News Local

CTV Barrie drops local sports

Cheryl Browne

By Cheryl Browne, Barrie Examiner

Layoffs have recently been announced at CTV Barrie, located on Beacon Road. IAN MCINROY/BARRIE EXAMINER/POSTMEDIA

Layoffs have recently been announced at CTV Barrie, located on Beacon Road. IAN MCINROY/BARRIE EXAMINER/POSTMEDIA

Local sports stars are going to miss their moment in the spotlight now that CTV’s sports department is off-air.

Both sports anchor Alastair Connolly and weekend sports anchor/videographer Mike Arsalides have been pulled from the sports beat, said CTV’s Unifor 714-M union representative, Jim Holmes.

“They’ve dropped sports from our news program and said we’re doing sports differently,” Holmes said.

Holmes said in addition to moving the two sportscasters to news duties, two camera operators were also laid off.

Last year, CTV owner Bell Media made the decision to run NFL football games through the 6 p.m. news hour Sundays due to higher revenues generated by the game than the newscast, he said.

Now they’ve flip-flopped and pulled sports right out of the newscast, he said.

Holmes said Bell Media has laid some of the blame for the layoffs on advertising rule changes by Canadian Radio-television and Communications (CRTC).

Joined by the NFL, Bell Media is back in court appealing the Canadian media regulator’s decision to allow American advertisements to run during last Sunday’s Super Bowl game.

For most American broadcasts, Canadian ads are run nationally during the commercial breaks.

Known in the industry as simultaneous substitution, or sim-sub, CRTC spokeswoman Patricia Valladao said the regulator disallowed the substitution after calls from the public to do so.

“For the Super Bowl, we’ve been told ads are considered part of the show and viewers told us they wanted to be part of the whole show with the game and ads together,” Valladao said.

With the game running Canadian commercials on CTV, CTV Two and TSN, Valladao said she is unsure how many viewers did turn to the American Fox network to watch the game with the American ads.

She said the Super Bowl is considered a “unique example” in that it allowed American ads to run north of the border.

Other large shows with large audience appeal, such as the upcoming Oscars don’t, and won’t, have American ads broadcast over their Canadian counterparts.

“There were many consultations over this and this was not a decision we took lightly. It was for three hours out of the whole broadcasting system,” she said.

Bell Media has reported a 39% drop in ratings for the Super Bowl.

Last year’s Super Bowl game between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers drew approximately 7.3 million viewers, while this year’s game between the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots brought in approximately 4.47 million viewers.

However, Bell Media news and sports director Matthew Garrow said the CRTC ruling is only partly to blame for the layoffs.

“I can confirm that we have reduced a number of positions as part of a restructuring at Bell Media that includes local TV and radio stations,” Garrow said.

He said Bell Media’s restructuring is the result of challenges Bell and other Canadian media companies are facing “due to increasing international competition, the evolution of broadcast technologies, and advertising and regulatory pressure.”

Bell Media laid off approximately 400 employees in its production and editorial departments in Nov. 2015.

“There’s clearly been an impact from the CRTC’s Super Bowl sim-sub decision, among others, but the reality is that Canadian media companies are facing significant change on all fronts, and as a result we need to adjust our business appropriately,” he said.

Holmes said he doesn’t believe Bell Media understands the importance of local sports in smaller communities.

“Sports and culture are the fabric of the community; it’s vital to a community of this size,” Holmes said.

Parents and grandparents go to their children’s games and watch for their children on TV, he said.

“It’s not my decision, but I think it’s the wrong decision to make,” he said.

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