Unifor is deeply concerned and outraged about today’s announcement from Bell Canada Enterprises Inc. (BCE Inc.) to cut 1,300 positions and to close six and sell three radio stations in response to not being able to out wait Bill C-11.
“These layoffs cut deep, especially in smaller communities that rely on local news, and undermines democracy,” said Unifor National President Lana Payne. “Bell had other choices, in anticipation of policy changes, but chose to pull the trigger on these layoffs. If the government doesn’t act now, there will be little left of Canadian journalism to save.”
The eliminated positions include a 6% cut at Bell Media, which is part of BCE Inc.’s Bell Canada division, which impact CTV television network, specialty TV channels, radio stations and production studios.
Unifor has been informed 26 unionized positions on-and-off air will be impacted in the Greater Toronto Area and the union expects the total number of union jobs to be closer to 100. The Bell Media cuts specifically impact management, production, editorial and operations positions, sales and marketing and administrative and clerical jobs.
In media reports, the employer said the job cuts are in response to unfavourable public policy and regulatory conditions that it can no longer outwait.
Bill C-11, which passed Senate and has become law in April, is a modernization of the Broadcasting Act to bring foreign internet streamers, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, into Canada’s regulatory system. Canadian broadcasters have long had to support Canadian content and to support local news, while unfairly competing directly with these foreign internet broadcasters.
If foreign streamers are allowed to compete directly with Canadian broadcasters, they should have the same responsibilities to support the telling of Canadian stories that should include local news.
Unifor urged the government to amend C-11 to ensure the Broadcasting Act mandates the Canadian Radio and Television Commission (CRTC) to support local news, including by “developing, financing, producing or promoting local news and information programming,” with the creation of a $120 million news relief fund, which must be spent on local news.
In his testimony at a Senate hearing in November about Bill C-11, Unifor Media Director Randy Kitt said Bell, Rogers, Shaw and Quebecor are big player companies in Canadian broadcasting, but they are not so rich that the public should just assume they will continue to fund local news as they continue to lose money.
“All parties must acknowledge the importance of local news and quality journalism to our communities,” said Kitt.
The government and the CRTC have to strengthen, not weaken, the regulatory framework that supports Canadian media and local news in this country.”
Radio station workers at Winnipeg’s Funny 1290, Calgary’s Funny 1060, Edmonton’s TSN 1260 Radio, Vancouver’s BNN Bloomberg Radio 1410 and Funny 1040, along with London’s NewsTalk 1290 were told their workplaces would shutter.
In addition, Bell Media is selling three radio stations – Hamilton’s AM Radio 1150 and AM 820 and Windsor’s AM 580 – to an undisclosed third party, subject to CRTC approval.
Unifor represents more than 10,000 media workers, including 5,000 members in the broadcast and film industries.
Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.