Bell Media news executive to take leave after Lisa LaFlamme’s departure

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Bell Media executive Michael Melling taking leave after Lisa LaFlamme’s departure
Bell Media’s vice president of news Michael Melling will be taking leave from the company following the exit of Lisa LaFlamme, according to an internal memo obtained by Global News. Quinn Ohler has more on this latest development – Aug 27, 2022

Bell Media’s vice president of news Michael Melling will be taking leave from the company following the exit of Lisa LaFlamme, an internal memo obtained by Global News says.

In the memo, Karine Moses, senior vice president of content development and news, said Melling “has decided to leave from his current role effective immediately to spend time with his family.”

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“His decision reflects our shared desire to support the newsroom and do what’s best to help the team move past the current circumstances to focus on delivering the stories that matter to Canadians,” the memo read.

Following the internal memo, Mirko Bibic, President and Chief Executive Officer of BCE and Bell Canada, released a statement online indicating Melling’s leave wasn’t voluntary.

“Michael is on leave effective immediately, pending the outcome of the workplace review that is proceeding,” he said.

“To address concerns raised regarding the working environment in the newsroom we have begun an independent review involving confidential interviews with all newsroom employees who choose to participate. Any necessary changes that become evident will be implemented swiftly to ensure a respectful, unified workplace.”

Melling, the former general manager of CTV News Toronto, CP24 and BNN Bloomberg, joined Bell Media in 2003.

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The news comes just weeks after LaFlamme, the long-time anchor of CTV National News, announced she would be leaving the network. Bell Media said at the time the move was a “business decision.”

Moses said Richard Grey, who is currently the regional general manager of the network’s eastern region, will step in as acting VP of news.

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“Working with Richard, we will keep the team updated on next steps as we move forward,” she said.

“I want to thank everyone for your ongoing focus over the past two weeks to deliver the important stories Canadians rely on from this strong team.”

LaFlamme said she was “blindsided” when she saw her contract end after 35 years.

Though announced on Aug. 15, she was informed of the move on June 29.

In a video on social media, LaFlamme thanked viewers and colleagues for their “unwavering support,” acknowledging it would likely be her official sign-off from CTV.

Moses, who announced Melling’s leave, previously said LaFlamme rejected the opportunity to say goodbye on air.

“At 58, I still thought I’d have a lot more time to tell more of the stories that impact our daily lives,” she said in the video.

“Instead, I leave CTV humbled by the people who put their faith in me to tell their story.”

Bibic also commented on LaFlamme’s departure in his statement saying “there is certainly no denying that Lisa LaFlamme has made an important contribution to Canadian news for three decades.”

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“The narrative has been that Lisa’s age, gender or grey hair played into the decision. I am satisfied that this is not the case and wanted to make sure you heard it from me,” Bibic’s statement read.

“While I would like to say more on the Bell Media decision, we are bound by a mutual separation agreement negotiated with Lisa, which we will continue to honour.”

Bibic said broadcasting in Canada is changing, noting “Bell Media needs to adapt or be left behind.”

“In an environment of declining ratings and global online platforms, we can’t keep relying on traditional broadcasting,” he said. “While some may resist change, it is necessary and we need to confront this.”

Bell Media has said Omar Sachedina will replace LaFlamme. He will move into the role on Sept. 5.

He joined the network in 2009 and is currently the CTV News national affairs correspondent.

Amid criticism following LaFlamme’s exit, Bell Media announced it would launch a workplace review conducted by an independent party in the coming weeks.

On Aug. 19, the company said it “regrets” the way it handled LaFlamme’s departure, in a statement, noting it “may have left viewers with the wrong impression.”

“In a news organization, making a change at the anchor desk is always a difficult decision. We knew that many viewers and members of the CTV family would be disappointed that Lisa LaFlamme would be leaving her position,” Bell Media’s statement said.

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The dismissal has since raised questions among those who observe the media about whether sexism and ageism were involved.

Companies including Wendy’s have taken to social media to show support for LaFlamme.

The fast-food chain changed its profile picture on its Canadian Twitter account, switching its mascot grey hair instead of the usual bright red.

Bell Media said it takes allegations of discrimination “very seriously.”

Last week, Melling told staff he had no intentions of speaking publicly or participating in media interviews about the recent events, saying anonymous sources have been spreading information that was “said without context or manipulated.”

— With files from Global News’ Hannah Jackson & The Canadian Press

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