As Bell Media continues a sweeping shakeup, shedding hundreds of jobs, one of the country’s longest-running sports programs is going off the air.
Off the Record, a popular daily half-hour talk show, will soon end its run on TSN after 18 years. Officially, OTR is “evolving,” with host Michael Landsberg staying on to produce shorter segments to be aired during the network’s nightly highlights show SportsCentre and online starting in the new year.
Many of Mr. Landsberg’s Bell Media colleagues are less fortunate, as the week began with two days of deep job cuts that affected both unionized and non-union staff. Since late August, the company has undertaken a major restructuring in multiple waves, pushing long-serving staff – from executives and vice-presidents on down to rank-and-file employees – out the door.
Bell notified the federal government in early November that it planned to cut 380 jobs – 270 in Toronto and 110 in Montreal – and there have been further cuts in other offices and bureaus from Ottawa to Vancouver.
Mary Ann Turcke, Bell Media’s president, told staff in a memo on Monday that the cuts are needed as “our industry is evolving quickly, and our company must do so as well.” George Cope, the president and chief executive officer of BCE Inc., Bell’s parent company, has said the restructuring “is really the result” of new rules – set by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) after last year’s Let’s Talk TV ruling – that are gradually coming into force.
Earlier this year, with television advertising revenue under pressure, Rogers Media announced it would cut 110 jobs as it pared back its Omni stations, while Shaw Media cut at least 30 jobs as it consolidated its news production.
Some of the more high-profile staff who were ousted this week include CTV News Ottawa co-anchor Carol Anne Meehan and sports reporter Carolyn Waldo; CTV News Channel anchor Amanda Blitz; CTV News Vancouver reporter Peter Grainger; TSN reporter Sheri Forde; CFRB-Newstalk 1010 personality Mike Toth; and TSN Radio senior producer Todd Hayes and co-host David Bastl.
Yet many of the cuts targeted staff behind the scenes, including veteran CTV assignment editor Dave Biro. Camera and truck operators, sound technicians, finance staff, receptionists and producers all lost jobs this week.
The company’s powerhouse sports network, TSN, was hit hard on Tuesday, according to sources, though the precise number of jobs lost is unclear. The channel has long been one of Bell Media’s flagship enterprises but has seen its advantage over rival Sportsnet slip away since Rogers Communications Inc. snatched away the bulk of the National Hockey League broadcast rights in a $5.2-billion deal reached in 2013.
In 2014, TSN made $103.5-million in pretax profit on revenue of $452.2-million, according to CRTC figures. But those results included part of a season of hockey rights the company no longer has – the loss of which will lower the network’s revenue as well as its costs, even as it still airs some hockey games regionally.
Sources said there were dozens of job losses at CTV’s national and local news stations. A Bell Media spokesman declined to comment, but confirmed there were layoffs at the company’s suburban Toronto studios, which are home to CTV News and TSN, on Tuesday.
A member of Unifor Local 723M, which represents some Bell Media staff, said 53 of his fellow members lost jobs on Monday.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified David Bastl as a producer. He was in fact a radio co-host.Report Typo/Error