Last week, Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE) announced it was cutting 4,800 jobs, ending a host of television newscasts across the country, and planning to sell off 45 radio stations. This continues the telecommunication company’s trend of cuts and closures. 

Bell cuts 4,800 jobs

Last Thursday, CEO Mirko Bibic announced plans to slash jobs “at all levels of the company.” Although it is unclear what specific positions this affects, there is no doubt these layoffs will target the most precarious employees—in Bell’s journalistic and technical staff—first. And as we saw last June, when management cut more than 1,300 jobs, the remaining staff will be called upon to work longer and harder hours to replace them. 

Bibic’s excuse for the cuts is the $40 million in operating losses that Bell faces annually. But just last year, the federal government abolished licensing fees, saving Bell $40 million annually. On top of these subsidies, Bell has been offered a $30-million bailout, from a deal the federal government made with Google.

Bell executives complain about operating costs while they are paid hand over fist to fire workers and shut down news broadcasting. Bibic is one of the top 50 highest-paid CEOs in Canada and made $13.59 million in 2021 alone, all while BCE continues to raise dividends for shareholders. Additionally, former Bell Media president Wade Oosterman made $4.88 million in 2022. 

In addition to the cuts, Bell has sold off 45 radio stations and ended almost all of its noon and weekend newscasts across the country. The cutting of news broadcasts by Canada’s biggest media company is a huge blow to workers’ ability to access both local and national news. Many of the radio stations were recently bought before Bell scrapped them for not realizing enough profit—furthering the centralization of the news in the hands of a few monopolies.

So far, the Trudeau government has had little to say about the cuts. Trudeau personally feigned outrage, calling it a “garbage decision”, but his heritage minister Pascale St-Onge has, to date, declined to offer any plans to stop the cuts.

Meanwhile, the only response from the New Democratic Party has been to prepare another bailout package for management, labeled $40 million in “regulatory relief.” This amounts to little more than doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Bailing the company out today is highly unlikely to stop management from making cuts tomorrow. And we’ve seen this too many times before.

News media under capitalism 

Many journalists and media workers imagine they exist separate from society and even “above” politics. But here we see that nowhere is safe from the capitalist class’s rule. 

Bell’s layoffs have proven that the quality or character of the news they publish is only relevant to them as much as it brings in revenue. And no matter how much the company claims to serve the “public good”, we see that the capitalists and their profits condition everything. 

The news, a useful service for millions of people, is being cut because it is not making enough profit. This is the natural result of a system where the billionaires are in charge. 

Similarly we see that under capitalism, news media is managed to serve the needs of the capitalist class. Since Israel’s genocidal war in Gaza, Bell Media’s management has become Infamous for suppressing stories critical of Israel. Interviews with Palestinian guests who criticize Israel are often not published and journalists are told not to say the word “Palestine”.

This is the natural conclusion of a system where the same capitalists who control the news profit off of genocide. The Canadian ruling class benefits from the existence of Israel and the crimes it commits in Palestine. Likely, the journalists who spoke out about Bell’s coverage of Israel were some of the first targets of the cuts. 

It is in the interest of the ruling class to deceive and divide the working class. And it is in their interest to strip any and all media ”assets” to maximize their returns, whatever the cost

But members of the working class and oppressed have no reason to deceive each other. This shows the need to liberate news media and the means of communication from the capitalist class, by toppling the system generally.  

Once the means of communication are in the hands of the whole working class, we can replace the bourgeois producers and managers with elected members of the working class, and put the day-to-day operations in the hands of working-class people, in the service of the whole working class.

In a period of crisis and catastrophe, the ruling class has no interest in paying anyone to seriously study the events of the day. But on the basis of a planned economy, the media will play a vital educational role, in the transition to a communist world.