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Bell Media cuts up to 120 employees at its TV operations, blames weak ad sales

A construction worker works on a Bell building in Ottawa on June 26, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

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A construction worker works on a Bell building in Ottawa on June 26, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

TORONTO - Bell Media plans to lay off about five per cent of its Toronto workforce due to "financial pressure" in its advertising and subscription TV services.

The radio and television division of BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE) said Monday that as many as 120 jobs will be cut this summer.

"Bell Media has informed the federal minister of labour of our intention," Bell Media spokesman Scott Henderson said in an emailed statement.

Henderson declined to specify where the cuts would be made, but said the layoffs do not include jobs in radio.

Bell Media runs a variety of television channels like the CTV network, CTV Two and the TSN sports lineup. Its speciality channels include The Comedy Network, the MuchMusic channels and MTV.

Canadian media companies have been warning about an advertising slowdown for months. In April, Rogers Media president Keith Pelley told the CRTC that the industry is undergoing dramatic shifts over a short period.

Unifor national representative David Lewington said the union entered contract negotiations with Bell Media in May, talks that were adjourned at the end of the month until mid-August.

"They indicated to us that if second-quarter earnings projections did not pick up then there was a possibility of a restructuring," he said in an interview.

However, the union said at the time of talks were adjourned that the company had dropped the spectre of layoffs within the next two months, which would be the end of August.

BCE will report its financial results for the second quarter in August.

In May, BCE reported that first-quarter revenues for Bell Media spiked 40.7 per cent to $722 million on higher advertising and subscriber fees from the Astral acquisition.

Bell Media bought a number of assets from Astral, including a slate of radio stations, billboards and pay-TV channels, The Movie Network and HBO Canada.

Earlier Monday, the president of CTV News confirmed that its prime time current affairs show "Kevin Newman Live" had been pulled from the air, though Henderson said the announced job cuts were not related to the show's cancellation.

Including all of its TV channels and radio stations, Bell Media has about 2,400 employees in the Toronto area and about 6,500 staff across the country.

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