Bell to Cut 1,300 Jobs, Axe Numerous Radio Stations

In response to apparently challenging regulatory and public policy conditions, Bell has announced it will be reducing its workforce by approximately 3% – a cut of 1,300 positions. The company is also set to close or sell nine radio stations, as part of its plan to “significantly adapt” its news delivery system, reports The Canadian Press.

Richard Gray, the Vice President of News at Bell Media, described the plan in an internal memo, stating it involves “moving to a single newsroom approach across brands, allowing for greater collaboration and efficiency.” This strategy reflects the company’s struggle to continue operating with its multiple brands, such as CTV National News, BNN, CP24, and its local TV news stations and radio channels, functioning independently.

Under this restructuring, six percent of Bell Media positions will be eliminated, with 20% fewer executive roles compared to 2020.

The company will shutter several radio stations, including Winnipeg’s Funny 1290, Calgary’s Funny 1060, Edmonton’s TSN 1260 Radio, Vancouver’s BNN Bloomberg Radio 1410 and Funny 1040, and London’s NewsTalk 1290.

Bell Media will also sell Hamilton’s AM Radio 1150 and AM 820, as well as Windsor’s AM 580, pending CRTC approval.

Back in 2022, Bell cut jobs in Vancouver, with TV anchors and radio hosts let go. In 2021, Bell Media similarly cut jobs, with over 200 employees let go in the Greater Toronto Area.

This is a strategy aimed at consolidation of news gathering and delivery, as explained by Robert Malcolmson, Bell Executive Vice President and Chief Legal and Regulatory Officer. “We are combining the news production function in a horizontal way so that you have one common platform serving news to the relevant outlet from one management team,” said Malcolmson to The Canadian Press.

The cutbacks come in the face of the ongoing migration of advertising revenue to foreign digital platforms, economic pressures, a decrease in advertisers’ budgets, and a regulatory environment slow to adjust, according to Bell Media president Wade Oosterman.

A memo sent to staff on Wednesday by Oosterman said, “We are also faced with strong economic and inflationary pressures, a pullback in advertisers’ budgets, and a challenging regulatory environment that has been too slow to adjust.”

Bell Canada expects to lose over $250 million annually in legacy phone revenues and its news operations are forecasted to incur $40 million in operating losses per year, said Bell CEO Mirko Bibi in a memo today. Bell radio stations saw its profits down 50% since the beginning of COVID-19.

“The job reductions are consistent with but smaller than similar reductions announced by other leading technology and media companies across North America in recent months,” explained Bibic, trying to justify the cuts.

Management changes include the departure of Rosa Hwang, the CTV National News executive producer, and expanded roles for David Hughes, Ramneek Gill, Sophia Skopelitis, and Jonathan Kay.

The changes will lead to the closure of CTV’s foreign bureaus in London, U.K., and Los Angeles, with its Washington bureau shifting focus to US-centric news and its impact on Canada. However, the National News team will add videographers in St. John’s, N.L., Regina, Sask., Fredericton, N.B., and Charlottetown, PEI.

“I think the government’s sort of populist focus on pricing isn’t necessarily in line with current reality and the government has created an intensely competitive industry structure that they should allow to play out,” said Malcolmson, blasting the CRTC.

Despite the drastic measures, Malcolmson didn’t rule out further layoffs, citing relentless regulatory interventions and pending reforms. He stressed the company’s commitment to its shareholders and employees to ensure a viable future. “At some point, we have to say to ourselves, ‘Is it worth funding this?’” he concluded.

Bell’s first quarter of 2023 saw net earnings of $788 million.

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