Bell Media launches workplace review after LaFlamme departure

The company is looking to address questions about "toxic behaviour" that have been raised about its newsroom this week.

Bell Media will conduct a review of its newsroom after the departure of Lisa LaFlamme earlier this week has raised concerns about the workplace culture within CTV.

LaFlamme was let go from Bell Media on Monday after 35 years with CTV, a decision the former chief anchor said left her feeling “blindsided.”

After questions were raised by the viewing public – and, reportedly, other CTV staff – Bell Media says it will be conducting an independent, third-party review of its newsroom, which will take place over the coming weeks.

“CTV regrets the way in which the news of [LaFlamme's] departure has been communicated may have left viewers with the wrong impression about how CTV regards Lisa and her remarkable career,” a statement from Bell Media reads.

The statement goes on to say: “We have always taken matters regarding any discrimination very seriously and are committed to a safe, inclusive and respectful work environment for all our employees, devoid of any toxic behaviour.”

Questions about the workplace culture in Bell Media’s news division and how it may have come into play with LaFlamme have been risen since it was announced on Monday, both from CTV viewers online and in stories from other news outlets.

Reports from The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail and Canadaland, citing multiple sources inside CTV’s newsroom, have led to speculation that sexism and ageism had a role in LaFlamme’s departure. A Globe story first reported that Michael Melling, Bell Media’s VP of news, raised questions about allowing LaFlamme to have grey hair on the air. This led to many comparisons online to Lloyd Robertson, LaFlamme’s predecessor, as well as former CBC lead anchor Peter Mansbridge, who were both balding and grey at the time of their retirements and illustrated a double standard for men and women in media.

Melling took over the news operation at Bell Media after Wendy Freeman left the company at the end of last year, and several reports say he was the one responsible for letting LaFlamme go. LaFlamme and Melling had reportedly previously disagreed over resources that needed to be devoted to coverage, including the war in Ukraine. This illustrated a “culture of fear” at Bell Media, where management reacted negatively to being challenged.

The sources also described newsroom morale as being an issue within the news division due to multiple rounds of layoffs in recent years. That has been exacerbated by losing LaFlamme, who one of the Star’s sources described as the newroom’s “biggest defender.”

Bell Media has so far declined to directly comment on any of the reports. When the company announced LaFlamme’s departure, it said it was a “business decision” made to take CTV’s national newscast in a new direction, in response to changing viewer habits.

A recording of a Thursday town hall meeting led by Melling and Karen Moses, SVP of content development and news at Bell Media, featured multiple staff describing morale within the newsroom as the lowest it has ever been. When asked about the new direction the company planned to take with its news coverage, as well as why it required a change in chief anchor, Moses did not offer details. She instead said that the plan would be shared with staff, and could not pinpoint “a specific thing,” as it was part of a holistic decision.