CHUM swept by layoffs amid news overhaul

CHUM's big day ended with a big shock for the nearly 300 employees who were handed pink slips on July 12, within hours of news that the broadcast giant was being bought out by CTV parent Bell Globemedia, pending regulator approval.

CHUM’s big day ended with a big shock for the nearly 300 employees who were handed pink slips on July 12, within hours of news that the broadcast giant was being bought out by CTV parent Bell Globemedia, pending regulator approval.

Buried by the news of the takeover was word of CHUM’s intention to restructure its local information programming and to cut 281 full- and part-time jobs. CHUM says the changes will result in savings of about $14.7 million.

Programming changes in Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Barrie eliminated 133 full-time and 62 part-time positions in news and local programming.

Technology and production changes at stations in Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, London and Brandon led to the further loss of 58 full-time and 28 part-time positions in the news, operations and traffic departments.

‘Any decision that results in a reduction of staff is always difficult,’ said Peter Palframan, SVP of operations for CHUM Television, in a statement. ‘However, our local experience, together with the extensive research and analysis… has shown we can be a more meaningful community partner and increase our competitive position by building on our strengths in each market.’

CHUM is replacing its traditional one-hour evening newscasts at the Citytvs in Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg with a half-hour local newsmagazine called In Your City. The program will cover community stories in depth and will be paired with a daily half-hour of national and international news. Local morning show BreakfastTelevision will be enhanced in each market and, in the case of Calgary and Edmonton, will be expanded to four hours.

Traditional newscasts will be cut at Citytv Vancouver in order to expand its BreakfastTelevision morning show.

The daily noon news show at A-Channel Ottawa will be discontinued, as will BreakfastTelevision at A-Channel Victoria.

News will remain unchanged at Citytv Toronto, while A-Channel News in Barrie will return to a more local focus.

BGM says it will sell all six A-Channels, however, in what looks to be a preemptive effort to appease the CRTC, which is sure to weigh its approval of the buyout against concerns of market concentration. The other A-Channels are in London, Windsor and Wingham.

Some cancellations took effect immediately. New initiatives will launch in September or the new year.

The CHUM buyout is meeting resistance among unions, politicians and marketers.

‘Generally speaking, we like to see more players rather than less in the broadcast world because that gives us the most leverage on pricing and other aspects [of media buying],’ says Steve Aronovitch, broadcast investment manager at the Starcom Mediavest agency in Toronto.

CHUM, a publicly traded company with about 90% of its stock held by the Waters family, has agreed to support BGM’s acquisition of its stock if certain conditions are met. The deal must also be approved by the federal Competition Bureau, a process expected to take at least a year. *

A version of this story ran in the July 13 issue of Media in Canada.