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Bell cutting 1,300 jobs, closing several AM radio stations

Executives say the move is necessary to address expenses while Bell operates through an unfavorable regulatory environment.

Executives say the move is necessary to address expenses while Bell operates through an unfavorable regulatory environment.

A news truck for Canadian news channel CP24 hangs outside Bell Media's television headquarters Bell Media Queen Street in Toronto. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
A news truck for Canadian news channel CP24 hangs outside Bell Media’s television headquarters Bell Media Queen Street in Toronto. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Canadian media conglomerate Bell Media is eliminating 1,300 job roles and shutting down several AM radio stations in an effort to reign in costs, the company affirmed on Monday.

The eliminations include a 6 percent reduction of Bell Media’s current workforce, and are a direct response to what the company considers unfavorable public policy and regulatory conditions that have seriously impacted the firm’s ability to generate revenue.

As part of a broader consolidation of resources, Bell Media said it will unite several of its broadcast and cable news brands into a single newsroom, whereas before they operated as separate entities. The move will affect CTV National News, cable channel CP24, Bloomberg News affiliate BNN and its local television and radio stations.

“It’s a consolidation of news-gathering and news delivery,” Robert Malcolmson, the executive vice president of Bell Media, said in an interview with a regional news outlet on Wednesday. “We are combining the news production function in a horizontal way, so that you have one common platform that is serving news to the relevant outlet from one management team.”

The cost-cutting move will also result in Bell shutting down six of its AM radio stations, which executives said didn’t generate the type of sustained audience or revenue needed to support those operations. All six radio stations went off the air Wednesday morning around 10 a.m. Eastern Time.

The affected radio stations that are no longer broadcasting are:

  • CFRN (1260 AM) in Edmonton
  • CFRW (1290 AM) in Winnipeg
  • CFTE (1410 AM) in Vancouver
  • CKMX (1060 AM) in Calgary
  • CKST (1040 AM) in Vancouver
  • CJBK (1290 AM) in London

Additionally, Bell Media has put three other AM radio stations up for sale. Those stations are:

  • CHAM (820 AM) in Hamilton
  • CKOC (1150 AM) in Hamilton
  • CKWW (850 AM) in Windsor

Bell Media will still operate dozens of other AM and FM radio stations across the country, most of which it acquired through its purchase of commercial broadcaster CTV more than a decade ago.

Dwayne Winseck, a professor at Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communication, said the moves announced by Bell Media this week indicated that a concentration of media firms into one giant entity doesn’t necessarily yield better investments in news and programming.

“It was all done under the guise that bigger is better and Bell would be able to plow investment into news and programming production in Canada, and that this would help us in an age of global media and rising internet giants,” Winseck said in an interview with CBC News. “But the bigger is better story hasn’t played out for us.”

Instead, Winseck said the more-profitable part of Bell Canada, the parent of Bell Media, is its wireless phone and pay television products. Those products include Bell Mobile and Bell Satellite TV.

To that extent, the woes facing Bell Media — although spurred by different forces — appear to align with that of AT&T, the broadband and wireless phone provider that sought to vertically integrate with media assets through the acquisitions of DirecTV and WarnerMedia. Both were eventually spun off into separate divisions, with AT&T selling WarnerMedia outright to Warner Bros Discovery last year.

Bell Canada is at least holding on to its media assets for a little while longer, with the company cutting costs wherever it can to support a network of broadcast and cable channels that are weighing hard on its balance sheets. In addition to the layoffs announced this week, Bell Media will not fill around one-third of its current job openings and consolidate some managerial roles across its TV and radio businesses.

During the company’s most-recent financial earnings report, Bell Canada said it brought in more than $6 billion (around U.S. $4.5 billion) in operating revenue for the three-month period that ended March 31, a 3.5 percent increase compared to the same time frame in 2022. But its net profit dropped 15 percent to $788 million (around U.S. $590.9 million).

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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