CTV News tells reporters they will have to do their own camera and editing work

Updated with comment from Bell Media and Unifor.

Staff at CTV News departments across the country were called into mandatory meetings on Thursday, and told that they’ll have to tighten their belts a bit more.

I don’t have specifics or numbers (see below), but the headline is that journalists will be transformed into “videojournalists” who do not only their own reporting but also their own camerawork, editing and even writing for the web.

As a result, editors and cameramen will be offered buyout packages or laid off. Layoff notices have been issued in Montreal and Toronto, I’m told, but not everywhere. In Montreal, 15 jobs are being cut and an unspecified number of online jobs added.

CTV bills this as them “innovating” because they’re “expanding our digital news presence” and points out that they are also adding new jobs.

This is a significant project that will require enhanced training as well as job reclassifications for some members of the news team. While we will be creating a substantial number of new digital news positions, some traditional roles may be impacted by the changes. We cannot yet offer a specific number of how many, if any, departures may result.

There is some confusion about changes in our Montreal team. As part of the digital news expansion, we were required to notify Unifor that 15 existing union job classifications in Montreal would be eliminated. However, a similar number of new positions will be filled to support the enhanced digital focus of the newsroom. 

CTV News already employs some videojournalists (there are four at CTV Montreal), and they’re used at other networks as well, notably Citytv, which relies almost exclusively on them. Reporters shooting their own stories is more feasible with today’s equipment (some newsrooms are experimenting with reporting using iPhones), and obviously saves on human resources. But more time spent on the technical elements of producing stories means less time on the journalism behind it.

Plus, while younger journalists who are trained on shooting and editing out of school will easily adapt to the new reality, training more veteran journalists will be more difficult, and some might choose to simply retire early or find new jobs.

Because of various union rules, these layoff notices may spark a process of bumping, where less senior workers in jobs not affected by the layoffs get replaced by those being laid off (if those workers prove they can do the job they’re bumping into). So younger workers in these newsrooms will be feeling very nervous over the coming weeks.

And while CTV’s statement suggests it will save jobs, the reality is that the people affected will have to apply for them and be accepted for them. That’s not a given.

Unifor, which represents unionized workers at CTV, issued a statement:

“Today’s announcement from CTV of its shift to ‘digital-first’ airing of local news stories on the Internet was inevitable,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. “Retooling local news for digital is necessary and, hopefully, a successful business plan because local TV is being starved for advertising revenues and anything that brings in a bigger audience and more ad revenue is welcome.”

The stations affected by restructuring include the CTV1 stations in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. Bell has told journalists and field technicians to expect a mix of retraining, layoffs, and new “digital” jobs, with a net reduction of staffing.

Dias cautioned Bell Media of its responsibility to guide news staff through the technological changes in job responsibilities, as it is expected that some journalists and field staff will need to acquire new digital skills.

“We are going to ensure no media worker is left behind,” said Dias. “Bell knows us pretty well and they know we mean it.”

Dias is also urging the federal government to accelerate its four-year long review of Canadian broadcasting in the Internet environment, scheduled to continue into 2020. “There are obvious actions the CRTC and the federal government can take to strengthen Canadian programming,” said Dias, referring to the CRTC’s own “Harnessing Change” report on Internet-broadcasting issued in June 2018.

25 thoughts on “CTV News tells reporters they will have to do their own camera and editing work

  1. media man

    This is awful, good acquaintances of mine getting the shaft, and strangely they didn’t do it before Xmas this time.

    Further proof this phone company should never have been allowed to get bigger for the profit of shareholders.
    Will reporters at the national level be turned into VJs as well, of course not.

    Like the local sports bloodbath of a few years ago, further proof that Bell Media doesn’t care about local and only national and the content it brings for their cheap devices, nor does a phone company and its suits in TO know anything about broadcasting..
    Is there anything we the viewers can do?
    Do you have the email addresses of those to chicken to claim credit or responsibility like the Prez Randy Lennox, etc
    I’m upset and this doesn’t affect me personally, and no I’m also not a Bell customer.

