In this week’s issue… Bell cuts go painfully deep – More details on the big Seven Mountains/Sound deal – Veteran NYC PD steps down – Gray adds another TV market
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*Because CANADA has ventured deeper into media consolidation than the US, and because Bell Media is the biggest consolidator north of the border, any time Bell makes big cuts, the entire Canadian broadcast industry feels it.
So when Bell’s slow-rolling series of cuts made its way down the food chain to local on-air staffers last week, it ended up being an especially bad week for local radio in many Canadian markets.
The worst of the pain – assuming we’ve even seen the worst of it yet – was at Bell’s AM news-talk stations, especially Montreal’s CJAD (800). Just weeks after marking its 75th anniversary, much of what made CJAD so special was gutted, an especially harsh blow considering how important the CJAD news and talk operation has been to the minority of Montrealers who are English-speaking.
For decades, the CJAD newsroom was the dominant source of local radio news in Anglo Quebec, holding its own against, or even beating, the CBC. But with one swing of the budget axe, it’s effectively gone, with just a handful of anchors reading material from wire services or reports from Bell’s local CTV newsroom across the street at CFCF-TV (Channel 12). (And it’s no knock on CTV Montreal to point out that it’s but a small fraction of the operation it used to be in the days when its local “Pulse” newscasts owned the market, or that TV news on the radio never, ever really works right.)
During the day on weekdays, CJAD’s talk shows survive mostly intact, but it’s a different story at night and on weekends. Jon Pole’s 8 PM “Nightside” show and Dr. Laurie Betito’s 10 PM “Passion” show are gone, though Betito says she’ll remain as a CJAD contributor for relationship talk, and weekends appear to be a mix of syndicated content, “best-of” shows and paid programming now.
There were cutbacks on the TV side, too: CTV Montreal no longer has a dedicated reporter covering the provincial capital in Quebec City, instead just sending reporters on the long trip from Montreal as needed, essentially surrendering detailed Quebec City coverage to CBC.
*It wasn’t just Montreal, of course: within days after the CJAD cuts, similar cutbacks hit at CFRB (Newstalk 1010) in Toronto. Barb DiGiulio’s “Nightside” talk show on weeknights is gone, as is veteran Ted Woloshyn’s weekend talk, again replaced by national shows and best-ofs. While the CFRB newsroom wasn’t the only one in commercial English radio in Toronto – there’s Corus’ Global News Radio (CFMJ 640) and Rogers’ 680 News (CFTR) – it was a major one, and now it’s been eviscerated, losing news director Kym Geddes and at least four reporters and anchors.
Dave Agar, the longtime CFRB newsman who retired in 2015, was incensed enough by the cuts that he asked Bell to remove his name from the “Dave Agar Newsroom” that had been dedicated to him when he stepped down.
“It was an extraordinary honour. It is no longer,” Agar tweeted.
Some of the remaining programming on CFRB is less local, too: another Agar, talk host Jerry Agar, is now being simulcast on other Bell stations including CKTB (610) across the lake in St. Catharines. CKTB lost at least two people from its newsroom to the cuts, while there were also cuts to news and talk staff at CKLW (800) in Windsor and other Bell news-talkers. At CKLW, those cuts included sports director Steve Bell, who had a remarkable 41-year run at the station – and never had the chance to say goodbye on the air.
On the TV side in Toronto, the cuts included several CTV assignment editors and producers, as well as two prominent weather personalities, Anwar Knight and Tom Brown.
And the cuts went deeper than just the news and talk stations: the TSN sports operation lost personnel on both TV and radio, including “Jay and Dan” host Dan O’Toole. We’re still getting more details on the cuts at music stations, which include Cash Connors, morning co-host at Kitchener’s CFCA (Virgin Radio 105.3) and Lynzee Barnett, afternoon host at London’s CJBX (Pure Country 93).
(Steve Faguy, as ever, has as comprehensive a detailed list of casualties as there is, at least so long as Bell won’t publicly announce the changes it’s made.)
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