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The Ruttle Report - We need to talk about Bell...again

"Did the Earth move? Because I actually agree with Trudeau on this one." - The Ruttle Report
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Three years ago in the space of this weekly column, I needed to talk about something.

I needed to talk about Bell Media, the giant media conglomerate who in February of 2021 axed job after job and position after position. They closed radio stations, they fired critical staff, and they did all of this at the worst possible time; mere days after holding Bell's annual Let's Talk Day, a social media campaign that encourages people to spread awareness of mental health issues through a special hashtag, and from there, Bell dedicates funding to a number of initiatives.

Great endeavour.

Horrible timing.

Add these two together and you get a disgusting corporate agenda.

I think Dan O'Toole of the former TSN broadcasting duo known as 'Jay and Dan' said it best:

“Let’s talk. We should. Let’s talk. Does it mean anything without a hashtag? Oh right. Wrong day. So I have to mention the company for it to mean anything? But what if I was fired by the company that makes the hashtag about mental health? Do I still include them in the hashtag?”

That was the fun mess that Bell created for themselves in 2021. As for this year, well, where exactly do we start?

We can start with this, which was broken last week:

A total of 4800 jobs have been axed at Bell Media, and in addition to the jobs lost, they've also announced the following as far as CTV news programming is concerned.

CTV News at Noon broadcasts from Monday to Friday are being ended at all CTV stations except Toronto, and all CTV weekend news including at 6:00 pm & late night is also being axed, except in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. Oh, and the groundbreaking and historic watchdog program of CTV's 'W5'? Yeah, that's being "absorbed" by CTV and will be reduced to nothing more than a segment on *INSERT RANDOM NEWS BROADCAST HERE*.

Once again, Bell cements itself as the Undisputed King of Bad Timing as this was announced 16 days after their annual Let's Talk Day initiative. It's gross, it's heartless, and at the end of the day, it's just plain wrong.

I guess I need to talk about Bell again.

Listen, I can appreciate such an initiative because we live in a time where one's mental health is sometimes more important than their physical well-being. But what I can't appreciate is the way that Bell Media carries things out. Here's their unofficial checklist as seen by their actions of the last few years, for example.

- Hold Let's Talk Day and promote mental health awareness.
- Promote how successful the day was and pat ourselves on the back.
- Fire a fleet or two of people and shut down a station or three.
- Air commercials on TV highlighting the mental wellness of our own employees.

Just you watch on that third step. They'll start airing very soon if they haven't already. "We're just like you! We have issues too! We're victims too!" I just call it like I see them, folks; that's called Image Protection 101.

Of course, Bell is the one who's getting hit because they're the ones in the crosshairs, as their owner, BCE Inc. is basically the ghost hand that's at work here. If you believe the numbers, Bell's advertising revenues allegedly declined by $140 million in 2023 compared with the year before, and its news division is seeing more than $40 million in annual operating losses, chief executive Mirko Bibic said when reached for comment.

When he was reached for comment on the matter, even Prime Minister Trudeau didn't mince his words on his reaction, stating that the company should know better and saying that radio stations and small community newspapers are increasingly being bought up by large corporations that lay off journalists and change the quality of their offerings. From there, Trudeau said, when people don't watch as much or read as much, those corporate entities throw their hands up and say, 'Oh see, they're not profitable anymore, we're going to sell them off.'

The prime minister then said that the move is eroding quality local journalism and Canada's democracy.

Wow, did you feel that? Did the Earth move? Because I actually agree with Trudeau on this one.

Look, I know a company has to make money, and I know a company has to lay people off. But I vehemently disagree with this company's actions, most notably axing most of CTV's news programming here in Saskatchewan. We live in a day and age where real news and true journalism should be supported more than ever, and instead we're seeing the axe being brought down on basically EVERYONE west of Ontario because "the numbers aren't crunching enough".

It's interesting to see that articles on this news aren't being written by CTV employees. You can read them on their websites, but the logline always reads The Canadian Press or some other outlet. It's almost like everyone's being held back with a short leash and won't be released until a nice, slick and shiny corporate message is handed down and everyone expected to obey by its tone.

If BCE and Bell are going to continue hacking and slashing every February, then I just have one solution that'll do them a world of good - axe the whole Let's Talk fiasco. Swallow your pride and shelf this "Look how much we care!" corporate good-will endeavor because all it does is make you look horrible when you eventually fire thousands of people two weeks later. Not a good look, folks. Just cut the head off that snake right there.

How about just cutting some massive checks and dropping them off at mental health awareness clinics and offices around the country? No? Oh, you need the public to know that you're doing this? Oh, OK, I gotcha.

I guess doing something good and then doing something very, very bad kind of balances things out, in a bizarre other-worldly sort of way. But in my view, that's a very weird and utterly heartless way of looking at the landscape in front of you.

For this week, that's been the Ruttle Report.