    Reply
  2. Suzanne Desautels

    I love how the hugely profitable Bell Media is telling staff…once again…to tighten THEIR belts and laying off veteran staff who have spent their lives giving to the CFCF/CTV Montreal Newsroom. They have sacrificed family time, quality of life time to bring Montrealers the “news they need to know” which of course, with the decimation of CTV Montreal no longer exists. The reason no one watches is because Montrealers are barely getting their news despite the valiant efforts of the current staff. Veteran reporters need time to cover the story…not carry around a camera or worrying about editing to deadline. While looking thru the lens, they will miss the details. How does that serve Montrealers? So is this just a way to get rid of experienced salaries? Knowing Bell Media…of course it is. The new generation of journalists is equipped for video journalism. But veterans bring more to the table. And the remark about finding another job…are you kidding?!

    Reply
    1. Dilbert

      I think it’s the overall profit of Bell that is really galling here. Profits in the billions, so clearly they need some belt tightening…. the CRTC should be ashamed of what they have let happen.

      Reply
  3. Deborah Bee

    A reporter could be put in a dangerous situation, while reporting. If they’re covering a story about a car accident they could be hit by a distracted driver; or hurt or roughed up during a riot.
    Tightening of finances shouldn’t endanger employees.

    Reply
    1. DS

      Good point.

      Print journalists have worked under these conditions for years. Bottom line is that times change. Audiences evolve. Nothing lasts forever. There are a surplus of reporters willing to work in this new reality knowing full well that at some point in the very near future it will change again…..

      Reply
  4. Trevor

    Nice to see you managed to get an interview with someone at CTV and question them on how in the race to save money good journalism is sacrificed. I guess that’s why your writing a blog instead of working for a credible news outlet.

    Reply
    1. Benjamin Hunting

      It’s hilarious to me that you draw a line between blogs and ‘credible’ news outlets that essentially now run on blogging budgets.

      Reply
  5. Anonymous

    Nothing really surprising here. The Videojournalist idea has been tested out both in Canada and the US, and has been for the most part successful. There are some issues from time to time, but for the most part it works out. Whatever is lost in process is more than made up for by cutting jobs and saving money.

    There is also the concept that the tools today are way easier to use than they were even 10 years ago. For the most part video editing isn’t magic science anymore, especially when you are working to a very strict style guide and with very strict appearance guidelines.

    You also have to consider that the current generation doesn’t expect or aspire to everything being a perfect camera shot. The youtube generation has a high tolerance for home made videos and shaky camera shots. Anything above that is “pro”. There is no need to have a team to make it happen anymore. Video stabilizers (both hardware and software, as well as in editing) pretty much make this a non-issue as well.

    While I am never happy to see people lose their jobs,and never happy to see Bell find another way to pad their billion dollar bottom line, I am actually with them on this. Technology and societal norms have made the second and third person redundant.

    Reply
    1. Alain

      Agree. The TV & Auto Industry are both in a metamorphosis due technology and changing lifestyles. As much as I respect and support local television, it’s become stagnant on the verge of outdated. Journalistic integrity has never been synonymous with a tripod.

      Reply
  6. David Betito

    Sorry but CTV Montreal has now become like the Montreal Gazette… and empty shell heavily dependent on canned news and wire services. Ready to bet local CTV news will become like CTV newsnet… using camera pool feeds with reporters staying in house to do voice overs… and ultimately, just needing the anchor like they already do on newsnet.

    Reply
  7. David Asselin

    As if greedy Bell is not making enough money. Bell is a great example of ‘enough is never enough’. As they move closer to totally monopolizing media in Quebec and Canada, they show absolutely no shame when it comes to cutting jobs and giving their loyal employees pink slips.It’s very sad to see how low long established and once respected Bell can and will go to maximize profits. The greedy shareholders are no better for accepting this vicious attitude that Bell has adopted when it comes to their operations all to put more money in their accounts and make Bell shares more appealing.Bravo Bell; your greed shows no limits!

