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Trudeau says he's furious over Bell Media layoffs, calling it a 'garbage decision'

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau trash-talked BCE Inc.'s widespread layoffs Friday, calling cuts to Bell Media a "garbage decision."

"I'm furious," Trudeau told reporters at a press conference in King City, Ont.

Bell Media said Thursday it is ending multiple television newscasts and making other programming cuts after its parent company announced job reductions and the sale of 45 of its 103 regional radio stations.

Trudeau said the company should know better.

He said radio stations and small community newspapers are increasingly being bought up by large corporations that lay off journalists and change the quality of their offerings.

"Then, when people don't watch as much or engage as much the corporate entity say, 'Oh see, they're not profitable anymore, we're going to sell them off."'

Bell Media's advertising revenues declined by $140 million in 2023 compared with the year before, and its news division is seeing more than $40 million in annual operating losses, chief executive Mirko Bibic said.

The prime minister said the move is eroding quality local journalism and Canada's democracy.

Stories from local communities are what binds the country together, he said.

"We need those local voices, and over the past years corporate Canada -- and there are many culprits on this -- have abdicated their responsibilities toward the communities that they have always made very good profits off of," Trudeau said.

"So yeah, I'm pretty pissed off."

The company says less than 10 per cent of its 4,800 eliminated positions would come from Bell Media, which includes both news and entertainment teams. As part of the shakeup, it said "multi-skilled journalists" would replace news correspondent and technician teams in some provinces.

An associate journalism professor said the layoffs will lead to further deterioration of local newsrooms and journalism that is less contextual.

Journalists are increasingly being tasked with doing more despite fewer resources, said Concordia University's Magda Konieczna.

This can lead to stories that aren't as deep as viewers expect, due to reporters having to divide their attention between filing content that feeds multiple platforms, said Konieczna, who researches local news.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 9, 2024

CTV News is a division of Bell Media, which is part of BCE Inc.

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