The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) condemns Bell Media for its decision to slash, without proper notice, more than 200 journalism jobs and support staff in radio and television operations across the country in the span of just over a week.
“These are dark, devastating days for Canadian journalism,” said CAJ president Brent Jolly. “Some of the journalists who’ve lost their jobs have spent 20 years (or longer) with their organizations. Bell’s decision to gut some of these newsrooms with a simple stroke of a pen is unforgivable.”
Particularly hard hit by the job cuts are popular local AM radio stations, such as Toronto’s CFRB 1010 and Montreal’s CJAD 800, where all of the station’s reporters were laid off.
Bell also eliminated three radio stations entirely: Hamilton’s TSN 1150, Vancouver’s TSN 1040 and Winnipeg’s TSN 1290. Employees at the Winnipeg station were reportedly not told about the closure prior to the public announcement. In Vancouver, staff learned about impending changes from a robotic announcement, while others were cut during a commercial break. Staff in Vancouver were also reportedly told they had 30 minutes left to pack. Bell Media has already removed the archives of work done by some of these journalists from their website, adding further injury as they seek new jobs without portfolios to point toward.
According to public statements made by Bell Media, the decision to eliminate the positions at the Toronto and Montreal stations was part of a plan to begin “streamlining” its operating structure. Last month, Bell Media announced it had restructured its leadership team.
A National Post investigation this past December revealed that nearly 70 publicly-traded companies paid out billions of dollars in dividends to shareholders while receiving pandemic-related wage subsidies from the federal government. Subsequent investigation revealed that BCE, Bell’s parent company, received $122 million from the federal government’s Emergency Wage Subsidy.
“Cutting the jobs of journalists during a pandemic, when accurate and reliable information is so critical to the public’s well being is, truly, beyond the pale,” said Jolly. “While we understand wage subsidies were never a fool-proof solution to prevent layoffs, to see shareholders be rewarded while essential journalism jobs get axed is a national disgrace.”
In the wake of these cuts, the CAJ calls on the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to strengthen its work to ensure the vitality of Canadian broadcasting.
“It’s time for the CRTC to grow a spine and put some teeth into designing regulations that protect Canadian journalists and media workers,” Jolly said. “Companies like Bell need to be held accountable for their decisions, including asking for massive public subsidies and then turning around and eliminating journalists’ jobs.”
The CAJ is extremely concerned at the contraction taking place across the Canadian media industry, in newsrooms big and small across the country.
“The loss of journalists means the loss of important local voices, vital accountability, and, overall, a weaker democracy,” Jolly said. “Investing in journalism is a choice these owners have to make. Journalism is a critical civic asset that serves the public good — and the returns on those investments are infinite.”
In the weeks and months to come, the CAJ extends an open invitation to owners for a frank dialogue on the current state of the industry and the causes that repeatedly leave journalism jobs vulnerable. We hope this exercise will help to identify possible ways to support a dynamic industry in the future.
In the meantime, CAJ member Emma McIntosh and CAJ vice-president Fatima Syed have independently organized a fundraiser to support the laid off journalists. So far over $5,000 has been raised which will be sent to those who lost their jobs. The organizers do not expect there to be leftover funds but if there are, they will be donated to the CAJ to assist other journalists in the future. If you’d like to donate to the fundraiser, you can make an e-transfer to: email@example.com.
Over the coming days, the CAJ will highlight the names and stories of these laid-off journalists on our Twitter account. If there’s someone you’d like featured please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) is a professional organization with more than 900 members across Canada. The CAJ’s primary roles are public-interest advocacy work and professional development for its members.
For further information:
Brent Jolly, CAJ president