MONTREAL – Bell Media shocked the radio market Tuesday when it shuttered three of its sports-themed stations as part of an ongoing layoff streak, following their recent “Let’s Talk” mental health campaign with a restructuring move called “Chat’s Over, Pack Your Shit.”
Critics of the layoffs condemned the broadcaster for sudden mass firings in the middle of a pandemic, seemingly incongruous with their annual mental health awareness message. But Bell has embraced the contradiction, saying it needs to focus on the supply side of depression too.
“Sure, ‘Let’s Talk’ is a great way to get millions of dollars in free publicity by building a shameless ad campaign on the backs of the suffering masses,” Bell Media president Wade Oosterman told reporters. “But if we don’t cultivate that suffering, we won’t have enough anxiety and depression out there for next year’s crop. Those employees we ruthlessly fire today will be the benefactors of our ‘Let’s Talk’ campaign in 2022. It’s the circle of marketing.”
Employees were not notified ahead of time, some discovering they were fired in the middle of a commercial break and given 30 minutes to collect their belongings and leave the building. Many found out when they heard a pre-recorded company message unexpectedly broadcast on their own station, saying “Talk is cheap. Dead air is cheaper. Get the fuck out.”
The firings came soon after Bell Canada Enterprises posted its most recent financial report showing a quarterly profit of $889 million — up from $672 million the year before — leading the company to raise dividends for shareholders by 5%, all while taking $122 million in wage subsidies from the Canadian government over the past year, a process economists call “the Full Harper.”
“The media is really overplaying that whole corrupt rich guy angle,” said Oosterman. “Sure, we literally took free government money for our employees, gave it to the shareholders, and then fired the employees. But that’s just business. I really don’t know why everyone’s still talking about it.”