Rogers Media faces backlash over mass layoffs

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Rogers Media is facing the music from local listeners after it laid off four radio hosts from its rock station, K-Rock 105.7. The layoffs were part of a strategic shift that will “modernize [their] business position for growth” amid the global pandemic. Ultimately, over 100 jobs were cut Canada wide. Now, over 1700 local listeners are demanding that the cuts be reversed.

“I recently woke up to find that my local radio station K-Rock 105.7 had fired my favourite morning show Sideshow, Lou and Oz during a pandemic,” MaryAnn Palmer, who started a Change.org petition said.

The anger stems from the media giants decision to cut down on local radio shows and replace hosts with ones that are popular in larger radio markets.

The Brock & Dalby Show for instance has replaced the “Sideshow, Ozz and Lew Show” as the stations morning show. After seeing some success at Regina’s Rock station, the duo was moved Winnipeg’s 92.1 CITI in June. From there, the duo were re-assigned to Kingston’s K-Rock 105.7, now broadcasting their show to several cities in Ontario.

Despite their success in other markets, the decision by Rogers has made for a rocky start. The station received dozens of complaints and prompted K-Rock to respond to some listeners who now believe that the shows are pre-recorded. In reality, the hosts will move to Kingston from Winnipeg and will broadcast to other local communities that faced cuts, such as Sudbury, North Bay and Timmins. In the evenings, all shows played in Kingston are outsourced from larger markers such as Ottawa and Toronto.

A promotion for K-Rock’s new show faced backlash from audiences

“Hey Amanda, thanks for reaching out. Contrary to some rumours floating around out there, the show is actually live, not pre-recorded and Brock & Dalby will be living right here in Kingston,” K-Rock 105.7 said in one response.

The listeners have also accused the station of lacking compassion in the way that the layoffs were carried out. “No explanation. No farewell. The only show I looked forward to listening to was gone and I feel like I won’t be the only person to feel frustration from this loss. I also learned that Rogers Radio will not be replacing them locally but rather sending a show from Winnipeg just like they once did with Humble and Fred.” Palmar said in her Change.org petition.

“Because these people are local people, these people own homes in Kingston and their children go to school here, they spend their income in our community and although these maybe unprecedented times for businesses, these are also unprecedented times for people. They do not deserve to be fired like this and replaced with an out-of-town station, and we don’t need to tolerate this happening in our community.” Palmar said.

K-Rock 105.7 wasn’t always owned by Rogers Media. The media company purchased the rights of the station from local broadcasters John P. Wright and Douglas Kirk in 2008. Wright and Kirk owned 75% percent of the station, with the remainder being owned by Rogers.

Rogers has previously said that the cuts are necessary as they “allow us to prioritize our focus in areas where we have the assets and capabilities to deliver best-in-class multi-platform experiences.”

Despite the cuts being made by Rogers Media, the corporation is still issuing quarterly dividends to its shareholders. In October 2020, Rogers Communications distributed $.50 per share, or about $650,000 to its shareholders. Additionally, Jordan Banks, the President of the Rogers Sports & Media Divisions has not received a deduction in salary. Banks earns about $1.6M dollars a year. Together, the corporations top 5 executives earn about $10M dollars annually.

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