Heather Backman, Paul Beauregard laid off at CHOM

Heather Backman

Heather Backman, who was Terry DiMonte’s co-host on CHOM’s morning show since he returned to Montreal in 2012, is no longer in that role. Backman updated her Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles to remove references to the station, and CHOM’s website no longer lists her as co-host for the morning show.

Paul Beauregard, who returned to CHOM recently to fill in on various shifts, is also out.

I wrote about their layoffs in a story for the Montreal Gazette, which also includes some analysis of the financial situation of Bell Media’s radio stations and the market (albeit with figures from 2014-15).

Matthew Garrow, Director of News, Local Stations, Sports, Discovery Networks & Community Investment for Bell Media, confirmed that there are layoffs happening at CHOM, without mentioning any names:

I can confirm that we are reducing several positions at CHOM. These changes are the result of the challenges Bell Media and other Canadian media companies are facing due to increasing international competition, the evolution of broadcast technologies, and advertising and regulatory pressure.

We have no further comment on the matter at this time.

Backman herself had no immediate comment, but posted a message to Facebook on Tuesday morning thanking DiMonte, producer Esteban Vargas and former bosses Martin Spalding and the late André Lallier.

Beauregard also declined to comment.

The cuts at CHOM are part of wider cuts at Bell Media nationwide. They include:

Bell hasn’t said how many people it’s letting go across the country, where they are, or if there are other cuts to come.

UPDATE (Jan. 31): DiMonte addressed Backman’s departure at the beginning of Tuesday’s morning show, saying the decision was “not mine to make”, and citing the disruptive nature of employment in the industry. He said the position of morning show co-host has been eliminated and the show would “take a new direction, and we’re moving forward without Heather.” He said Monday was “tough” and she will be missed but the station wishes her the best. (He posted a nearly identical message on his Facebook page.)

This was DiMonte’s only unprompted statement about Backman during Tuesday’s show, so most listeners didn’t hear it. But it was brought up during the 7am hour when contributor Pierre Houde brought it up to pay tribute. Here’s what he said:

The Beat’s Nat Lauzon was among those local personalities to (at least publicly) show support to her dismissed friend:

Kim Sullivan, who worked at both Virgin Radio and The Beat, also paid tribute:

UPDATE (May 24): Backman has gotten some work at The Beat.

46 thoughts on “Heather Backman, Paul Beauregard laid off at CHOM

  1. dilbert

    I always love when a company like bell that makes a billion or more dollars a year of profits feels the needs to justify layoffs with “international competition”. They think they are being smart but they are really just being money grubbing fools.

    Reply
      1. Media Man

        Then Bell should really sell to radio people, real radio company or radio broadcasters.
        Bell is really interested in TV, for Internet, tablet and smartphone content.. Radio does nothing for that regard…
        They went after Astral for the Movie Network and other visual..
        If somebody came along with the right offer, I’m sure theyd sell

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          Then Bell should really sell to radio people, real radio company or radio broadcasters. Bell is really interested in TV, for Internet, tablet and smartphone content.. Radio does nothing for that regard…

          Bell is interested in money, and radio gives them millions of dollars of that.

          If somebody came along with the right offer, I’m sure theyd sell

          Shareholders would expect nothing less. But not many people have hundreds of millions of dollars lying around.

          Reply
      2. dilbert

        Sorry, that doesn’t wash with the statement from Bell:

        “These changes are the result of the challenges Bell Media and other Canadian media companies are facing due to increasing international competition, the evolution of broadcast technologies, and advertising and regulatory pressure.”

        Radio does not face “international competition”, it is a local market thing. Radio also does not face “regulatory pressure”, as the regulations have remained stable and there are not any changes in the wind.

        The closest they might get to competition outside of their own marketplace is sat radio or online streaming services. Those are two products with very different business models (generally subscription models) and those are generally regulated by the CRTC as well. Any issue for Bell in this regard would be more to do with failing to offer products that compete in these markets, and not radio by itself.

        If radio has an issue, getting rid of a few on air talents (who will generally have to be replaced in some manner) isn’t a huge bottom line savings. Unless Bell is planning to move to making CHOM and other stations automated or to be single sourced network stations, they cannot really make that much of a saving by tossing out a morning sidekick, as it’s very likely that at some point they will have to replace her with someone else in some fashion. It’s not likely that Terry will run a morning show alone for a very long time, it’s nowhere as easy as working with a partner.

