By Harvey Oberfeld
November the 26th, 2015
This coming January, the Canadian Radio-Television, Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) will begin hearings on the future of local and community television in Canada.
So it was NO surprise to me that CTV (Bell Media) took a large axe to its tv and radio news operations a week ago in a loud and bloody massacre heard, seen and suffered by its personnel, its operations and its viewers from coast to coast.
The slaughter …which began earlier in November, reportedly claimed 380 victims …. who lost their jobs.
“While it is very difficult to part ways with valued colleagues, the changes are an essential step in ensuring that Bell Media’s cost structure reflect the realities of revenue performance in media and broadcasting, and that we remain leaders in a fast-changing industry,” the company said in a statement.
At least, THAT was their official line.
The CRTC should take it all for what I believe it is: a total SHAM …designed to soften up the CRTC (and Canadians), so that local and community television can be further slashed by Bell Media …. turning “Canadian” into more and more of a US re-broadcaster, augmented by Canadian “content” … reality shows, dramas, documentaries etc … that can be run over and over again, coast to coast all year round (even repeated for several years) … much cheaper in the long run than NEW daily, news and current affairs programming.
Among those sacrificed on the CTV chopping block were reportedly many high profile, long-time devoted CTV employees: including CTV anchors Dan Matheson, Bill Hutchison and Suneel Joshi; Ottawa’s CTV News co-anchor Carole Ann Meehan; Ottawa sports reporter Carolyn Waldo; Ottawa Morning Live host Lois lee; CTV News Channel anchor Amanda Blitz; Toronto Newstalk host Mike Toth; TSN co-host David Bastl; and, TSN reporter Sheri Forde.
In Vancouver, among the 20 staff falling to the axe were sports anchor Perry Solkowski, weather man Michael Kuss, hockey host Jeff Paterson; reporters Lisa Rossington, Peter Grainger …and assignment editor Len Catling (some thanks for helping bring CTV Vancouver’s ratings much closer to Global’s!!!). A producer, the librarian, a camera op, an engineer, web operator also gone: these jobs are behind the scenes, but DO affect the quality of what we see on air.
Bell Media argues that local tv, radio etc. has been losing money: very expensive to operate, while advertising revenues have been dropping.
However, the CRTC has already taken SEVERAL steps to help Canadian networks … including REMOVING restrictions on advertising minutes allowed per hour; and even DECREASING their Canadian content requirements by five per cent …. a HUGE gift to the networks.
And I hope the CRTC will look CLOSELY at Bell Media’s STOCK growth …PROOF that the company is in fact doing, WELL …VERY WELL!
BCE shares in November, 2005 sold for $28.40 each; by January, 2011, they had risen to $35.63 each … and NOW, they sell for almost $57 EACH!!!!
Sound like poverty to you? Needing even MORE corporate welfare?
Let’s keep it real.
TV network executives try to argue that news is too costly, but in my view, adequately take into account the overall picture of their industry … that their ENTIRE operations MUST BE EXAMINED IN TOTALITY.
We would not allow a hospital to severely curtail/shut down its emergency department, because it is too costly/labour-intensive, and just do lucrative surgery operations; we would not allow energy companies to provide electricity only to large, profitable industrial consumers; and, we no longer permit car insurance companies to siphon off only the best drivers for basic coverage, dropping the less-profitable parts of their operations.
So it is … and SHOULD BE ..with TV/RADIO network conglomerates: Canada’s air waves belong to ALL Canadians …. not just a few huge conglomerates.
The CRTC must NOT allow them to skim off and exploit the most profitable aspects of overall tv/radio operations.
Local and community news IS part of the broadcasting business in Canada … and the CRTC should not be fooled by the latest staff blood-letting ”performance” staged, I believer, by Bell Media to reduce their CTV local news/community operations even more.
And I hope it is also not lost on the CRTC that Bell Media earlier this month still reported revenues of $692 MILLION, and an “adjusted” (LOL!) profit of $183 MILLION for just the past quarter.