In this week’s issue… Bell flips in Hamilton – CRTC says “no” – Michaels sells in North Country – Clendenin buys in PA – Last day for NY’s 1560?
By SCOTT FYBUSH
What may have been North America’s most aggressive run of broadcast consolidation and job cuts has come to an end, for now.
We may never have a complete list of everyone who lost jobs at Bell Media’s radio and TV stations across Canada; the company isn’t saying, and so it’s up to intrepid reporters including Montreal’s Steve Faguy and the crew at Broadcast Dialogue to try to assemble a list from social media sources and observation.
Until Wednesday, Bell wasn’t even confirming that the cuts were happening – or when they’d end. That’s when a memo emerged from Bell Media president Wade Oosterman announcing that the cuts were “an unfortunate and often high-profile reflection of the change necessary for Bell Media to prevail in a transforming sector that has also been uniquely impacted by COVID-19,” and that they’d come to a close.
Oosterman’s memo said many of the cuts could have been made last year, “if not for the work here at Media and across the company to help get the national Bell team through 2020 intact,” which included federal wage support that presumably kept jobs intact for some period of time.
There’s plenty of corporate-speak – “streamlining the way we work to enhance our efficiency, reduce our costs, and make Bell Media more accessible and easier to deal with for all stakeholders: audiences, creators, technology partners, advertisers and distributors,” as well as at least some acknowledgement of how devastating all those job losses are to the real human beings affected by them.
And the memo came with some additional news: format changes at three of Bell’s AM sports stations that had carried the corporate “TSN Radio” branding. In Vancouver and Winnipeg, CKST (1040) and CFRW (1290) flipped to the “Funny” comedy format Bell already uses on other small AMs, including CHAM (820) in Hamilton; while the format won’t draw big ratings, it’s inexpensive to operate, which means Bell won’t be losing money at those stations.
Because Funny is already on the air in Hamilton, the third TSN station dropping the sports format had to go in a different direction. That’s CKOC (1150), which had flipped to sports from oldies in 2015, serving as the flagship for Tiger-Cats CFL football and Bulldogs minor-league hockey.
CKOC was in an odd position with the format: much of its coverage (if not its official sales market) overlaps with another Bell station, TSN Radio flagship CHUM (1050) from Toronto. The Hamilton TSN signal broke away from the network for several local shows each day, but also spent a lot of time simulcasting with Toronto.
As of Wednesday, that’s all changed – CKOC is now Bell’s second all-business format, using the same “BNN Bloomberg Radio” branding as Vancouver’s CFTE (1410), which itself flipped from sports back in 2018. There’s no local programming on the new “BNN Bloomberg Radio 1150,” as best we can tell, but lots of recycling from Bell’s BNN Bloomberg TV network, which itself draws heavily from the US-based Bloomberg TV channel.
(Where do the Ti-Cats and Bulldogs end up? No announcements have been made yet, but we’d be unsurprised if the football team goes back to its former home, Corus’ CHML 900.)
The TSN Radio format continues at several other Bell markets beyond Toronto, including Ottawa’s CFGO (1200) and Edmonton’s CFRN (1260) – and it continues in one more market where Bell may well have wanted to make bigger changes. (Read on in our subscriber-only content.)
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