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Big Bill defends 4,800 job cuts

Big Bill defends 4,800 job cuts

Bell Canada (BCE) President and CEO Mirko Bebec was harshly criticized by federal lawmakers on Thursday while trying his best to defend the 4,800 layoffs in February.

Asked a lengthy question by elected officials on the Standing Committee on Heritage, Mr. Bebic defended his decision by saying in particular that CTV lost $180 million last year.

The difficult economic context and competition from US digital giants – which are not subject to the same rules as Canadian media, especially regarding content – would explain Bell Media's setbacks.

“We have to force web platforms to contribute. The federal government should invest in traditional Canadian media,” said Mirko Bebek, so the company has already received hundreds of millions from the government.

Despite the cuts, the leader stressed that Bell is doing his part to inform Canadians. “The main goal is to serve the public and the consumer. This is what we do. We produce more and more news, exceeding the regulatory minimum imposed by the CRTC.

A bad quarter of an hour

Those explanations hardly impressed elected officials, who criticized the director's evasive answers or questioned the payment of millions of dollars in bonuses to BCE's top executives, including $2.96 million to Mr. Bebek.

In February, Bell rocked the already fragile Canadian media environment by announcing the layoffs of 4,800 employees across the company, including a 10% stake in the Bell Media subsidiary, as well as the sale of 45 radio stations. These job cuts were in addition to the 1,300 jobs slated for June 2023.

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This announcement caused outrage from the federal government, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau going so far as to speak of a corrupt decision (“rubbish decision,” in English).

Canadian media is going through difficult times. Alongside Bell, several other players were forced to announce major cutbacks, including Groupe TVA and Postmedia, while newspaper Métro closed its doors completely last summer.