Question Period: Media Support

By: The Hon. Andrew Cardozo

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Hon. Andrew Cardozo: My question is for the Government Representative in the Senate. It’s regarding the job cuts at CTV. Bell announced last week that it would cut 4,800 jobs in addition to 1,300 that it announced eight months ago. Now, it’s important to keep in mind that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, or CRTC, had approved over the last many years acquisitions by Bell that facilitated its becoming a considerable media empire. Now, it is selling off 45 of those radio stations, and it’s going to make a lot of money in that.

Recently, though, Bell complained that it did not like the CRTC decision allowing some of the small competitors to have access to its fibre network, a policy that is designed to give Canadians competition in telephony. So my question is: What is the government’s position on these cuts? What can the government do directly, or what do you think the CRTC should be doing at this point?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Well, thank you for this important question. First and foremost, on behalf of the government, I offer my sincerest thoughts to the employees of Bell who are affected by these very severe cuts.

My understanding is — and we have all seen the news reports — that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Canadian Heritage have expressed their disappointment, and they’ve expressed it in strong terms that I will not repeat in this chamber, and, indeed, their frustration that Bell is making this move, given their continued profitability — billions in profit — and this government’s ongoing support for them, and the information crisis that we face in the communication services that Canadians count on. It’s a regrettable decision that this government deplores.

Senator Cardozo: I want to ask you about the huge blow this decision is to news and journalism in Canada and certainly to democracy. What do you feel is the role of other media in filling these gaps, especially with regards to CBC/Radio-Canada?

Senator Gold: Thank you. The government has taken every opportunity to support local broadcasters, defend journalism and do its part to ensure that Canadians have access to reliable local news. That includes passing the Online News Act that will support domestic broadcasters by making tech giants pay their fair share. Government is working towards a competitive, fair and future-focused system for public and private broadcasters, and will continue to do so in an environment that is changing rapidly and is incredibly challenging.

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