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Bell Media planning cuts to CTV, BNN Bloomberg following BCE layoffs, sale of 45 radio stations

Bell Media is ending multiple television newscasts and making other programming cuts after its parent company announced widespread layoffs and the sale of 45 of its 103 regional radio stations.

In an internal memo sent to Bell Media employees on Thursday, it said news stations such as CTV and BNN Bloomberg would be affected immediately.

Radio stations being sold are located in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

The memo, signed by Dave Daigle, vice president of local television, radio and Bell Media Studios, and Richard Gray, vice president of news at Bell Media, said they would end weekday midday newscasts on all CTV stations except Toronto. It will also eliminate its 6 pm and 11 pm newscasts on weekends on all CTV and CTV2 stations except Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa.

Daigle and Gray said “multi-skilled journalists” would replace the teams of news correspondents and technicians reporting to CTV National News in Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec and Atlantic Canada, while other correspondent changes would be made in Ottawa.

Earlier in the day, Bell Media’s parent company, BCE Inc., announced it would cut nine percent of its workforce.

The company announced Thursday in an open letter signed by CEO Mirko Bibic that 4,800 jobs would be cut “at all levels of the company.”

This round of job cuts is the company’s largest in nearly 30 years, Bibic said during a conference call Thursday morning.

Some employees were already notified or were due to be informed Thursday of their layoffs, while the rest will be informed in the spring. Bibic said the company will use vacancies and attrition to minimize layoffs as much as possible.

Bell also puts an end to late-night shows. The debate, This hour and Top 3 tonight on CTV News Channel, which will be replaced by a four-hour weekday news broadcast starting at 6 p.m.

On BNN Bloomberg, weekday daytime programming is being “streamlined” to reduce the number of separate broadcasts.

Daigle and Gray also said W5 will grow from a stand-alone documentary series to a “multi-platform investigative reporting unit” featured on CTV National News, CTVNews.ca and other news platforms.

Second major layoff

It is the second major layoff at the media and telecommunications giant since last spring, when six percent of Bell Media’s jobs were eliminated and nine radio stations were closed or sold.

In a separate internal memo, Bell Media President Sean Cohan said the company intends to sell 45 radio stations to seven buyers: Vista Radio, Whiteoaks, Durham Radio, My Broadcasting Corp., ZoomerMedia, Arsenal Media and Maritime Broadcasting. Sales are subject to CRTC approval and other closing conditions.

“That’s a significant divestment. It’s because it’s no longer a viable business,” Bell’s chief legal and regulatory officer, Robert Malcolmson, said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“We will continue to operate those that are viable, but this is a business that is going in the wrong direction.”

The company declined to say how many of the total job cuts occurred specifically at Bell Media.

“I think financial analysts anticipated that there would have to be some changes and probably some layoffs,” said Patrick Horan, portfolio manager at Agilith Capital. “I think they’re a lot bigger than people expected.”

“The cause of this is a dividend policy that is really out of control,” Horan added. Dividends are a portion of profits that companies pay to their shareholders, usually every quarter.

“Typically, companies pay out about 50 percent of their profits in dividends, and right now it’s about 130 percent of their profits. So I think that’s putting pressure on the company to produce more cash flow.” free”.

‘Digital transformation’

Bell Media’s Malcolmson said the company is in the midst of a “digital transformation” for both entertainment and news.

But whether prioritizing digital growth is viable for the company in terms of generating profits is yet to be determined.

“We’re investing in it; we’ll see,” Malcolmson said. “Without some kind of regulatory support, it’s difficult.”

He blamed the federal government for taking too long to provide aid to media companies, as well as the CRTC for being too slow to react to a “crisis that is immediate.”

Mirko Bibic, pictured in October, says Bell Media’s advertising revenue decreased by $140 million in 2023 compared to the previous year. (CBC)

This extends to two pieces of legislation aimed at helping Canada’s beleaguered media sector: Bill C-18, also known as the Online News Act, aimed at forcing tech giants to compensate media outlets. Canadian news for its content, and Bill C-11, which updates the Broadcasting Act requires digital platforms such as Netflix, YouTube and TikTok to contribute and promote Canadian content.

Ottawa remains in a standoff with Facebook parent company Meta over C-18, and the company continues to block news links on its platforms. Meanwhile, the federal government capped the amount of money broadcasters can get from Google’s $100 million annual payments to $30 million, with the rest going to print and digital media.

“Disappointing to say the least”

“In practice, it won’t do any good. It’s disappointing, to say the least,” Malcolmson said.

“We’ve been advocating for reform for years. It’s not coming fast enough, and when it does come, it’s not providing meaningful help.”

