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April 11, 2024

Mirko Bibic addresses the Heritage Committee

A message from Mirko Bibic

I had hoped to join you last month, prior to the committee rescheduling our meeting, so I am glad we’re having this important conversation today.

Since Bell acquired CTV in 2011, the global media industry has drastically changed.

The industry is in flux due to technological disruption, changing viewer habits, shifting advertiser demand and vigorous competition from foreign web giants who are not subject to the same costly regulations as Canadian broadcasters.

Half of all households will not subscribe to traditional TV in 2026.

Meanwhile, streaming revenues, already in the billions, rose 14 per cent last year and will increase by an additional $500 million this year – disproportionately benefiting foreign web giants.

Audiences now expect around-the-clock access to news – and media companies have had to adjust.

Some have sought to distort the facts about Bell’s restructuring. We should all agree that facts matter – so here are the facts.

One: Bell continues to invest in news and media. Since I became CEO in 2020, Bell Media has invested more than $1 billion in capital to better serve our viewers. This is on top of the almost $1.7 billion a year we invest in content.

Yet despite these massive investments, CTV conventional stations lost more than $180 million last year. And Bell Media loses more than $40 million a year on news alone.

Two: Bell Media far exceeds all its regulatory obligations for local news. We air more than 25,000 hours of local news per year – that’s 150% per cent more than the CRTC requires.

Three: CTV News Channel, CP24 and BNN air 20,000 hours of news per year – that’s 300% more than the CRTC requires.

Four: CTV publishes approximately three times more digital news stories on an average day than when Bell acquired it 13 years ago.

Five: CTV now airs more original national newscasts than at any point in the network’s 60 plus year history.

Six: For the first time ever, CTV National News will soon have dedicated journalists telling stories from all 10 provinces.

Seven: We are investing more than ever in francophone content. 

In 2021, we launched Noovo Info.

Think about this: during a challenging time, Bell Media built a newsroom from the ground up.

We hired a team of francophone journalists to broadcast news in five markets across Québec. Since then, the newsroom has grown 25%.

Eight: Our Crave streaming platform offers almost 11,000 hours of French-language content.

And our Rouge FM program Véronique et les Fantastiques recently announced that it would play only French-language music in its coveted timeslot.

No other Canadian media company has made investments of this scale, but it is not enough to overcome the challenges facing our industry.

As a result, Bell made the difficult decision to implement workforce reductions, through departures and the elimination of vacant positions.

Less than 10% – or 440 positions – were at Bell Media.

We know this is difficult for those affected. We are supporting them with a fair severance package, career transition services and continued access to health benefits.

And we have met all obligations under collective bargaining agreements.

Bell is not alone. In the past year, the taxpayer-funded CBC/Radio-Canada announced that it will cut 800 positions, TVA has eliminated close to 550 positions and Corus has reduced its workforce by at least 15%.

Last year, Telus announced 6,000 job reductions. And Rogers has also restructured.

Let me be clear, we are not asking for special protections. We are asking for a level playing field with global web giants.

Yet the regulatory framework has been too slow to adjust to the massive challenges we’re seeing. The Online Streaming Act took three years to develop and is still not implemented.

Bell pays almost $2 billion a year in federal regulatory fees and contributions. In contrast, Amazon, Disney, Netflix and others – each many times larger than Bell – have not paid anything. This, despite the billions in revenue they earn from Canadians.

I hope to use our two hours together to discuss constructive solutions, so that future generations have access to stories that reflect our country.

Thank you.

Mirko Bibic
President and Chief Executive Officer BCE Inc. and Bell Canada