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More unforced errors as LaFlamme scandal forces Bell top Brass to weigh in.

More unforced errors as LaFlamme scandal forces Bell top Brass to weigh in.

Today marks the two-week anniversary of Lisa LaFlamme’s Tweeted announcement that she had been fired as anchor of CTV National News, and the story shows no signs of abating. Over the weekend a who’s who of Canadian politicians, academics, non-CTV media figures and artists led by McCain Foods heiress Margaret Norrie McCain published a spread in the Globe and Mail calling on Bell Media to make things right. That prompted Mirko Bibic, president and CEO of BCE Inc. & Bell Canada, the top man in the chain, to issue a statement that read “The narrative has been that Lisa’s age, gender or grey hair played into the decision…I am satisfied that this is not the case and wanted to make sure you heard it from me.” PR rule number one: never repeat the offensive phrase that you are denying.

He then goes on to say that the real issue is that late night news shows are no longer appointment viewing for Canadians. “The days when viewers wait until 11 p.m. to get their news are gone,” Bibic said. “While some may resist change, it is necessary and we need to confront this … Bell Media needs to provide our journalists with the resources they need on all platforms where news is consumed.” Fair enough, TV news viewing has changed; but it ignores the fact that LaFlamme was still the number one anchor in the time slot and was pulling in a million viewers. Bibic’s comments about changing viewing habits being responsible for the move would only ring true if the plan was to scrap the newscast altogether. Instead, they have hired another anchor.

Employment lawyer Howard Levitt is critical of the plan to conduct an investigation. He says the people who do these kinds of investigations tailor their findings to please the managers who hire them, and that these kinds of investigations serve only as a delaying tactic to make the story die down. Levitt wrote in the National Post, “Does Bell Media really need to investigate? What facts are unknown to it? It made the decision to fire LaFlamme, knows why it did it and knows whether it was tainted, as alleged, by her age or gender.”

Colin Horgan is a communications professional and a former journalist and speechwriter. He makes the valid point that Bell should have seen this coming and should have had a robust communications plan in place before pulling the plug on the face of their news operation. Whether they did or not, it sure feels like they had no plan and maybe thought the controversy could be confined to CTV. Instead, it has engulfed the entire organization. By the way, Bell media lists 22 people in its Public relations department.

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