        Bell (and other media companies) have made more significant savings by removing duplicate services such as traffic, weather, news, and sports. Having one person provide each of these services to all of the company stations in an area shrinks the payroll without a doubt. Cutting people who have to be replaced anyway isn’t going to change anything.

        Moreover, and this is very important, Bell faces the real issue in holding all but a couple of stations in the Montreal market, which is that any gains for it’s stations generally come out of other stations they already own. Except for taking listeners from The Beat or from CBC radio, Bell has all of the rest of the anglo radio market in Montreal. They are unlikely to do anything that would massively shake things up because they would mostly hurt themselves and not others. That means that rather than looking at growing share of the marketplace, they need to be looking to expand the marketplace itself. Cutting staff and making all services similar in nature (with the same reporters, sports, weather, and traffic) means that the public has little real choice, and absolutely no chance that anything will really change. The lack of competition leads to a lack of innovation, which leads to stale product, which leads to people tuning out and moving to other media.

        The pressures, if any, are created by Bell being in such a dominant position in so many markets.

        Reply
      3. dilbert

        Side note, the Bell radio stations (just over 100 stations) made a collective 70 plus million pre-tax profits last year… or about $700,000 profit on average each. It’s not like Bell is particularly suffering from anything other than perhaps a shortage of bonuses for the top bosses.

        Reply
    1. Brett

      Same reason. I tend to avoid Bell stations because they seem to make more cuts then any other owners in the Montreal market.

      Reply
  2. Media Man

    Well this is definitely too bad and supports what I’ve been saying that the Bell Astral merger was the worst thing ever to happen for Canadian broadcasting.

    What regulatory pressures? Has there been some drastic change in their licence conditions?

    So Steve would be able to confirm a couple of hot rumours that these layoffs were in the works for several weeks but decided toward until after the Let’s Talk self PR back-patting for fear of negative publicity or backlash affecting the total raised??

    And the other hot rumour making the rounds, is that Virgin is not immune to changes and with The Beat consistently matching and beating Virgin, stuff might be happening now one being PD Mark Bergman being an expensive victim.??

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      So Steve would be able to confirm a couple of hot rumours that these layoffs were in the works for several weeks but decided toward until after the Let’s Talk self PR back-patting for fear of negative publicity or backlash affecting the total raised??

      I have learned nothing to suggest these layoffs were delayed because of Bell Let’s Talk.

      And the other hot rumour making the rounds, is that Virgin is not immune to changes

      So far it doesn’t look like Virgin or the other Montreal Bell Media stations have lost any on-air hosts.

      Reply
      1. Graham

        “I have learned nothing to suggest these layoffs were delayed because of Bell Let’s Talk.”

        So the decision to do cross country layoffs were done in the last 6 days?

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          the decision to do cross country layoffs were done in the last 6 days?

          I have no information that would either confirm or deny this. The decision to cut budgets probably started a little while ago, since it then had to lead to decisions about which stations/markets and then which individuals, but I don’t know which of these happened before or after Let’s Talk Day and have no information to suggest the timing was delayed because of it.

          Reply
          1. Neil K.

            These things are planned way in advance. Severance packages have to be worked out, in some cases lawyers need to be consulted, back up plans have to be instituted, websites and social media sites have to be ready to be updated and new photos prepped, etc.

            It’s a long process. Management doesn’t just wake up one morning and decide to cut staff. The bigger the cuts, the longer the lead time.

            I notice they did it on payday, the 30st. Another sign this was planned well in advance. Payroll was probably finalized for the affected (former) employees two weeks ago.

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              These things are planned way in advance. Severance packages have to be worked out, in some cases lawyers need to be consulted, back up plans have to be instituted, websites and social media sites have to be ready to be updated and new photos prepped, etc.

              Severance packages are based on whatever contract the employee has signed (or collective agreement if they’re part of a union) and can be calculated after the person is removed from their functions. Backup plans consist of whatever they normally do when someone’s on vacation, and websites don’t take that long to edit. No new photos are needed.

              I notice they did it on payday, the 30st. Another sign this was planned well in advance. Payroll was probably finalized for the affected (former) employees two weeks ago.

              I don’t know when Bell Media’s payday is. I don’t see how it would be relevant. Payroll isn’t done the same day the deposits are made, and Backman will probably still be getting paycheques for a while. Also, telling HR someone’s being let go before telling that employee is a really bad idea.

              Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              Part of the decision apparently was the CRTC ruling on Super Bowl ads. How long ago was that?