Thursday’s job losses at Bell Media are also directly related to the regulator’s direction on Bill C-11, Malcolmson said.

The CRTC held a hearing late last year to explore whether streaming services should be asked to make an upfront contribution to the Canadian content system to help level the playing field with local companies. The commission hopes to implement new rules by the end of 2024.

But the Bell executive said the company needs immediate relief, which could come from a fund it has proposed that would allow streamers to subsidize local or national news.

“We hope they do, but we can’t wait two years for that to happen, so we see actions like this today,” he said.

News loses $40 million a year

Bell has fought other regulatory decisions over the past year that it says make things difficult for its struggling broadcast division.

That includes an October petition to the Federal Court of Appeals seeking to overturn a CRTC decision that renewed its broadcast licenses for three more years. It argued that the decision was made without a public hearing and could result in the regulator prejudging its requests last June to waive Canadian programming and local news requirements for its television stations.

Bell Media’s advertising revenue decreased by $140 million in 2023 compared to the previous year, and the company’s news division is experiencing more than $40 million in annual operating losses, Bibic said in his letter.

He added during Thursday’s call that the company is “shifting our focus from overly regulated parts of our business” to areas where they are seeing potential for growth and investment.

“We want to deliver news, but we want to find a way to make this work,” he said, adding that media companies face increasing competition from tech giants as they navigate an advertising slump and decline. of traditional media.

On Thursday, Bell said it could also further reduce network investments in its telecommunications sector as it remains at odds with the CRTC over what it calls a “default” regulatory direction.

When asked about the company’s image in light of the continued cuts, Malcolmson noted that the size of Bell’s executive team has been reduced in recent years and executive salaries remain frozen.

“We have a duty to both our shareholders and our employees to ensure that we manage the business rationally,” he said.

Here is a list of the sold Bell Media radio stations and their new owners:

  • CHOR, Summerland, BC (Vista Radio).
  • CJAT, Trail, BC (Vista Radio).
  • CKKC, Nelson, BC (Vista Radio).
  • CKGR, Golden, BC (Vista Radio).
  • CKXR, Salmon Arm, BC (Vista Radio).
  • CKCR, Revelstoke, BC (Vista Radio).
  • CJMG, Penticton, BC (Vista Radio).
  • CKOR, Penticton, BC (Vista Radio).
  • CJOR, Osoyoos, BC (Vista Radio).
  • CICF, Vernon, BC (Vista Radio).
  • CHSU, Kelowna, BC (Vista Radio).
  • CILK, Kelowna, BC (Vista Radio).
  • CKFR, Kelowna, BC (Vista Radio).
  • CKNL, Fort St. John, BC (Vista Radio).
  • CHRX, Fort St. John, BC (Vista Radio).
  • CJDC, Dawson Creek, BC (Vista Radio).
  • CKRX, Fort Nelson, BC (Vista Radio).
  • CFTK, Terrace, BC (Vista Radio).
  • CJFW, Terrace, BC (Vista Radio).
  • CHTK, Prince Rupert, BC (Vista Radio).
  • CKTK, Kitimat, BC (Vista Radio).
  • CKLH, Hamilton, Ont. (White Oaks).
  • CHRE, St. Catharines, Ont. (White Oaks).
  • CHTZ, St. Catharines, Ont. (White Oaks).
  • CKTB, St. Catharines, Ont. (White Oaks).
  • CKLY, Lindsay, Ont. (Durham Radio).
  • CKPT, Peterborough, Ont. (Durham Radio).
  • CKQM, Peterborough, Ont. (Durham Radio).
  • CFJR, Brockville, Ont. (My Broadcasting Corporation).
  • CJPT, Brockville, Ont. (My Broadcasting Corporation).
  • CFLY, Kingston, Ont. (My Broadcasting Corporation).
  • CKLC, Kingston, Ont. (My Broadcasting Corporation).
  • CJOS, Owen Sound, Ont. (ZoomMedia).
  • CHRD, Drummondville, Que. (Arsenal media).
  • CJDM, Drummondville, Que. (Arsenal media).
  • CFEI, St-Hyacinthe, Que. (Arsenal media).
  • CFZZ, St-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, which. (Arsenal media).
  • CIKI, Rimouski, Que. (Arsenal media).
  • CJOI, Rimouski, Que. (Arsenal media).
  • CFVM, Amqui, Que. (Arsenal media).
  • CIKX, Grand Falls, NB (Marine Broadcasting).
  • CJCJ, Woodstock, NB (Maritime Broadcasting).
  • CKBC, Bathurst, NB (Marine Broadcasting).
  • CKTO, Truro, NS (Marine Broadcasting).
  • CKTY, Truro, NS (Marine Broadcasting).
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