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Big changes at MTV, Much as Bell Media makes deep cuts to production staff

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TORONTO - Bell Media is cutting 91 employees from its production staff as it makes big changes to programming, with the brunt of the losses hitting music channels Much, MTV and M3.

The layoffs are part of a previously announced plan for Bell Media, a subsidiary of BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE), to cut 120 jobs from its Toronto workforce due to "financial pressure'' in its advertising and subscription TV services.

A notice sent by Bell Media's human resources department, dated July 9, outlined some of the cuts, which included editors and producers at Much, formerly known as MuchMusic. All of the changes will be made before mid-October, the letter said.

Bell Media spokeswoman Amy Doary confirmed that 72 union jobs were being eliminated and another 19 non-union positions were being cut, affecting channels that include CTV, Space, E!, Much, MTV, and M3, formerly known as MuchMoreMusic.

"This is a result of stopping production on several in-house productions," Doary said in an emailed statement.

Shows that were scrapped on MTV Canada include "1 Girl, 5 Gays," "Losing It," "MTV News" and "After Degrassi," a roundtable discussion that aired after episodes of "Degrassi: The Next Generation."

On Much, "Video On Trial," "The Wedge" and "Today's Top 10s" received the axe, while the CTV/E! entertainment news series "Movie Night" was also cancelled.

For several years, executives at Bell have been urging the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission to let them make changes to Much that would scale back its requirements for showing music videos.

They argue that the popularity of YouTube has sapped its viewership as more teenagers log onto their computers for instant access to their favourite artists.

Under its current licence, the speciality channel must show 12 hours of music videos per day. A request filed with the CRTC in 2010 to cut that amount in half was shot down. MTV has a different type of licence and doesn't air music videos.

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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