“Regulatory Intervention” Cited as Bell Announces Elimination of 1,300 Jobs, Including Media Positions.

Bell, a major Canadian telecommunications company, is set to cut approximately three percent of its workforce, which translates to 1,300 positions, in addition to closing or selling nine radio stations. The move is aimed at adapting the company’s news delivery services and includes a six percent reduction in Bell Media. The company largely attributes the layoffs to unfavourable public policy and regulatory conditions that have made it difficult to operate under multiple brands. Bell Media’s vice president of news, Richard Gray, explained that the company plans to adopt a single newsroom approach to achieve greater efficiency and collaboration. Bell’s media branch, which had operating revenues of $780 million and costs of $648 million in Q1 2023, has reported an adjusted EBITDA of $132 million. The company is also slashing management positions by 20 percent compared to 2020.

In an open letter, Bell Canada president and CEO Mirko Bibic stated that the company is expected to lose over $250 million annually in legacy phone revenues, while its new operations have an annual operating loss of $40 million. Bell’s executive vice president and chief legal regulatory officer Robert Malcolmson explained that the company is consolidating news gathering and delivery and combining news production functions in a horizontal way. Bell will be closing several radio stations, including Funny 1290 in Winnipeg, Funny 1060 in Calgary, TSN 1260 Radio in Edmonton, BNN Bloomberg Radio 1410 and Funny 1040 in Vancouver, NewsTalk 1290 in London, and selling Hamilton’s AM Radio 1150 and AM 820 and Windsor’s AM 580 subject to CRTC approval.

Bell, however, hinted at more layoffs to come and attributed the recent layoffs to relentless regulatory intervention by the CRTC and federal government. The company has a history of threatening to pull investment over unfavourable regulatory intervention and has called for regulatory intervention elsewhere, such as in the ongoing feud over wireless service on the TTC. Moreover, Bell’s Robert Malcolmson has taken issue with the slow pace of Bill C-18 that would require companies like Google and Meta to pay Canadian outlets for news content and Bill C-11 that would force platforms like Netflix and YouTube to contribute some Canadian revenue to Canadian production.

 

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