    Reply
  8. Anonymous

    Has anybody tried to watch the CJNT-DT 62.1 (CITY) local news. Its terrible. It’s garbage. It’s un-watchable.

    Is this what Bell Media wants it’s local O&O stations turned into. I’m old enough to remember CFCF-DT 12.1 (CTV) had a powerful local news show (Pulse). How far this station has fallen since those days. Even CBMT-DT 6.1 (CBC) use to have a great news program (The City at 6). All now just history.

    The one thing these guys over at Bell Media don’t understand is that they’re actually killing these local stations. Or maybe that’s the plan. Maybe that’s the endgame for them. and at that point approach the CRTC to prove the point that local OTA stations should be shut down.

    Viewers and listeners are searching for their news, and entertainment else where because these media groups have destroyed these traditional media sources. They wouldn’t look somewhere else if these outlets offered something worth watching or listening to.

    The CRTC will have to be forced to act on of this. They need to break up these large media ownership groups. They are killing the local markets. There is a federal election this year. Only the legislative body can force the CRTC to act. And if the Liberals will not act now and fast, then vote them out of office, and vote for a party that will break up these companies in order to open up the market. These politicians are being tossed too many softball questions, and not challenged with their responses, and policies. Enough is enough.

    We go thru this year after year. Can’t you see where this is all heading to. We need completion now. Too much media power in too few hands.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      The one thing these guys over at Bell Media don’t understand is that they’re actually killing these local stations. Or maybe that’s the plan. Maybe that’s the endgame for them. and at that point approach the CRTC to prove the point that local OTA stations should be shut down.

      Nothing is forcing Bell Media to continue to operate these stations. The company could sell them or turn in their licences if it wanted to. But the CTV network is still responsible for a lot of Bell Media’s operations (not to mention as a promotional vehicle), and you still need local news to keep the network. The hiring of more journalists should be a clear indication that Bell isn’t just trying to cut here, it’s trying to create as much local news as possible out of its existing budget.

      Reply
      1. Dilbert

        “Nothing is forcing Bell Media to continue to operate these stations”

        Nothing could be further from the truth. You are in fact perpetuating the biggest lie in the Canadian media industry by saying it, IMHO.

        Bell needs to the local stations for a number of reasons. CTV and the local stations are a big part of the Bell cable TV offerings. Without local stations, Bell would have less things to offer consumers at a price in their cable packages.

        Most importantly, it gives Bell (and the other oligopoly players) the right to Simsub US programming, which is the real value. CTV network wouldn’t have anywhere near the cashflow that it would otherwise.

        The cable offerings are super important. DTV and IPtv offerings are incredibly profitable to Bell, and the near force of packaging their own specialty channels within their offerings provides a generous cashflow to properties that otherwise might not be profitable.

        It all rolls up.

        The “local channels don’t make money” refrain is equally silly. The local channels don’t make money mostly because they have always been negotiating with one hand tied behind their corporate backs. You can well imagine that the licensing agreements between locally owned stations and the CTV network would be significantly different than the current arrangements. Local stations would not operate at a loss just to feed the corporate bear. You could expect that more commercial time would be sold locally, more income would be generated locally, and that they money collected would more likely be spent on local productions to fill the off hours.

        Bell makes billions, and cries poverty. Yet, without the local stations (which they claim make no money) their entire media empire would crash.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          Again, nothing is forcing Bell Media to continue to operate these stations. Simultaneous substitution and other advantages are among the reasons they’re still in business, but if it stops being profitable or breaking even, Bell could pull the plug. Bell would still sell TV subscriptions without CTV.

          Reply
          1. Anonymous

            Yes they could. However, it would be nowhere near as profitable.

            As long as simsub is tied to local channels, there will be local channels. That is the Canadian broadcasting system’s gravy train, and they don’t want to miss it.

