Image courtesy of Bell Media.
Image courtesy of Bell Media.

Media Beat: August 18, 2022

Bell Media Flames LaFlamme

It was and is always about money.

The die was cast in 2006 when Bell Globemedia acquired CHUM Limited for $1.7B and started rationalizing the purchase by cutting overheads, staff and everything that gave the brand its distinctive flair.

Lisa LaFlamme was given the corporate push because she represented a seven-figure item on the company’s ledger sheet, and perhaps because she was over 50 and media companies are hungry for younger viewers. Her grey hair and old-school delivery of news were perhaps perceived as ‘old school.'

But that reassuring voice, calmness in the face of tragic circumstances that populate and plague newscasts today, was what made her loveable, insoluble and, most of all, credible.

She made the iodine on the wound of an endless stream of unpalatable daily news digestible.

Her passing, read firing, marks the end of an era of old-style news anchors. What we have now is a cast of disposable anchors who preach to the boardrooms and read what is put in front of them. Oh, it’s not that they don’t have fresh ideas or scruples, because I’m sure they do. But to the viewer, they project a look that is quaffed, manufactured, and altogether too pretty.

LaFlamme was the real deal. A humanist who projected herself into the stories of the day, and made pauses where the futility and inhumanity of the news menu made us all pause and shake our heads. She was with us, and she was credible. We believed in her, and believed she was hands-on and respectful of the team that backed her.

It was about the money. Her contract was coming due and the penny pinchers that paid her needed to cut costs–costs that will likely continue to permeate the all-in costs of news gathering.

If you are over 50 and earning a high six or (god forbid) seven-figure salary, start sweating. Today’s media conglomerates aren’t interested in cred, they want ratings and advertising and a double-digit payback.

It’s about the money.

As for Michael Melling, head of CTV News, the fallout from LaFlamme’s high board push points straight to him, if one is to believe the news one reads, hears or watches. But Melling is more lemming than Melling. This decision was made in the cosseted boardroom where men earn many times over what LaFlamme earned, and make decisions that are both prudent and chilling. These are the keepers of our news feeds. The brass-knuckled, stock-sharing, hard-nosed caretakers of Bell Inc’s shareholders.

It's about the money.

Time will tell if this sad news story impacts the company’s fortunes. The news isn’t going to get any better. The Russians, North Koreans, America’s Republicans, droughts, climate change, famine, and one-percenters will continue to disrupt, deceive and corrupt hope. Of that you can be certain.

But old-fashioned values, a modicum of hope, and a cheery face in a growing storm of adversity, well you can’t put a price on that–but somehow Lisa LaFlamme did.

We mourn her loss, but the upside is she walked away with a bulging billfold and the guys upstairs won even though they lost one of the brightest talents in the business of news.

Global and the CBC will pick up some share of lost business, but news was never meant to be a business. It was meant to be something that media moguls subsidized simply because it was the right thing to do.

Odd that is in this day and age, thinking that anyone would do something just because it was the right thing to do.

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