General + Regulatory + Telecom + Media NewsRegulatory, Telecom & Media News - Bell Media lays off 27 in...

Regulatory, Telecom & Media News – Bell Media lays off 27 in Toronto, reclassifies another 22 jobs

Unifor says Bell Media has announced the layoff of 27 staff and reclassified another 22 jobs at its Queen Street location in Toronto. The union told Broadcast Dialogue that details of how the layoffs will “shake out” and whether they will extend to other bureaus is the subject of ongoing talks. This is the fourth round of layoffs at Bell Media this calendar year after successive restructuring at the executive level and middle management in January, followed by job losses in sales, administration and news, among other positions. In February, newly-named Bell Media President Wade Oosterman signalled to employees in a memo that restructuring had been “completed.” A Bell Media spokesperson said while the company is not commenting on specifics, “any changes we make reflect our focus on making Bell Media more responsive to the needs of audiences, advertisers and content creators, including embracing digital technologies that enhance our agility and cost efficiency.” Bell said most employees will have the opportunity to apply for redefined roles and other available positions within the company. Read more here.

CRTCThe CRTC has denied a request from the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) to waive conditions of licence and regulations relating to broadcaster expenditures for the 2019-20 broadcast year. The CAB made the application in July of last year, requesting immediate regulatory relief related to expenditure and exhibition requirements for private broadcasters amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The commission is instead implementing an extended payment approach that grants the large ownership groups a three-year period, until Aug. 31, 2023 (the end of the 2022-23 broadcast year) to pay shortfalls relating to CPE and PNI expenditures (including shortfalls relating to required expenditures on independent production and original French-language programming) incurred as of Aug. 31, 2020. With the exception of locally reflective news, the commission is also giving television broadcasters 10% flexibility in regard to CPE and PNI under-expenditures until the end of their respective extended payment periods. For the radio sector, the commission is deferring payment of shortfalls over two broadcast years (2021-22 and 2022-23), incremental to any existing annual CCD regulatory contribution requirements, with 50% of the total shortfall incurred to be paid in each of those broadcast years.

A Federal Court judge has ordered three pirate TV providers to pay more than $29 million in damages to Bell, Rogers and TVA, who submitted that pre-loaded set-top boxes and internet protocol television (IPTV) have been undercutting paid access to their content. The defendants, INL3D, Morcor, Ottawa Tek and its sole director, Raheel Rafiq, were found to have deliberately encouraged consumers to bypass legitimate ways of accessing content by promoting free access to hundreds of programs. Granting a permanent injunction against the defendants, the judgement awards the broadcasters statutory damages in the amount of $29,300,000, as well as punitive damages in the amount of $300,000 and a lump-sum amount of $75,000 for costs. Read more here.

The CRTC has set a hearing date for Nov. 22 to consider Rogers Communications’ application to acquire Shaw Communications and take over its 16 broadcasting distribution undertakings (BDUs) in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, direct-to-home (DTH) satellite undertaking Shaw Direct, satellite relay distribution undertaking (SRDU) Shaw Broadcast Services, and Shaw Pay-Per-View. Considering the size and scope of the proposed $26 billion transaction, the commission will consider whether the acquisition is in the public interest, how it will affect current customers, and in particular, will scrutinize Rogers’ strategy to migrate Shaw customers. The deadline for submission of interventions and comments is Sept. 13. The federal Competition Bureau has its own investigation underway, while the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology (INDU) is also studying the proposed transaction. Read more here.

Ontario Big City Mayors (OBCM) have passed a resolution looking to the federal government to review the recent decision by the CRTC to rescind its 2019 wholesale rates decision that would have compelled big telecoms to offer smaller competitors more affordable rates to access their networks. Chatham-Kent Mayor Darrin Canniff says COVID-19 “has underlined the fact that broadband internet for all citizens is a basic necessity and essential utility, and access does not simply refer to broadband infrastructure availability, but also to its affordability.” OBCM is comprised of mayors of Ontario’s largest cities and collectively represents nearly 70% of Ontario’s population.

The Ontario Association of Broadcasters (OAB) has decided to move forward with a virtual conference, Nov. 3-4. Continuing on the success of its 2020 webinar sessions, OAB says the event will allow more staff to be able participate without additional travel costs. Sessions this year will encompass Sales Training, Promotions, News, Imaging, Talent Panel, and Effective Social Media, among other topics.

The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) is condemning the arrest of a photojournalist by RCMP at the Fairy Creek watershed on Vancouver Island, just days after a B.C. Supreme Court judge ordered police not to interfere with media access absent a bona fide operational reason for doing so. RCMP arrested photojournalist Colin Smith, who was covering ongoing demonstrations for Victoria Buzz. Despite Smith having identified himself as media, officers seized his backpack, drone, and two professional grade cameras, and detained him in the back of a police van. Police later decided not to proceed with charges. The CAJ says the arrest is the latest example of the spirit of the judge’s order not being respected by RCMP, with several reporters contacting the association to report that mounties are still deterring photographers and requiring journalists to stay far away from where police are arresting protestors. 

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