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Bell Canada signage in Ottawa in September, 2022. BCE Inc. is cutting 1,300 positions, around 3 per cent of its work force.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

BCE Inc. BCE-T is eliminating roughly 1,300 positions as part of a significant reorganization, citing declining legacy phone revenues as well as losses in its news and radio operations.

The roles that are being cut are primarily in management, which will be reduced by about 6 per cent, BCE chief executive Mirko Bibic said in an open letter Wednesday. The company will have 20 per cent fewer executive roles than it did in 2020, he added.

Bell Media, a division of BCE, is closing six AM radio stations and selling three others, subject to approval by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

Canadian telecoms have seen their stock prices under pressure recently amid the threat of a looming recession and heightened price competition after Rogers Communications Inc.’s RCI-B-T takeover of Shaw Communications Inc.

Mr. Bibic said BCE’s job cuts are “consistent with but smaller than similar reductions announced by other leading technology and media companies across North America in recent months.”

Tech companies worldwide have cut more than 360,000 jobs over the past 18 months or so, and media companies thousands more, as they seek to reduce costs amid revenue squeezes and an emphasis on bottom-line results rather than profitless growth.

Tech giants such as Inc., Alphabet Inc. and Microsoft Corp. have slashed jobs by the thousands as they focus on their most profitable lines of business. In Canada, big companies such as Shopify Inc. have made major cuts, while a slew of smaller players have also culled staff to boost results.

Last month, BCE reported a 15.6-per-cent drop in its profit for the first quarter ended March 31 compared with the same period a year earlier, while its revenue rose by 3.5 per cent to $6.05-billion.

Operating revenue in its media division declined by 5.5 per cent to $780-million, as advertisers pulled back amid unfavourable economic conditions.

Mr. Bibic said on Wednesday that while BCE will continue to invest in key growth areas, the company needs to align its cost structures to the revenue potential of each of its business segments.

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BCE’s Bell Canada subsidiary expects to lose more than $250-million each year in legacy phone revenues, Mr. Bibic said. Meanwhile, Bell Media’s news operations are incurring annual operating losses of $40-million and the profitability of its radio business has been slashed in half since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, he added.

“These are three examples, but they show that to succeed in today’s challenging economic, regulatory and competitive environment and be ready for what comes next, we need to accelerate our shift away from how telecom and media companies have operated in the past,” Mr. Bibic said.

As part of its reorganization, BCE will move to a “single newsroom approach across all brands” in order to make its newsgathering operations more efficient and cost effective, Richard Gray, vice-president of news, said in a memo to his team.

“We and our industry continue to be greatly impacted by a number of challenges including operating losses across all news divisions, the current economic downturn, inflation, a prolonged advertising slump with no signs of immediate recovery and a more challenging regulatory environment that has not adapted to new realities facing media,” Mr. Gray said.

In a separate memo, Bell Media president Wade Oosterman blamed the cuts on “major disruption” to the industry due to a combination of customer cord cutting and the shift of advertising revenue to foreign digital platforms.

“Creating and obtaining the content audiences want has never been more important, but it also has never been more expensive,” Mr. Oosterman said.

Bell Media will also be shuttering its foreign bureaus in London and Los Angeles and scaling back its Washington bureau. At the same time, the company says it will be expanding its Canadian coverage, adding new videographers in St. John’s, Charlottetown, Fredericton and Regina.

Bell Media owns CTV, TSN, CP24 and a number of specialty TV news and radio channels.

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Jill Macyshon, CTV’s Manitoba bureau chief, lamented the news on Twitter, writing that “amazingly talented friends and colleagues are losing their jobs today … We were all waiting for the next shoe to drop. It slammed down.”

The six AM radio stations that the company is shutting down are:

  • Funny 1290 in Winnipeg
  • Funny 1060 in Calgary
  • TSN 1260 Radio in Edmonton
  • BNN Bloomberg Radio 1410 in Vancouver
  • Funny 1040 in Vancouver
  • NewsTalk 1290 in London, Ont.

BCE is also planning to sell AM Radio 1150 and AM 820, both in Hamilton, and AM 580 in Windsor, Ont., to a third party.

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