only one of the factors leading to Thursday’s announced changes.

CBC has been coping with a loss of $115 million in federal government funding over three years that was announced in the 2012 federal budget.

Meanwhile, a softening of the advertising market and CBC’s poor performance in attracting the important 25-54 age demographic to its prime-time TV schedule represented a $47-million hit to the network’s revenue.

Projected advertising sales for Radio 2 and Espace Musique have also fallen short, resulting in a $13-million loss.

As well, fixed-cost increases of $42 million and a $30-million funding freeze from the federal government added pressures to the broadcaster’s budget.

Among the changes:

- Television will have one less original series, to be replaced with a Best of the World series.

- George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight, which is ending its 10-year run, will not be replaced.

- Cancellation of late night news in the North.

- Service expansion into the London market shelved.