Carleton professor Dwayne Winseck has posted a bombshell report that uncovers editorial interference at Bell with Bell Media President Kevin Crull issuing directives to CTV and company-owned local television and radio channels to provide favourable coverage of the wireless issue just as the incumbent campaign against Verizon was ramping up in early July. Winseck posts details on internal company emails that indicate Crull sent the message to provide coverage on the CRTC-sponsored Wall Report:
Kevin Crull our President wants us to give this report some coverageâ€¦.â€ and â€œKevin is asking if this report can get some coverage today on Talk Radio. National news is covering for TVâ€.
As I posted on the same day as the emails, the Wall Report actually found that Canada falls on the high side of wireless pricing among the countries surveyed. Yet Crull was looking for different talking points from Bell’s media properties. As Winseck notes:
The emails begin by setting out a couple of definitional issues and then distill the two key talking points to be covered: (1) that cellphone rates in Canada have fallen in recent years and (2) that they are generally cheaper than in the US.
The editorial interference may not be particularly surprising, but it is enormously troubling. It highlights the danger of vertically integrated companies such as Bell that use their power to manipulate public discourse for corporate gain through their own media properties. This form of editorial interference by corporate interests raises serious questions about the independence of one of Canada’s largest news organizations. As Winseck concludes:
Perhaps the fact that journalists and the news divisions of such TMI conglomerates will be deployed to protect dominant market positions and capitalization might not be all that surprising, but it should still be concerning to journalists and the rest of us who need them to offer views of the world unvarnished by their corporate overlords. That the execs at BCE and Bell Media news divisions went so cheerily along with Crull’s memo serves neither journalism nor the public well.