Regulatory, Telecom & Media News – Bell Media to launch third-party workplace review

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Bell Media says it will launch an “independent third-party internal workplace review” of its newsroom, in the wake of the public backlash over the termination of CTV Chief Anchor and Senior News Editor Lisa LaFlamme. Bell issued a statement Friday morning, signed by Wade Oosterman, President of Bell Media, and Karine Moses, Senior Vice President, Content Development and News, saying that “CTV regrets that the way in which her departure has been communicated may have left viewers with the wrong impression about how CTV regards Lisa and her remarkable career.” As insinuations abound on social media about the role ageism and sexism may have played in LaFlamme being released from her contract, Bell’s statement follows a memo sent to Bell Media newsroom staff on Thursday in which Moses countered media coverage “filled with false narratives,” clarifying that LaFlamme was given the opportunity for a formal goodbye, but turned it down. She also expressed her support for VP of News Michael Melling. The memo was followed by a town hall at which Melling and Moses were present to answer questions from staff. Read more here.

Lisa LaFlamme’s departure is still making headlines with a North Bay, ON man’s petition to bring the anchor back now at 158,000 signatures. LaFlamme’s predecessor in the Chief Anchor role, Lloyd Robertson, expressed his support for her at a weekend event in Stratford, while LaFlamme’s premature exit from CTV also spurred retired Lieutenant-General and former Senator Romeo Dallaire to chime in about institutional sexism. Dove Canada has also jumped in to capitalize on the perceived role LaFlamme’s move to go grey may have had in her release from the network.

 

CRTCThe CRTC’s newly-released broadcast sector highlights for 2020-21, indicate commercial profitability during the 2021 broadcast year was mostly flat year-over-year. The commission’s analysis says that can be at least partially attributed to COVID-19 subsidies and the broadcasting industry’s move to adapt to downward pressure on revenues, noting that since the start of the pandemic, operating expenses have been reduced across all commercial sectors of the industry. The CRTC says since the start of the pandemic, average traditional radio hours per listeners per week have further declined, while digital media broadcasting undertakings (DMBU) audio services have grown at a compound annual rate of 12.4% since 2013. Listening to traditional radio has decreased over the same period at a compound annual rate of 4.7%. The average time spent watching traditional television services has decreased by a compound annual rate of 2.2% or a total of 16.5% since 2013. Read more here.

 

CRTC Chair Ian Scott

The Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner says it will not initiate an examination into CRTC chair Ian Scott’s alleged bias related to meetings with telecom service providers, according to the commissioner’s report on the matter. It was alleged Scott had several meetings with large telecom providers while they had open and active files before the commission, thereby failing to avoid apparent conflicts of interest in breach of the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector and CRTC practices. One of the meetings cited in the referral took place in an Ottawa pub in Dec. 2019 with Mirko Bibic, who was then Chief Operating Officer of BCE Inc. and Bell Canada and became President and CEO in Jan. 2020. The week before, Bell had filed an application with the CRTC to review and vary a 2019 Telecom Order. Scott was on the CRTC panel that issued the subsequent decision. While Bibic was characterized in a Feb. 2020 article as a friend of Scott’s, the commissioner found Scott and Bibic’s relationship “was not one of friendship within the meaning of the Act since it remained exclusively professional despite both having worked in the same industry for over two decades.”

Diversity Minister Ahmed Hussen has announced that the government has cut the funding it awarded to the Community Media Advocacy Centre (CMAC) to develop an anti-racism strategy for Canadian broadcasting after concerns were raised about a consultant on the project. The project, which was awarded $133,822 by the federal government, has also now been suspended. In April, CMAC launched a series of consultations as part of the project, which aimed to develop an Anti-Racism Strategy that would “reduce barriers to participation in media and broadcasting policy-making for Racialized Canadians.” Consultations have already taken place in Montreal, Vancouver and Halifax. Three more were scheduled to take place in Calgary, Winnipeg and Ottawa over the next few months. However, since the funding was awarded, there have been numerous reports of antisemitic tweets from a Twitter account belonging to Laith Marouf, a senior consultant with CMAC. Read more here.

 

The CRTC has renewed OUTtv’s licence, granting the channel must-offer status in English-language markets. The renewal falls short of OUTtv’s request for must-offer status in both French and English, as well as pricing and packaging terms. Known for its original first-run Canadian LGTBQ2+ programming, OUTtv argued that the terms should apply to all BDUs who serve over 2,000 subscribers to ensure those in smaller markets have access to LGBTQ2+ content. It’s application also argued that in the current market, vertically integrated entities have an advantage because they control the distribution of their programming services themselves, unlike independents like OUTtv that must negotiate their distribution terms with BDUs. CRTC Commissioner Claire Anderson submitted a dissenting opinion, saying while she agrees with the decision to grant “must-offer” status to OUTtv, she believes the channel should be mandatorialy included in cable packages with the highest penetration rates, whereas the decision sets an “expectation.” Read more here.

Unifor Bell Clerical bargaining unit

Bell Clerical workers have ratified a new four-year deal that includes a 3.25% wage increase retroactive to Dec. 1, 2021 and then a 2.5% increase on Dec. 1 each year until 2024. Among the gains for the union are reclassifying temporary employees to permanent status at 24 months instead of 36 months; for over 350 employees, reclassifying from part-time status to full-time status; and securing the teleworking program in a memorandum of agreement. The agreement also means a commitment from Bell to hire 200 new employees and a racial justice advocate – one for each province – with 400 hours paid by the company. Bell Clerical members previously voted in favour of strike action in June. Approximately 4,200 workers in the clerical bargaining unit perform clerical and other duties, and live and work across Ontario and Quebec.

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