Bell Media rips out more of Montreal’s fabric

I’ve been watching CTV’s Montreal newscast for as long as I can remember. It used to be called Pulse News, and the station was known as CFCF-12. You got news, weather and sports presented by three different personalities in each newscast.

As viewers, we were on a first-name basis with each on-air personality, even if we never got to meet any of them. We picked up on, and loved them for, their idiosyncrasies. Like sportscaster Randy Tieman’s propensity to say “I’ll tell ya.” If I had a dollar for every time he used that phrase during a sportscast over his three-plus decades with the news outlet, I could open my own station and get him back on the air today.

Randy was one of three sports people — Sean Coleman and Brian Wilde are the others — laid off by Bell Media on Tuesday in yet another round of cuts across the nation by the unit of one of the wealthiest corporations in Canada, BCE. Last time I checked, BCE was netting profits of close to $1 billion a quarter, so they are not in imminent danger of having to seek bankruptcy protection. Presumably, the Bell Media unit isn’t making enough profit for some bean counter in head office.

Though, that’s not what the anonymous press release for Bell Media said yesterday. It said this, according to Steve Faguy (a colleague of mine) in his personal media blog:

“We can confirm we’ve made an editorial decision to transition sports coverage from sportscasters to news anchors in response to evolving viewer behaviour. As a result, three positions have been impacted at CTV Montreal. Our viewers can continue to rely on CTV News to keep them informed about local and professional sports,” reads the statement from Bell Media.

Hmm. “Evolving viewer behaviour,” eh?

Nobody consulted me about this. I’ve been a viewer for several decades, and I am a Bell Canada phone subscriber (I have no choice) as well as a Bell satellite-TV subscriber (I have no choice in my rural area). So, Bell Media could easily have surveyed me. But, nope. Nothing. Nobody asked me if my behaviour has evolved to the point that I don’t want to see a separate sportscast with knowledgeable sports journalists keeping me informed.

I guess I am a nobody, like all of the other CTV Montreal News viewers who weren’t asked. Our opinions don’t matter to the corporate people — or maybe robots — who/that made the decision to lay off the sports department.

Thing is, I’m not really into sports, but I do like to be informed about the main events. CTV Montreal’s sportscast did that for me, with style and personality. That’s why I watched it — as opposed to flipping over to another channel when the sports news came on. I could easily get my sports news on google, at a glance. But I liked the personal delivery by Randy and company, because they were part of the colourful and distinct quilt that made up CFCF-12 a.k.a. CTV Montreal.

Yes, I still refer to CTV Montreal as CFCF sometimes, because that identity, along with “Pulse News,” was part of the fabric of Montreal for a long time. Its name change to CTV Montreal seemed to suggest that it was simply a unit of a larger national entity — which it became under new owners BCE. Despite the “Montreal” in the title, it started the process of ripping away any mindset I had about the station as a distinct, or unique entity, and perhaps started the process of depersonalizing it for many other viewers, too.

It seems some corporate person/robot wants us to think of CTV Montreal as a soulless entity — a reflection of its parent BCE, which some see as a greedy, soulless embodiment of the Scrooge mentality. One can only imagine how Charles Dickens would portray it in a modern-day novel.

Still, he would surely remind the corporate BCE people/robots of the timeless message he wrote in A Christmas Carol, when Marley’s ghost cried out in anguish to Scrooge: “Business! Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

And then he might proceed to show how the decision to lay off three beloved sportscasters would be seen as more than “the dealings of my trade” and might be taken personally by thousands of viewers, as in “Bell Media doesn’t give a damn about us and the quality of their product. They only care about the bottom line.”

Yes, many of us are taking Tuesday’s layoffs personally. Many are shocked. It is an assault on us, too. We would probably be more sympathetic with BCE if it was struggling to survive. But it is a corporate fat cat of Scroogian proportions that just doesn’t care about shredding the fabric of towns like Montreal in the name of “Business!”

Having said all of this, I do have friends and former colleagues working for the CTV Montreal News department, so I will continue to watch their newscasts to show my support for them. As Steve Faguy points out in his blog, boycotts seldom work, anyway. BUT, I will flip over to another station when the news anchor starts delivering the sports news that Randy and company used to give me.

That’s how my viewing behaviour will evolve.

Bell Media/BCE, take note: You are pushing people to the point that our “evolving viewer behaviour” will no longer include your company.

It’s karma.

— Jillian Page

Photo: “Marley’s Ghost,” original illustration by John Leech from A Christmas Carol/Wikipedia

4 thoughts on “Bell Media rips out more of Montreal’s fabric

  1. Maybe it is a sign of our age, our indifference or intolerance to accept the inevitable changes to the fabric of our lives and how the evolution of society evokes such changes. We need to accept that we are the drop in the ocean as our forebearers were. Can you imagine the evolution between the 1867 to 1967 this country went through, and how society had to adapt?

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    1. We are becoming more and more of an impersonal society, and no one better demonstrates that than BCE. It’s not that you and I are not accepting change so much as it is about greedy companies giving us less and less while their profits increase. But greed has been common since the invention of currency. It never changes. Ultimately, we can be sure that there will be no live news readers on TV, and people will accept it — because they will have no choice. But will it be an improvement in their quality of life? Or only an improvement in the bottom line of some companies?

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  2. Last winter, I was staying at a hotel in Montreal and would switch over from CBC News to watch CTV Montreal at 11:30pm. Watching Randy Tieman I had to think, he’s been doing this a long time, we don’t see a lot of his ilk on TV anymore. And, I sort of foresaw the sad events of this past week. I thought it might not be long before Randy Tieman was unceremoniously shown the door.

    I wasn’t thinking the whole local sports operation would be cut, especially in the sports town Montreal is, but something just told me television executives don’t care about all that has been legendary in this field, anymore. They are executives who could be interchangeable with any other corporate employees. They could just as easily be running a garbage hauling business, they have no appreciation for the craft of broadcasting, newscasting, and sportscasting.

    I remember in the classic film, Network, how Robert Duvall’s TV executive was so cold-hearted, casting aside the experience and integrity of veteran journalists, in the name of ratings. That character has endured very well in the decades since.

    Canadian TV news is changing, dramatically, these days. Peter Mansbridge signing-off for his final time on Canada Day 150, will be a major changing of the guard. (I was impressed to learn, on his interview on The Current this past week, that he doesn’t have a college degree. He never even finished high school.)

    I’m even more glad, today, that Debra Arbec moved over to CBC after many years at CFCF. I’ve had a crush on her since I was in college in the 1990’s, and I’d be heartbroken when CTV decides to just do local news as a running ticker at the bottom of the screen during the national broadcast, someday soon…..

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    1. I think Bell Media might regret the decision to kill off its sports department: there has been a lot of negative feedback. It could cost them viewers.

      And tonight’s CTV Montreal newscast missed the top Quebec news story of the day, which CBC National News has been leading with on their national newscast all day: the Fete nationale parade float that was viewed as racist and is drawing worldwide attention.

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