(Toronto) BCE’s media division is asking the federal telecommunications regulator to waive its local news requirements for its television stations, arguing that those obligations are based on outdated market realities.

In an application to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), Bell Media is asking to eliminate requirements relating to local news expenditures and the number of hours per week that stations are required to broadcast news a local reflection in large and small markets.

The request, filed June 14, came the same day Bell announced the cut of 1,300 positions, as well as the closure or sale of nine radio stations and the disappearance of two overseas offices as part of plans to “significantly adapt” its way of disseminating information in the face of increasing financial pressure.

In its filing, Bell noted that its 35 local television stations, operating under the CTV, CTV Two and Noovo brands, as well as three discretionary television news services – CP24, CTV News Channel and BNN Bloomberg – were under financial pressure.

It requested the elimination of the requirement for English-language television stations in metropolitan markets to broadcast at least 14 hours of local programming per week. In Quebec, Bell also asked the regulator to abolish its obligation to broadcast at least five hours of local programming per week on its Montreal station.

Among other demands, Bell urged the CRTC to allow its stations in major markets to no longer have to broadcast at least six hours of weekly local news. For its non-metropolitan stations, Bell wants to be able to broadcast less than three hours of local news each week.

The company also asked the regulator to waive the requirement for the company to spend 11% of gross revenue from the previous year on acquiring or investing in locally flavored news.

“The requested relief we seek would allow us to better manage our regulatory obligations in the evolving competitive landscape of the Canadian broadcasting industry in the face of competition from digital media broadcasting undertakings,” the request stated.

Notes accompanying the application point out that Bell Media’s average annual news operating loss totaled $28.4 million between 2016 and 2019, a figure that jumped to 40 million last year as the web giants cornered the Canadian advertising market.

Bell acknowledged that the CRTC’s implementation of the Online Streaming Act had the potential to relieve media companies through compensation from online streaming giants, but felt that it could not afford to wait for the outcome of the regulator’s consultations on the legislation.

The company reiterated many of the concerns voiced last week by Bell’s chief legal and regulatory officer, Robert Malcolmson, about the legislation, which received royal assent in April and is now in the consultation phase.

Malcolmson explained that the main problem for Bell was that popular American content was not available to Canadian broadcasters because American platforms offered it directly to consumers on their internal streaming services. He urged policymakers to demand assurances that would allow Canadian broadcasters to pay American companies to air this content.

The regulator has begun its first three consultations, out of a planned total of at least nine, about the bill. It will probably last for more than a year.

“Notably, in the absence of this relief, we will be required to continue to operate these stations in an environment of significant regulatory uncertainty, while the Commission strives to implement the policy directives of Bill C- 11,” the request reads.

“The conventional broadcasting industry is in crisis, which is why the Commission must act now and provide the regulatory relief we are asking for. »

Last week’s layoffs included a 6% reduction in Bell Media’s workforce. Mr. Malcolmson told The Canadian Press that the company was undertaking “a consolidation of news gathering (and) delivery” with “a single news gathering and delivery platform.”

In a second application filed by Bell on June 14, the company also asked the CRTC to reduce its Canadian content spending requirement for English-language television stations from 30% of the previous year’s revenues to 20%.

It also asked to reduce the amount its English-language television stations must spend each year on programs of national interest from 7.5% of the previous year’s revenues to 5.0%.

“The reduction we are proposing […] will ensure broadcasters are better able to support themselves and compete,” the filing states. Such an approach can improve the prospects of broadcasters by allowing them to better invest in Canadian productions over the long term. »