Media Beat
Media Beat

Media Beat: November 20, 2017

Bell Media pink slips 50 broadcast employees

The union representing on-air and broadcasting technicians at 17 local CTV stations across Canada is sharply critical of the latest round of an estimated 50 job cuts at Bell Media's national network and puts part of the blame on the shoulders of the CRTC.

"This latest round of layoffs isn't just Bell Media's penny-pinching, this one has been directly caused by the CRTC," said Unifor Media Council Chair Jake Moore in a statement released Nov. 17.

"We warned the CRTC that tough licencing conditions would be required if big media companies were granted five-year licences for local news. They didn't listen," Moore said.

Continuing, he said that “the layoffs will seal the fate of the CTV network's remaining local sports broadcasts, adding their flagship station CFTO in Toronto to the list of casualties that already includes sports programming at CTV stations in Edmonton, Calgary, and Montreal. Local sports go off air in Toronto on December 27.”

According to Unifor, the layoffs have struck at least 15 TV and radio stations and include both on air and technical staff. On-air personalities include Ottawa CTV 2 hosts Melissa Lamb and Lianne Laing, BNN host Michael Kane, and CFTO Sportscasters Joe Tilley and Lance Brown.

The federal broadcasting regulator granted the major TV networks five-year licence renewals on May 15, 2017. Then Chair Jean Pierre Blais rejected any licence conditions of "local presence" that might have guarded against cutting on-air staff. 

"These huge media companies were allowed by the CRTC to grow big and eat up smaller companies with the expectation that they would maintain a high level of local news coverage," Unifor Media Director Howard Law said in the same release statement. "This was supposed to end happily for local news, and it has not."

Paul Morris among the layoffs

At least five people have been let go from 97.7 HTZ FM, the St. Catharines, ON Bell Media radio station, as part of nationwide layoffs. While a Bell Media spokesperson would not discuss specifics, among them is show host and music director Paul Morris, who has been with the station for two decades.

“The reductions in St. Catharines were part of a restructuring of local radio and TV at Bell Media stations across the country. I’m not going to get into the specific numbers, but I can say that like other Canadian broadcasters, we are confronting rapid change in the media marketplace including new broadcast technologies and viewing options and fast-growing international competition,” Bell Media spokesperson Matthew Garrow tells the St. Catharines Standard.

The dismissal of the popular radio host and assistant PD at the station has generated strong reaction online, with many showing support for him and as many angry or saddened by Bell Media’s further trimming the ranks of local radio. You can read comments about Morris and HTZ FM on Toronto Mike’s blog, and shuffle through 27 more that appear on Greg Simpson’s Facebook page.

Sony joins bids for 21st Century Fox asset sale

The swirl of takeover talk around 21st Century Fox is only gaining steam as sources confirm Sony Pictures Entertainment has joined the list of companies making overtures to the Murdoch empire. Also in the running to acquire assets are Disney and Comcast. There is speculation that the Murdochs would move to combine the Fox broadcast network and TV stations, Fox News and Fox Sports operations, which are not believed to be part of any sale scenario, and reunite them with the publishing assets held by News Corp.

The Koch brothers want to acquire Time Inc

The right-wing billionaire Koch brothers, David and Charles, are reported to be putting $550m behind Meredith Corp’s revived bid to purchase Time, the media group established by magazine magnate Henry Luce. Time Inc is in the midst of a radical reshaping of its properties, which also include Fortune and Sports Illustrated, as it looks to transform as a digital-platform publisher.

FCC approves Next Gen TV, paves way for targeted ads

The Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 Thursday to allow US TV broadcasters to adopt Next Generation TV technology, an Internet-Protocol-based platform that could open the way for highly targeted television ads. The tech will enable advances such as ultra high-def broadcasts and mobile viewing. But the FCC's move is controversial for a few reasons, including that it will also allow broadcasters to mesh some online data with TV viewing data for ad-targeting purposes.

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