Canadian News Will Die if Private TV Networks Disappear, Bell CEO Says

Canadian News Will Die if Private TV Networks Disappear, Bell CEO Says
Bell Canada signage is pictured in Ottawa on Sept. 7, 2022. (Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press)
Chris Tomlinson

Bell Canada’s top boss is raising the alarm that Canadian news could disappear if the country’s private television networks fail.

CEO Mirko Bibic told the House of Commons Heritage Committee during April 11 testimony his company has lost more than $100 million in television advertising revenues as more people switch to digital formats.

Mr. Bibic was called to respond to MPs questions on Bell’s recent layoffs of thousands of employees, as first reported by Blacklock’s. In February, the company announced plans to cut 9 percent of its workforce—4,800 jobs—and sell 45 of its 103 regional radio stations across the country.

“Without a Canadian broadcasting system, there will be no news except maybe the CBC,” he told the committee and added, “We need to figure out how to keep Canadian news alive.”

Mr. Bibic explained that his company lost $180 million in 2023 compared to the prior year, saying that conventional advertising decreased by $140 million, while Bell’s news service had lost roughly $40 million.

He argued that Bell is a small company compared to American corporate giants like Disney and Amazon.

“Amazon is 63 times bigger than Bell and they compete directly against us and generate more revenues in Canada in streaming than we do, and they have to contribute nothing to the Canadian media industry. That’s what we should be talking about,” he said.


Mr. Bibic received pushback from Liberal MP Anju Dhillon.

“We give money to Bell, and it seems like Bell expects to go back to the old bargain of protecting them[selves] from competition and tilting the rules in their favour,” Dhillon said.

Liberal MP Taleeb Noormohamed also criticized Mr. Bibic, noting the Bell CEO earned $13 million alone in 2023, which Mr. Bibic confirmed.

When asked what the average salary was for a Bell news reporter, however, Mr. Bibic could not give a figure but replied, “I do know we spend almost $300 million a year in news in this country at Bell Media alone.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh noted that Bell had given $3.7 billion in dividends to shareholders and bought back more than $140 million in stocks in 2023. He said the company “could have chosen to prioritize workers with that money.”

Tory MP Rachel Thomas was also critical, saying the thousands of layoffs were not justified. She said the company has received hundreds of millions of dollars in “government handouts ... which, let’s be reminded, are taxpayer dollars, and yet this is a company that just laid off 6,100 of those taxpayers.”

Earlier this year, Mr. Bibic released a letter outlining the reasons for the layoffs, saying the workforce reduction was the largest in nearly 30 years.

He cited a “difficult economy,” along with a CRTC move to allow third-party resellers access to Bell’s high-speed fibre network, saying the move occurred “before we have even had an opportunity to recoup our multi-billion dollar investment.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed anger  following the job cut announcement earlier this year, saying “I’m furious. This is a garbage decision by a corporation that should know better.”