“It’s a garbage decision from a corporation that should know better,” Trudeau said at a health care press conference in the Greater Toronto Area.
“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,” he continued.
“So, yes, I’m pretty pissed off about what’s just happened.”
Trudeau added: “This is an erosion of not just 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.”
In Bell’s latest round of cuts, the company laid off or plans to eliminate about 4,800 roles and sold off 45 local radio station, mostly in B.C.
The company also ended 24 local newscasts, representing 90 hours of weekly local news at most of their CTV stations. This includes noon-hour newscasts in all their markets but Toronto.
Weekend evening and late night newscasts are also done everywhere CTV broadcasts outside Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa.
Bell executives blamed the federal government for taking too long to provide relief for media companies seeing their advertising dry up as well as the CRTC for being too slow to react to a “crisis that is immediate.”
Bell pointed to two pieces of federal legislation that Ottawa had billed as meant to help Canada’s struggling media sector: Bill C-18, also known as the Online News Act, meant to force tech giants to compensate Canadian news outlets for their content; and Bill C-11, which updates the Broadcasting Act to require digital platforms such as Netflix, YouTube and TikTok to contribute and promote Canadian content.
When asked about federal support for media companies like Bell, Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge said that these companies need to uphold their end of the bargain Thursday.
“At some point, companies also have to chip in. And again, they are not going bankrupt. They’re still making billions of dollars. There’s still that very profitable company, and they still have the capacity. And that means to hold their end of the bargain, which is to deliver, news reports,” St. Onge said Thursday.
Speaking in French during question period on Thursday, St-Onge said that Bell has been offered $40 million in support annually, but will not receive any more public money.
Media companies have been struggling with declining advertising revenue for some time in Canada, and various federal programs have been introduced to bolster budgets.
Trudeau says this is not the government trying to “buy off journalists” but support the profession and the service it provides.
— with files from The Canadian Press.
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