CTV, CRTC exacerbated conditions that led to cuts, Unifor media director said
Two sportscasters among layoffs that might eliminate Toronto’s local sports coverage on CTV,
Longtime sportscasters Lance Brown and Joe Tilley are among the casualties of Bell Media’s latest round of job cuts — as is all regular local sports coverage by CTV News Toronto, according to the union representing the company’s workers.
The two anchors were among several on-air broadcasters named in a statement by Unifor, the union representing workers at 17 local CTV stations. Brown has been a sports anchor for CTV News Toronto since 1985 and, until his layoff, was also the station’s sports director. Joe Tilley has been with CTV News Toronto’s sports department since 1984.
The union also said in its statement Monday that BNN host Michael Kane had also been laid off.
According to Unifor, roughly 30 unionized positions were eliminated last week. These include technical staff — such as field camera operators and studio technicians — as well as anchors and reporters.
Howard Law, director of Unifor’s media sector, estimated that another 10 to 20 non-unionized jobs have also been cut, bringing the total number of laidoff workers to around 50.
The union also said that local sports coverage will be off-air in Toronto by Dec. 27 — a move it said has been previously made in cuts to local sports coverage at CTV stations in Edmonton, Calgary and Montreal.
“CTV has decided ‘no more local sports,’ ” Law said. “Bell will give you national sports. They’ll feed you pool pickups of TSN stuff now, but they’ve just decided that local sports is going to go.”
Bell Media spokesperson Matthew Garrow said the company wouldn’t be eliminating local sports coverage from its newscasts.
“We will continue to cover sports,” Garrow wrote in an email statement to the Star on Monday afternoon.
He said an unspecified number of employees across a variety of departments, including local news and radio, were told last week their jobs would end due to a reorganization designed in part to address declines in advertising revenue.
“We need to reorganize and reduce costs to manage the impact,” he said.
Garrow also confirmed the company is “phasing out” certain sportscasters and anchors due to “evolving viewer behaviour,” although he did not provide specifics. But Garrow wouldn’t confirm whether any of those named by the union — including Lance Brown and Joe Tilley — had lost their jobs.
Law blamed not only CTV, but also the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, for exacerbating conditions that led to the layoffs.
He said the CRTC requires major broadcasters such as CTV to adhere to certain conditions — such as a minimum quota of Canadian content per week — to receive a broadcast licence.
He said the union wants the CRTC to consider factors such as the number of staff at a local station, as well as how these stations cover their communities — something he called “local presence.” These aren’t mandatory conditions for a broadcast licence, Law claimed.
“That’s where we hold them responsible, because that allows them to . . . consolidate, to cut staff,” he said.
However, Bell said it is in the process of hiring 40 “digital media specialists,” such as software developers and systems engineers, to support the company’s other media services such as CraveTV, iHeartRadio, and TV Everywhere.