‘Pissed off’ Trudeau calls Bell Media layoffs a ‘garbage decision’

By Michael Talbot

While announcing a new $3.1 billion health-care funding deal with Ontario on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the country’s ailing media industry, calling Thursday’s mass layoffs by Bell Media a “garbage decision” that he claims is eroding journalism and democracy in Canada.

“I’m furious,” a seething Trudeau said when asked about the layoffs, which will see some CTV newscasts cancelled and dozens of radio stations either sold or shuttered.

“That’s a significant divestiture. It’s because it’s not a viable business anymore,” said Bell chief legal and regulatory officer Robert Malcolmson in an interview with The Canadian Press on Thursday.

“We will continue to operate ones that are viable, but this is a business that is going in the wrong direction.”

Trudeau wasn’t buying it, blasting Bell, and other corporate entities, for using, and then abandoning journalists and their local audiences.

“We’ve seen over the past years journalistic outlets, radio stations, small community newspapers bought up by corporate entities, who then lay off journalists, change the quality of offering to people and then when people don’t watch as much or engage as much, the corporate entity says ‘Oh see, they’re not profitable anymore, we’re going to sell them off.'”

“This is the erosion, not just of journalism, of quality local journalism at a time when people need it more than ever given misinformation and disinformation, but it’s eroding our very democracy.”

“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 in various ways.”

The Bell Media layoffs came after the telecom and media giant was granted more than $40 million in annual regulatory relief — a fact that infuriated Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge who said Bell broke its promise to invest the relief cash into news.

“They are not going bankrupt. They’re still making billions of dollars. They’re still a very profitable company,” St-Onge said Thursday on Parliament Hill.

“And they still have the capacity and the means to hold their end of the bargain, which is to deliver news reports.”

Trudeau hinted that his government would address the situation with corporations, but didn’t provide specifics.

“Canadians need to demand better, as we will be demanding better from corporate leaders like in this case, Bell, that are eroding Canadians’ ability to know each other, to trust each other and to trust in the country and the future we are building together.”

“So yeah I’m pretty pissed off about what’s just happened.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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