On Tuesday morning, Bell Media sent shockwaves through the online realm, as the mass media outlet announced the immediate removal of TSN sports radio in Winnipeg, Vancouver and Hamilton. Stations TSN 1290, TSN 1040, and TSN 1150 have been switched off of sports programming effective immediately.
All three stations’ Twitter accounts have been deactivated and their homepages on the TSN radio website have been removed. A generic statement was posted on the TSN radio websites in each of the three markets, indicating the shift from sports talk radio.
“It was a difficult decision, but the realities of the quickly evolving broadcast media landscape in Canada have made this change unavoidable,” the statement read. “We want to thank our on-air personalities, advertising partners and sponsors, and everyone who has contributed to this station. But especially we want to thank our listeners. Our work here at TSN 1290 was driven by our passion to bring you the very best sports, news and discussion. We sincerely appreciate the time you have spent with us.”
This news comes just mere days after TSN announced cuts to over 200 staff, including long-time Sportscentre anchors Dan O’Toole and Natasha Staniszewski, as well as Ottawa bureau reporter Brent Wallace.
This season, Bell Media lost the Winnipeg Jets broadcasting rights to Corus Radio. Vancouver’s TSN 1040 lost the Canucks’ broadcasting rights to Sportsnet 650 back in 2017. Hamilton’s TSN 1150 never owned the rights to broadcast NHL content.
Green Day’s Good Riddance (I Hope You Had the Time of Your Life) began playing following the final sign-off on all three stations Tuesday morning.
Making matters significantly worse is the fact that this change came with little to no warning. Much like that of Dan O’Toole, who tweeted following his final show, that things may have gone down differently had he known it would be his last show on Sportscentre.
Had I known last night was my final show, I would have tried a little harder. Ahhhh, who am I kidding. I probably wouldn't have. It was a wild ride. If you got our show, then you laughed along with us. Thank you! Peace and love and let's raise a glass together once Covid is over.
— Dan O'Toole (@notontvotoole) February 4, 2021
The same could be said of fellow radio employees coast-to-coast, as the news seemingly hit the Twitterverse prior to staff members being informed by their superiors.
Texted one of the guys at TSN-1290 just now. Hasn't received a call or email. "None of us know what is going on. Where is everyone seeing or hearing this?"
— Paul Friesen (@friesensunmedia) February 9, 2021
And this wasn’t just in Winnipeg.
Just texted a TSN radio employee to say I was sorry to hear the news. Their response?
— John Hodge (@JohnDHodge) February 9, 2021
The most difficult part in all of this is that just over a week ago, Bell held its annual ‘Let’s Talk’ day, where *a percentage* of each text/tweet/social media mention of the coined phrase sees proceeds donated towards mental health recovery and help in its free advertising campaign.
Back in January, Members of Parliament leaked information that Bell had received roughly $122 million in wage subsidy from the Canadian government to help cover employees salaries. The media giant then went ahead with its 200 cuts, and explained the layoffs as a ‘shift in media landscape, while streamlining operating structure’.
Oh, and wait. There’s more. Bell Media announced a fourth-quarter earnings increase of roughly 30 percent in the final months of 2020, pushing its year-end net to $70 million shy of $1 billion.
This, obviously, did not go over well for those participating in the annual marketing campaign of late-January. With mental health issues at an all-time high, the thought of cutting a significant portion of jobs during a global pandemic certainly does not seem like a soothing mental health response from the parent company supposedly leading the charge.
On January 26, Bell’s Chief Legal and Regulatory Officer Rob Malcolmson told Nate Erskine-Smith, Member of Parliament that Bell served as “a participant in a government program that was very well designed to keep Canadians working at a critical time and we participated in that program commensurate with the impact that the pandemic was having upon our workforce.”
Bell Media received a federal wage subsidy for $122M. They cut wages, increased shareholder dividends and laid off countless employees during a pandemic.
I think this should mark the end of “Bell Let’s Talk” for good. They don’t care about mental health. They never did.
— Nick Robertson Appreciator (@junotheleafs) February 9, 2021
With various radio personalities across the country now looking for a new home, it is not clear what exactly will replace the sports talk radio earlier found on the 1290 TSN-operated Bell Media station. Exact numbers on people affected have also not been released, nor are they expected to be.
One closing remark from Dan O’Toole on these decisions:
Let’s talk. We should. Let’s talk. Does it mean anything without a hashtag? Oh right. Wrong day. So I have to mention the company for it to mean anything? But what if I was fired by the company that makes the hashtag about mental health? Do I still include them in the hashtag?
— Dan O'Toole (@notontvotoole) February 6, 2021
And isn’t being fired, I don’t know, kind of bad for mental health? Shit. Didn’t include the hashtag. With the company name. So these tweets don’t count?
— Dan O'Toole (@notontvotoole) February 6, 2021