Bell Media president Sean Cohan says layoffs were necessary to reach company’s goals

By Alex Nino Gheciu, The Canadian Press

TORONTO — Bell Media president Sean Cohan says recent layoffs and programming cuts are something he doesn’t take lightly, but were necessary to accelerate the company’s goals in the digital media landscape.

On Tuesday, Cohan made his first public appearance since stepping into the executive role by speaking at the inaugural Black Screen Office Symposium in Toronto, where he used a keynote address to outline Bell Media’s continued commitment to diversity.

In an interview after the speech, Cohan said he takes issue with how layoffs across the country by parent company Bell Inc., have been characterized as “killing journalism.”

In February, Bell announced 4,800 job cuts at all levels of the company, of which fewer than 10 per cent have affected Bell Media specifically. Bell Media also announced the end of multiple local newscasts across the country and said CTV’s flagship investigative series “W5” would no longer be a standalone program.

Cohan said Bell Media now has “more dedicated journalists in more territories” in Canada than ever before as a result of the restructuring. The company says “CTV National News” will soon have dedicated newsgathering staff in all 10 Canadian provinces, a first for the newscast.

While BCE Inc., announced it was selling off 45 of 103 Bell radio stations as part of the restructuring, Cohan said he thinks radio is still “a viable business going forward.”

He said the company sold those stations to “committed local players” it felt were “better homes.”

In his keynote address at the BSO Symposium, Cohan said an important part of his mandate is to create greater diversity within Bell Media, adding that diversity makes for “great business.”

He said the company wants half of the English and French language programs it commissions this year to be generated by creatives from Black, Indigenous, people of colour and under-represented groups. A publicist later said Cohan misspoke and was referring to English-language commissions only.

Cohan, who began his post in November, said he’s committed to making sure the company delivers “differentiated storytelling” by having a “diverse, inclusive workforce.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 2, 2024.

Alex Nino Gheciu, The Canadian Press

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