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Bell Canada to Cut 9% of Staff, Offload 45 Radio Stations

Bell Canada today announced its plans to cut nine percent of its workforce and sell 45 of its 103 regional radio stations across the country.

An open letter from CEO Mirko Bibic on Feb. 8 revealed that 4,800 jobs “at all levels of the company” would be cut as part of a company restructuring effort. The workforce reduction, the largest in nearly 30 years, will occur over the “coming weeks,” according to Bell’s latest quarterly report.

“Restructuring decisions are incredibly tough for all of us because it affects the people we work with and care about,” Mr. Bibic wrote. “Wherever possible, we are using vacancies and natural attrition to minimize the impact on our team.”

The company has not said how many of the job cuts would be at Bell Media specifically, but a company executive told The Canadian Press the size of Bell’s executive team has been reduced in recent years and executive salaries remain frozen.

“We have a duty both to our shareholders and to our employees to make sure we manage the business in a rational way,” Bell chief legal and regulatory officer Robert Malcolmson said.

Today’s announcement marks the second major layoff at the media and telecommunications firm since last spring, when six percent of Bell Media jobs were eliminated and nine radio stations were either shuttered or sold.

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In an internal memo obtained by The Canadian Press, Bell Media president Sean Cohan said the firm planned to divest 45 radio stations to seven buyers: Vista Radio, Whiteoaks, Durham Radio, My Broadcasting Corp., ZoomerMedia, Arsenal Media and Maritime Broadcasting. The sales are subject to approval by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

The affected stations are in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada.

The newly-announced changes are a response to a “difficult economy” and government and regulatory decisions that “undermine” investment in Bell networks while failing to “level the playing field with global tech giants,” Mr. Bibic said.

“Of particular concern is a recent decision by the CRTC forcing Bell to provide third party resellers access to our high-speed fibre network before we have even had an opportunity to recoup our multi-billion dollar investment,” he wrote. “As I’ve shared before, at Bell Canada every year we can expect to lose over $250 million in legacy phone revenues.”

Mr. Bibic said Bell’s advertising revenue dipped $140 million in 2023 compared to 2022 revenues, and the company’s news operations sustain $40 million in losses each year, “despite having the most-watched network of local TV stations.”

Bell said it could also further scale back network investments on its telecom side because it remains at odds with the CRTC over what the company calls “predetermined” regulatory direction.

The Canadian Press contributed to this report.

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