Michael Melling, CTV’s Vice President of News, is on leave effective immediately, according to a memo that went out to Bell Media employees late Friday.
Since the unceremonious departure of CTV National News Chief Anchor and Senior Editor Lisa LaFlamme from the network two weeks ago, Melling has been the favoured target of relentless public backlash to the move, in part for suggestions that he questioned LaFlamme’s decision to go grey (although that predates his ascension to his current role in January).
“His decision reflects our shared desire to support the newsroom and do what’s best to help the team move past the current circumstances to focus on delivering the stories that matter to Canadians,” wrote Karine Moses, Bell’s Senior Vice President, Content Development and News, in the communique to employees obtained by Broadcast Dialogue.
Melling’s case wasn’t helped by a letter sent to company executives earlier in the week, on behalf of a number of CTV journalists, stating that both their confidence in his leadership and morale have suffered since he succeeded Wendy Freeman in the VP of News role.
Richard Gray, currently Regional GM, Eastern Region, will step in as Acting VP of News, taking interim responsibility for news, information and current events programming, according to the memo.
‘Bell Media needs to adapt or be left behind’: Bibic
Mirko Bibic, President & CEO of BCE and Bell Canada, has broken his silence on the matter, writing in a LinkedIn post on Friday evening that it’s “time for you to hear directly from me on all that has gone on at Bell Media over the last two weeks.”
“There is certainly no denying that Lisa LaFlamme has made an important contribution to Canadian news for three decades. Since Bell Media’s decision to end her contract, there has been heavy criticism. The narrative has been that Lisa’s age, gender or grey hair played into the decision. I am satisfied that this is not the case and wanted to make sure you heard it from me. While I would like to say more on the Bell Media decision, we are bound by a mutual separation agreement negotiated with Lisa, which we will continue to honour,” wrote Bibic.
“Broadcasting in Canada is undergoing massive change and Bell Media needs to adapt or be left behind. We are at a crossroads where viewing behaviours have changed dramatically and traditional broadcasting is under severe stress worldwide. In an environment of declining ratings and global online platforms, we can’t keep relying on traditional broadcasting. The days when viewers wait until 11 PM to get their news are gone. While some may resist change, it is necessary and we need to confront this. The CTV national news team needs to work on an integrated and aligned basis, dedicated to a common strategy and Bell Media needs to provide our journalists with the resources they need on all platforms where news is consumed,” he continued.
Bibic clarified in the post that Melling will remain on leave, pending the outcome of a third-party workplace review first announced on Aug. 19.
“To address concerns raised regarding the working environment in the newsroom we have begun an independent review involving confidential interviews with all newsroom employees who choose to participate. Any necessary changes that become evident will be implemented swiftly to ensure a respectful, unified workplace.”
Just last week, Moses issued another memo to employees expressing her support for Melling, calling him “a dynamic presence at CTV” and “instrumental in developing our multi-platform approach, paving the way for the future of news in Canada.”
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