              The CRTC decision on that was two years ago. But even Bell is downplaying the importance of that one factor, and pointing to a bigger-picture issue. The truth is they just decided to cut back on payroll and this is what happens.

              Reply
      2. Gazoo28

        Call a spade a spade. Bell held off as Media Man mentioned, until after the Lets Talk promotion.
        Make matters worse, they even held a % year anniversary” breakfast show two Friday’s ago.

        Thank goodness there are other options available aside from Bell.

        Reply
    2. Bram Eisenthal

      I hate Bell Media and the fact they have a virtual monopoly in Montreal English radio..How is this allowed?

      Anyhow, Terry is very respected and can handle himself well as CHOM. .. while Backman was atrocious as his sidekick. Over on AM, PD Chris Bury keeps burying CJAD deeper in crap with the most ridiculous personnel.moves. Bell Media… sell these stations or get rid of your horrid management… but do.SOMETHING will.ya?

      Reply
      1. Fagstein Post author

        I hate Bell Media and the fact they have a virtual monopoly in Montreal English radio..How is this allowed?

        CRTC common ownership rules allow one company to own up to two FM and two AM stations in the same market, and up to three total in a market with fewer than eight stations. That allowed Astral Media to own CHOM, Virgin and CJAD. When Bell bought Astral, the CRTC made an exception to the rule to allow it to keep TSN Radio.

        Reply
      2. Neil K.

        I’m no apologist for Bell but CJAD is posting record ratings, consistently, heads above any other English station in the city in all key dayparts. The station is also a money machine. Why would Bell get rid of management?

        Reply
        1. dilbert

          Simple math, really. Bell isn’t going to suddenly lose a lot of market share (unless TTP finally shows up with a valid product), so they can run the operation with fewer people and make more profits. Each one of those people removed and not replaced is a pure bottom line improvement.

          It’s the same reasons all of the stations and such are jammed into the same building. It’s cheaper, easier and more cost effective to have a single facility instead of a bunch for all of them. It also makes it easier to do content sharing and staff sharing between the stations.

          When you have something that is profitable, every cost you remove is pretty much pure profit. Bell is a greedy company that is entirely bottom line oriented, and doesn’t really worry about people, history, or any of that other nonsense. One less person, even if it hurts the product a bit, is pure profit.

          Reply
  3. Paul

    It’s too bad. The optics look bad Days after their 5 year anniversary and she got a ” plaque ” from Bell Media for 5 years of service. Very poor

    Reply
  4. Derek P

    Shocked to have just learned the news. I think it is pretty disgusting to let Heather go through the 5 year celebration last week, to now be let go this week. Just one more check on the list of why Bell is a horrible company.

    Reply
  5. Peter Bauer

    Bell…let’s talk about mental illness caused by stress…the the stress of being laid off due to corporate greed….Bravo!

    Reply
  6. Brett

    It’s never good when someone gets laid off. Sure they do it to save money. What they don’t realize they take away someone that makes mornings in Montreal what they are. They take away talent that people love.

    I’m going to stay positive and say she will get work somewhere in the future. Maybe not soon but someone with amazing talent will find a home.

    Could be worse and Bell do what CKKI 89.9 Kic Country did. They cut their morning and afternoon host in favour of automated music. Put weekends on 100% syndicated programming. The only local show is drive home show. I’m just glad Bell never went that far to save money.

    Reply
  7. Neil K.

    Some additional Bell casualties posted at fyimusicnews.ca:

    Bell Media has clearly accepted it must take short-term criticism for axing a number of high profile (high salaried) personalities in order to get its house in order. Along with Schumacher, CHOM host Heather Backman, CTV Vancouver News host Coleen Christie, CFAX Victoria morning man Steve Duffy, and TSN Radio Vancouver play-by-play voices Scott Rintoul and Peter Schaad are part of Bell’s wide-frame decision to cut its manpower overhead.

    http://www.fyimusicnews.ca/articles/2017/01/31/around-dial-broadcast-media-news-today

    Reply
  8. Mario

    Bell cited international competition as one of the reasons for the changing environment in radio. Well why then do they push their heartless iHeartRadio app boasting the thousands of radio stations it offers? Apparently it’s changing the way people listen to radio. Riiiiight!!!! What a bunch of BS. Taking us listeners as fools.

    Reply
  9. Karen Bright

    Personally, I stopped listening to CHOM because of Heather’s super annoying laugh (and it wasn;t even timed to things…). I have a really low annoyance threshold in the AM, and this gal pushed it every single day. REally, I would start listening to CHOM again if she is not there (Sorry Heather… you are not everyone’s cup of tea..)

