Bell Media has cut staff and reduced on-air broadcasting roles as part of a “streamlined operating structure” that will impact several of its staple news outlets across Canada.
On Tuesday, Bell spokesperson Marc Choma confirmed the company has made “programming changes” that affect some on-air positions at stations including Toronto’s Newstalk 1010 and Montreal’s CJAD 800.
“There are further changes in roles, including some departures, reflecting Bell Media’s streamlined operating structure,” Choma told the Star in an email.
“As the media industry evolves, we’re focused on investment in new content and technology opportunities while also ensuring our company is as agile, efficient and easy to work with as possible.”
Bell Media has not indicated how many positions have been cut. However, according to Cartt.ca, a Canadian telecom trade publication, 210 employees will be laid off in Toronto alone.
Claude Feig, a sports-media broadcaster with Newstalk 1010, announced his departure over social media on Tuesday, noting he was one of “many radio and TV people” let go in Toronto. Lucas Meyer, a reporter and anchor with Newstalk 1010, also indicated he was leaving the company.
The cuts affect not just journalists but members of the public-relations and digital-marketing teams as well.
“To be honest, a lot of the employees are still in the dark about the details,” said one employee affected by the cuts, who wished to remain anonymous.
Bell says it is Canada’s largest radio broadcaster, streaming 215 music channels and operating 109 licensed radio stations in 58 markets across Canada. It also owns a swath of Canada’s most viewed television stations including TSN, CTV, BNN Bloomberg, CP24 and more.
The company was recently criticized by members of parliament for taking $ 122 million in pandemic-related labour subsidies while increasing dividend payouts to its shareholders.
Nate Erskine-Smith, Liberal MP for Beaches-East York in Toronto, recently noted that BCE Inc., Bell Media’s parent company, had $ 5.2 billion in available liquidity at the end of Q3 in 2020, as well as 10 per cent growth in internet revenue and four per cent growth in year-to-date cash flow from operating activities.
“Instead of accessing that available liquidity or perhaps not increasing that dividend, you thought it best to access public funds?” Erskine-Smith asked Robert Malcolmson, Bell’s chief legal and regulatory officer, in a recent parliamentary hearing.
The cuts also follow the recent appointment of Bell Media’s new president, Wade Oosterman. Several senior executives have also left the company in the time since Oosterman took the helm in January.
At Queen’s Park on Tuesday, Premier Doug Ford called the cuts “heartbreaking.”
“I just want to tell you, keep your chin up. You’re going to come back. You’re going to get back on your feet,” the premier said.
“Maybe you’ll find a career within the media or you might find it outside the media.”