CTV parent company Bell Media will be launching an independent review of the network’s newsroom, following an internal town hall meeting where employees complained of low morale and pushed executives to explain why top anchor Lisa LaFlamme had been dismissed.
The company announced the review on Friday in a press release from Bell Media president Wade Oosterman and Karine Moses, the company’s senior vice-president of content development and news. The release also addresses concerns about the company’s handling of Ms. LaFlamme’s ouster. CTV, it says, “regrets that the way in which the news of her departure has been communicated may have left viewers with the wrong impression about how CTV regards Lisa and her remarkable career.”
Ms. LaFlamme’s unexpected removal, which she announced in a video she posted to Twitter on Monday, has been met with an angry reaction from CTV employees and many social media users, some of whom have speculated that ageism and sexism played roles in the decision.
“We knew that many viewers and members of the CTV family would be disappointed that Lisa LaFlamme would be leaving her position as Chief News Anchor and Senior Editor,” the release says. “She has made an important contribution to Canadian television news over the past 35 years.”
The Globe and Mail obtained a recording of Thursday’s town hall with CTV News employees. During the meeting, Ms. Moses refused to give specific reasons for Ms. LaFlamme’s removal. But she did acknowledge that it had been a mistake to immediately announce national affairs correspondent Omar Sachedina as Ms. LaFlamme’s replacement, causing some viewers to direct their anger at him. In response to employee questions, Ms. Moses denied that sexism or ageism had played any role in Ms. LaFlamme’s removal.
The Globe reported Thursday that Michael Melling, who became head of CTV News earlier this year, had raised questions about Ms. LaFlamme’s on-camera appearance, asking who had approved a decision to “let Lisa’s hair go grey.”
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In the video she posted to Twitter on Monday, which has now been viewed 4.4 million times, Ms. LaFlamme said that, on June 29, she was told that Bell Media had made a “business decision” to terminate her contract. She also said she had been asked to stay quiet until the details of her departure were finalized.
The third-party review of the CTV newsroom will take place in the coming weeks, the Friday press release says. It notes that Bell Media is committed to creating a respectful workplace, “devoid of any toxic behaviour.”
The Globe spoke to five current CTV employees, two of whom confirmed that staff received a copy of the press release about 15 minutes before it was made public, but added that they had not received additional details. The Globe is not naming the employees because because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
Bell Media did not respond to requests for further details about the review.
Four of the CTV employees who spoke to The Globe said they believe the review will be used to cast blame unfairly on Ms. LaFlamme and CTV National News’s executive producer, Rosa Hwang – and away from the executives who chose to turf Ms. LaFlamme. (Ms. Hwang did not respond to a request for comment.) The employees also noted that they see the review as a public-relations exercise for the company.
In an internal memo, which was sent to Bell Media staff prior to the town hall on Thursday, Ms. Moses took aim at external news coverage of Ms. LaFlamme’s removal, referring to “false narratives” and “misinformation.”
In the memo, Ms. Moses also wrote that accusations that Ms. LaFlamme was not given the opportunity to come back to the CTV studio and have her career “appropriately celebrated” were false.
“She opted to not say goodbye to the public during a CTV National newscast. While I wish things had been different, I also respect her decision,” Ms. Moses wrote.
Bell Media did not respond to questions about whether Ms. LaFlamme would have been permitted to speak freely about the circumstances of her departure during such a sign off. Ms. LaFlamme directed The Globe to the video she posted on Twitter earlier this week.
Ms. LaFlamme’s predecessor as anchor, Lloyd Robertson, retired in 2011 at age 77 with a final newscast that included a farewell speech and a photomontage of his career. Ms. LaFlamme is 58.
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