Bell Media 'regrets' handling of Lisa LaFlamme ouster

Bell Media says it 'regrets' the way in which the departure of anchor Lisa LaFlamme has been handled, and will launch a third-party workplace review of the CTV newsroom after criticism of her ouster.

Dismissal raises questions about whether sexism, ageism played role in shakeup

Lisa LaFlamme poses with her Canadian Screen Award for best national news anchor in Toronto on Aug. 17. The parent company of CTV News says it will launch an internal workplace review amid criticism of its dismissal of LaFlamme from her role as chief anchor. (George Pimentel/The Canadian Press)

The parent company of CTV News says it will launch a workplace review conducted by an independent party amid criticism of its dismissal of Lisa LaFlamme from her role as chief anchor.

Bell Media said in a statement Friday it "regrets" the way in which LaFlamme's departure was handled, as it "may have left viewers with the wrong impression" that her storied career wasn't valued.

On Monday, LaFlamme released a video statement saying she was "blindsided" after finding out in June that Bell Media was ending her contract at CTV National News. She said she kept the news under wraps until the details were finalized.

The dismissal, which Bell described as a "business decision," raised questions among media observers about whether sexism and ageism played a role in the shakeup.

Bell Media said in its statement it takes allegations of discrimination "very seriously" and is taking steps to initiate a third-party internal workplace review in the newsroom over the coming weeks.

The company did not respond to questions about whether a firm has been chosen to conduct the review.

LaFlamme's departure and her replacement were announced on the same day Monday, frustrating viewers who felt LaFlamme should have had a proper sign-off and career retrospective after 35 years with the company.

In a town hall meeting with staff on Thursday, two key Bell Media executives offered their perspectives on the events that transpired in recent weeks.

Karine Moses, senior vice-president of content development and news for Bell Media, said LaFlamme rejected the opportunity to bid farewell on air, reiterating what she wrote to staff in an internal memo sent Thursday.

In a recording of the meeting obtained by The Canadian Press, she told employees that LaFlamme wasn't simply ousted from the company.

She "was offered many options to come back and to do many things, which she declined, and I respect that," Moses said, without offering details on the other job opportunities Bell Media presented to LaFlamme.

Michael Melling, vice-president of Bell Media's news division, told staff he had no intention of speaking publicly or participating in media interviews about the recent events.

He said anonymous sources have been spreading erroneous information that was "said without context or manipulated."

Melling added that in the coming weeks he intends to hold "a number of small team meetings, probably of less than a dozen people," to discuss the future of the flagship newscast, promising to share audience and trends as well as financial data.

He said those meetings will begin soon and stretch past Labour Day because of the size of the news team.

"I want you guys to see the bigger picture," he said.