            Of course, that would change if the CRTC dropped the local channel requirements for Simsub. My guess is that it would take Bell (and others) about 3 nanoseconds to start shutting down local channels and handing back the licenses. Getting rid of all of that icky local news expense and maintaining transmitters… while still controlling the viewership.

            Of course, free from corporate control, and with the CRTC still mandating distribution, there would be good potential for new local channels to emerge from the ashes, new networks to build, and so on.

            Reply
  9. Craig McPherson

    Does this mean television reporters will no longer be hired for their looks since they will likely no longer be on camera but behind it?

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Does this mean television reporters will no longer be hired for their looks since they will likely no longer be on camera but behind it?

      It does not mean that because they will still be in front of the camera as well.

      Reply
  10. media man

    So the eyes here is why don’t they ever touch the national operations or layoff the many suits or bean counters that really do nothing all day?

    Why do the executives who make these brainless decisions ever go public and say why, like some accountability here.?

    Was there any thought at least to go slow here like attrition And those that retire or leave on their own get replaced by those cheaper VJs, something more gradual. Why all in one shot?

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      why don’t they ever touch the national operations or layoff the many suits or bean counters that really do nothing all day?

      Bell Media has laid off plenty of people at the national level. And who are these “bean counters that really do nothing all day”?

      Was there any thought at least to go slow here like attrition And those that retire or leave on their own get replaced by those cheaper VJs, something more gradual. Why all in one shot?

      It’s not all in one shot. Many CTV stations, including CTV Montreal, already employ videojournalists. But attrition isn’t something you can control, and CTV News wants this done sooner than later.

      Reply
  11. Tony

    This is the basis of capitalism. As a publicly traded company the requirement is that you make more money every year. If you are losing money your stock will take a hit and that results in more of your money going toward dividends for your shareholders. If you reduce the dividend investors run for cover.

    So the bottom line is for a healthy stock price you need to show improvements in the bottom line every year. So you’ve got to keep increasing the price of those tv packages to keep showing profit. With each increase more customers leave and cut the cord. With each cut cord you generate less revenue from advertising. It’s a downward spiral. It doesn’t matter if your making hundreds of millions every quarter. It better be going up not down or your on the way to the downward spiral.

    They gave notice to every reporter and every shooter at CTV Toronto. They are encouraged to apply for the new positions. The bottom line is many will lose their jobs but because these new positions are in an entirely different job title, it enables the employer to cherry pick who they want to keep and who goes. It’s a legal way to circumvent seniority clauses in the collective agreements with Unifor.

    Similar to the games CHCH played with employees in years gone by.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      Associating Capitalism and the Stock Price with these types of cuts is not really appropriate.

      The systems true name is the Commerce system. And in order to build your commerce, you must develop it, and expand it. Profits, and proper stock evaluations come from this.

      These decisions by BCE, and others are not trying to build and expand the businesses they bought. They are contracting them, in order to show profit, and improve the bottom line.

      The problem, as I see it is…

      1 – They bought these businesses to bleed them to death.

      2 – The wrong people are in charge of businesses that they know nothing about. Therefore they fall back on cuts to improve results. And save their positions. They no not how to expand the business, and develop it.

      Let’s take an example of a company like Netflix. They have shown no profit. They are expanding the business to develop it. Their stock price is high, and based on future growth through their development of their company.

      I do not buy the logic that companies have to constantly cut in order to show profit. Yes, cuts will occur from time to time. But, when it’s a constant, year after year, then it shows that cuts and contraction is their model for profitability. If they believe that, then sell these business. Get out of that industry they know nothing about. And let others that do, to develop and expand those business.

      Calling wrong decisions, and even good decisions, as being the Capitalism system, and letting it slide like that is giving them the pass. It is the Commerce System that we have. And we develop and grow a business with that. If you can’t make it work, shut it down, or get out of the way.

      Reply
  12. Skid

    BCE is a business, not a charity. As it is, these local stations are usually two days late of any breaking news. Times change.

    Reply

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