    Reply
  10. Robert B

    I agree with the above comment that the optics on this are horrible. Congratulations on 5 years ! Bye! And I would hazard a guess that they see absolutely nothing wrong in what they did.Yes, it is a business, we all get that but the timing of the firing,,oh yes,,do it on a Monday too..that makes it extra special..actions speak louder than words..you can make up your own minds about Bell..I already have.
    I heard that Paul Beauregard was also let go, two outstanding people who were original and funny and warm..cut them loose..I mean..who wants to listen to people like that? Keep the cardboard cutouts that do an okay job, I fear for the rest of the great broadcasters still on the air, hang in there guys and gals, I am pulling for you !

    Reply
  11. Anonymous

    I am lucky enough to be able to listen to the radio all day at work (listening to Chom for 25+ years). I really enjoyed the contrast/interaction of Terry and Heather B, and am sad to see her get laid off. It won’t be the same now, who will make Esteban laugh in the background at an odd comment now?

    Reply
  12. Ian Howarth

    I liked the chemistry betweeen DiMonte and Heather B. To say she’s atrocious is totally unreasonable. We keep getting told this is part of the biz, but when it happens, that notion is hardly consolation to those who suddenly find themslves unemployed. We’re told Heather B will bounce back somewhere, but my guess is that she’s hurting right about now.

    Reply
  13. Anonymous

    I don’t like to see anyone lose their job, and I think Terry liked having her around a lot (eventually). But while there seems to be a lot of misplaced anger towards Bell from people who don’t understand business and competition, I won’t miss her. Her obnoxious rants, her ridiculous views on men, her inability to admit she MIGHT be wrong and the circular logic she used to argue. I’ve been a chom listener for 30+ years, and I would sometimes have to switch over to Virgin because I’d be tangibly annoyed at listening to her. The only other time I’ve ever done that was the dark times with Pete Marrier and *shudder* PJ Stock.
    I hope Heather B finds something new and does well, as long as I don’t hear her.

    Reply
  14. Robert M

    The truth of the matter is that it is a business and Bell Media’s primary responsibility is to their shareholders. While I understand the layoffs, I don’t necessarily agree with them. It is one thing to keep a business afloat in tough times, but they posted a 35% profit for the Montreal owned radio stations. I’m sure Bell Media had their own people analysis what the anticipated public perception would be towards the layoffs, and obliviously thought it would be worth it. At same time a corporation has to take a good look at how it conducts business, if it is in good moral standing.

    As for Terry, he will do just fine without Heather around. He is a seasoned consummate professional. This is not to say that I don’t believe that Heather will not be missed. You could tell by the cracking in Terry’s voice that he was shook by the news. When working closely side by side for a period of 5 years, I don’t care who you are, friendships will be made.

    Good luck Terry, and hopefully they can bring back Ted at some point. Heather, I wishing you all the best with any and all future endeavors.

    Reply
    1. dilbert

      I think the cracking in Terry’s voice is in no small part because he is seeing what played out last time he left Montreal starting to play out again. Layoffs, changes to the show, changes at the station are all things which appear to harm in some way the on air product. How long before they decide that Terry’s salary is just way too much, and that mornings could be done by any number of other lesser paid individuals? I feel pretty confident that the very question has gone through his head more than once, heading down to crash into the same dead end he hit before.

      Yes, Bell has a short term financial / bottom line responsibility to their shareholders, but they also have a longer term interest as well. Squeezing out another couple of hundred K in savings does create perhaps a short term boost to the bottom line, but in harming the product they may help to drive more people to the alternatives such as sat radio or your happy ipod playlist. There is a point where what is saved is lost.

      I can tell you that when I have the choice, I always listen to sat radio. Broadcast radio just cannot compete.

      Reply
  15. Sam Santos

    Backman should come to Ottawa and join the Rebellion! Rebel 101.7 may need a new host . The Rebel is way better than Chom!

    Reply
  16. Bob

    I guess Bell not making enough money , so they have to get rid of a number of people so that they can justify their profit margins ,to bad companies like Bombardier are able to cry and bitch and get money from our pockets !

    Reply
  17. Ron Hillman

    Bell has no love or understanding of radio. It is merely a business…clinical and cold. Innovation and creativity are alien to businesses such as Bell.

    Reply

Leave a Reply