Bell Media is asking the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to eliminate local news and local content regulatory requirements for its Noovo and CTV stations.
For its Noovo channel in Montreal, Bell no longer wants to broadcast at least 5 hours of local programs each week. For its Noovo stations, Bell no longer wants to be required to broadcast at least 4 hours and 15 minutes of information reflecting the local reality each week in Montreal and Quebec City, or 2 hours and 30 minutes in Trois-Rivières, in Sherbrooke and Saguenay.
In its application dated June 14, but posted Friday on the CRTC website, Bell Media argues that its local television stations have always been committed to providing coverage of municipal and provincial politics, local cultural events and professional sports and local amateurs, and that if its applications are approved, it will continue to do so.
Management says having “necessary flexibility” rather than “imposed rules” will allow the organization to provide a better information service to the local communities it serves.
“Bell Media is a leader in local news, but to sustain news business in the future, it’s time for the CRTC to make sensible regulatory improvements now that will provide more flexibility in how broadcasters deliver local news in both large and small markets,” a company spokeswoman said in an emailed statement, after declining our interview request.
The gesture worries the Professional Federation of Journalists of Quebec (FPJQ).
“In the current context of the media crisis, we notice that several press companies are trying to limit their costs,” said Friday its president, Michaël Nguyen.
Bell Media argues in its application that the conditions imposed on it have the unintended consequence of forcing its stations to make editorial choices that prevent them from providing viewers with “the most relevant information possible at all times.”
“Events that happen outside of a local market, whether nationally or internationally, can still be important to our viewers in those markets. For example, relevant information from a neighboring community could be excluded from a newsletter to ensure that we meet our obligation to provide a set number of hours of information reflecting the local reality,” he explains. -we.
Bell points out that its requests are similar to those made by Quebecor Media for TVA, which are still under review by the CRTC.
“The harsh reality is that local television has not been profitable since 2012,” Bell Media said in its application.
The document states that 94% of Bell Media’s television stations generated operating losses in 2020 and that as of last year, its local television stations had reported an overall loss since 2012 of 583.7 million. .
Bell Media says it has lost “tens of millions” just for producing and broadcasting local news.
In 2020 and 2021, due to lower advertising revenue attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic, that loss jumped to 51.2 million, it said. And last year, despite the recovery in advertising revenue, the operating loss reached around 40 million.
Bell Media adds that the web giants have a “tremendous impact” on the domestic advertising market, grabbing a “massive” share of advertising revenue from Canadian companies.
Bell Media’s request to the telecommunications regulator is dated June 14, the same day BCE – Bell Media’s parent company – announced the elimination of 1,300 positions, the equivalent of 3% of its workforce, as well as the closure or sale of nine radio stations.
BCE management had clarified in mid-June that its decision was a response to “adverse public policy and regulatory conditions.” The announced cuts include a 6% reduction at Bell Media, but the Noovo channel would be spared.
The big boss of BCE, Mirko Bibic, had notably pointed out that in terms of information, operating losses at Bell Media continue to increase each year.