CTV London cuts back on sports coverage as part of restructuring

CTV London is cutting back on its local sports coverage as part of a larger restructuring at Bell Media.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the company said it has reduced a number of broadcast positions at Bell Media local TV stations in London, Kitchener, and Windsor.

“The restructuring is a response to the challenges we and other Canadian media companies are facing on multiple fronts: changing broadcast technologies and growing international competition, a tough advertising market and ongoing regulatory pressure,” said Bell Media spokesman Matthew Garrow in a statement.

The restructuring means Norman James and Brent Lale will no longer be featured as sports anchors on CTV London and Windsor newscasts.

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No sports segment was broadcast during CTV London’s 6 p.m. newscast on Tuesday.

The layoffs announced in London, Kitchener, and Windsor follow a similar move by CTV in Barrie, where local sports coverage was eliminated earlier this year in favour of the CTV national sports feed.

In a media release, Unifor said the decision highlighted a need for urgent action on “the crisis in media.”

“People turn to local television to keep up on what is happening in their communities,” said Unifor Media Director Howard Law in a statement. “These cuts give people less of a reason to turn to local news. The CRTC is about to grant CTV a new license for local TV programming — they had better be paying attention to this.”

The layoffs are part of larger cuts announced in late January by Bell Media. At the time, the company said it planned to reduce staff at more than two dozen Bell Media locations across the country. The number of jobs that would be affected was not released.

An official with Unifor Local 87-M said Tuesday’s cuts affected four positions in London and Windsor.

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In its release, Unifor stated it would be meeting with CTV officials to discuss the layoffs and “work to negotiate the best deal it can for the workers impacted by these cuts.”

Tuesday’s cuts come nearly a year and a half after 18 employees at Bell Media’s radio and television operations in London and Windsor were let go in November 2015. Those cuts were part of a larger plan by the company to cut 380 positions across the country, 220 of them in production and editorial.

Bell Media employed 6,568 people as of Dec. 31, 2015, down from 7,342 a year prior.

Bell Media’s operating revenue grew 3.6 per cent to $845 million in 2016, though its operating costs rose by 3.9 per cent due to several factors including higher costs for sport broadcast rights, the expansion of The Movie Network, and a rise in expenses from the company’s acquisition of Métromédia, according to the 2016 annual report from BCE Inc., Bell Media’s parent.

“This was mitigated in part by lower labour costs as a result of the 2015 workforce reduction initiative,” the report says.

– With files from The Canadian Press

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