Shut Up and Dribble: The Canadian sports media landscape is losing too many of its own

Budget cuts from big media corporations are kicking many of the country’s finest to the curb

A number of Canada’s most popular sports media personalities have lost their jobs over the last few weeks. File Graphic Breea Kobernik

Rogers has eliminated the Toronto Blue Jays radio broadcast for the 2021 season and will play the audio of the TV broadcast on-air instead. This may not seem like a major issue to many, but a radio broadcast is significantly different than the one we hear on television. Every detail is of significance on radio. That is not the case when you are watching on TV and can put some of the pieces together on your own. A decision of this magnitude is sure to hinder the experience of fans that are only able to listen to the games on the radio, including visually impaired fans. Rogers offered up a non-committal response when asked whether or not the radio broadcast for Blue Jays games will be back for the 2022 season.

A multibillion-dollar corporation severing ties with long-time employees in order to make budget cuts is an alarming piece of news for up-and-coming sports journalists. Many major media personalities employed by Rogers that we see on TV today got their starts in the lower ranks. For example, Tim Micallef started his career as a broadcaster for USports competition. He is now the face of the Tim and Friends Show on Rogers Sportsnet viewed by many country-wide.

The Sports Network recently laid off 210 people. TWO HUNDRED AND TEN! Of those former employees is Dan O'Toole, the former co-host of Sportscenter with Jay and Dan, a show that provided entertainment to sports fans for so many years.

O’Toole posted a cryptic message following his lay off by TSN. Bell Media Corporation owns the network, and they also run Bell Let’s Talk day on Jan. 28 of every year. “I'm so confused. So I have to wait for a specific day, and then mention a specific company, and only then, will the company give money to mental health,” said O’Toole via Twitter. This tweet definitely stemmed from anger but there is some truth to it. Laying someone off will negatively impact their mental health. When you cut 210 employees off, what message is a company that claims to be a big player in mental health really sending? 

Bell media also discontinued three radio stations across the country. TSN 1040 Vancouver, TSN 1150 Hamilton, and TSN 1290 Winnipeg no longer exist. Some of them even got discontinued mid-air. Rogers, Bell, and Telus all collected close to $240 million in government funding as a result of the pandemic (Toronto Star). Were the budget cuts that resulted in lost jobs even necessary at that point?

The pandemic has forced the hand of some of these corporations and that’s simply what the business aspect entails. To lay off long-time employees that have been pillars of a media company so easily does not offer too much hope for the new generation trying to make their mark in an already scarce job market.