News

Bell Media President Directed CTV, Radio Stations To Provide Favourable Wireless Coverage

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 coverage….” and “Kevin is asking if this report can get some coverage today on Talk Radio. National news is covering for TV”.

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.

21 Comments

  1. Lugnuts McGruff says:

    Wow, FOX News anyone?
    As unacceptable as this news is, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by any of it.

    That having been said, was DOES still surprise me is the combination of both arrogance and stupidity these bozo’s have thinking that “no way in hell will this become public because, you know, I said so, and everyone listens/fears me.”

    Sending out directives like this is basically incentivising people to anonymously turn you in. I guess arrogance and stupidity still know no bounds in the telecom sector.

  2. Anonymouse says:

    Silly
    This is silly. Bell Media is owned by Bell. Hence the name “Bell Media”.

    Kevin Crull is the Bell Media prime and an EVP at Bell Canada Enterprises. He can call the shots if he wants to, it’s called private industry.

    Sorry guys, but that’s the honest to god truth.
    (watch the comment disappear due one-sided censorship on this website)

  3. break ‘em up!
    As I’ve said before the problem is not that there are not enough players. The problem is that the CRTC has permitted far too much vertical integration between network and content providers. Break the incumbents up into separate media and network companies and all our problems will be solved without changing canadian ownership rules. This kind of interference is simply one more of the problems with the current structures which a breakup will solve.

  4. Not a Bell employee says:

    your silly
    It’s never ok for anyone to use their power to mislead the masses. It’s not called private industry, it’s called corrupt industry.

  5. Anonymouse says:

    Silly
    This is silly. Bell Media is owned by Bell. Hence the name “Bell Media”.

    Kevin Crull is the Bell Media prime and an EVP at Bell Canada Enterprises. He can call the shots if he wants to, it’s called private industry.

    Sorry guys, but that’s the honest to god truth.
    (watch the comment disappear due one-sided censorship on this website)

  6. To Anonymouse
    I take your point re: a VP calling shots within private enterprise. True at face value.

    But I propose a line be drawn when it comes to journalistic integrity and freedom of the press. The public deserves unbiased reporting, on any issue don’t you agree? Mr. Crull is attempting to mislead the public by directly manipulating the coverage of the Verizon story. Regardless of whether you’re for or against Verizon coming to Canada, fact based, truthful reporting should be important to you.

    What’s your take?

  7. Awww isn’t that sweet…
    There are still people out there that believe global news outlets have the traits of honesty and integrity? I mean, instead of ‘whatever quality that draws ratings and makes the broadcast more successful in attracting viewers’ (and now, whatever makes the parent company get it’s way).

  8. Greg Vezina says:

    Democracy Channel®
    Canadian Broadcasting Act – Broadcasting Policy for Canada – Declaration

    S. 3(d) the Canadian broadcasting system should
    (i) serve to safeguard, enrich and strengthen the cultural, political, social and economic fabric of Canada,
    (ii) encourage the development of Canadian expression by providing a wide range of programming that reflects Canadian attitudes, opinions, ideas, values… by offering information and analysis concerning Canada and other countries from a Canadian point of view,

    3(g) the programming originated by broadcasting undertakings should be of high standard;

    3(i) the programming provided by the Canadian broadcasting system should
    (i) be varied and comprehensive, providing a balance of information, enlightenment and entertainment for men, women and children of all ages, interests and tastes,
    (iv) provide a reasonable opportunity for the public to be exposed to the expression of differing views on matters of public concern,

    The public owns the airwaves and unlike newspapers, they are licenced and required to obey the Broadcasting Act, however, with a government and CRTC that are afraid of them, it is unlikely that there will ever again be a prosecution in Canada against one of them for violating the law. After all, the last time the CRTC prosecuted CBC, CTV and Global Television for not providing equitable political coverage the Mulroney government stayed it and a subsequent private prosecution failed. (R.v. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation et al., [1993] 51 C.P.R.(3d), the Ontario Court of Appeal). http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/archive/1995/pb95-44.htm

  9. @Joeb
    “There are still people out there that believe global news outlets have the traits of honesty and integrity?”. It would be interesting to look at old news casts to see what slant Wallin and Duffy had on ctv with what we know of them now and their connections.

  10. @Anonymouse “Sorry guys, but that’s the honest to god truth. (watch the comment disappear due one-sided censorship on this website)”

    Actually, this is one of the most open sites out there. Try posting to John Degen’s blog, although he used to have similar integrity.

    Look I’ll show you … Michael is a big fat weenie!

    See, that proves it! :D

  11. Well gosh darnit…
    Did I not say but a few days/weeks ago that having medium companies have direct ownership/control over the medium as well was absurd?

    This reminds of the digital TV transition ads, where Bell-affiliated stations would start off by promoting Bell TV systems and and THEN digital converter boxes, while commercials aired on other stations such as CBC started with the digital box solution and ended with a non specific cable/satellite solution.

    I mean FFS. The answer is clear, split the media/telecom conglomerates up. This is has been and will always be a clear source of abuse.

    @Anonymouse “Kevin Crull is the Bell Media prime and an EVP at Bell Canada Enterprises. He can call the shots if he wants to, it’s called private industry.”

    Funny this “Anonymouse”, we have this thing called regulation, because our economy operates under the assumption that letting private industry do anything it likes is well, a really stupid and self-destructive idea. As pointed out by Greg above, this violates broadcast regulations.

    “This is silly. Bell Media is owned by Bell. Hence the name “Bell Media”. ”

    Ah I see your point. So what you are saying is that is silly that Bell have the monopoly over such assets and therefore should divest them immediately.

    Oh wait, it wasn’t? I guess you are thinking that be labelled “Bell” should make you legally immune from all regulations?

    “Sorry guys, but that’s the honest to god truth.
    (watch the comment disappear due one-sided censorship on this website)”

    Did someone say troll? Damn, I missed the invitation. :(

  12. To Joeb
    Selecting content based on what will attract ratings is one thing. Forcing a news network to cover content in an inaccurate manner is another. Being the corporate owner of a media outlet does not give you license to deliberately misinform and skew facts to best suit your bottom line. It may happen more than we realize but that doesn’t make it right. And Mr. Crull was caught in the act.

  13. pat donovan says:

    sociopaths
    game the system. That’s what they’re paid to do, garner money, power and fame.

    we do have laws against infotainment, but fox more or less trashed those.

    anyonw who uses the CC media deserves their fate; anu entrapenteur can tell you you have to be able to take market share before anyone listens.

    (meet, create or create demand) welcome to dark-world, where the opposition is outlawed.

    pat donovan

  14. drive by comments says:

    Time for the CRTC to step up and reverse the monopolization of Canadian airwaves.
    Open public discourse is a requirement for a democracy. If all media is controlled by a cabal of three companies a democracy is not a possibility.

    Look at that the USA for what happens when almost all media is controlled by a few groups.

  15. Airwaves not monopolized.
    “Mono”polization is about one company controlling everything. Here there are 3.5 large companies and a bunch of little guys. Far from a monopolization.

    And BTW – all those companies paid over $4 BILLION dollars to the government/taxpayers last auction for a license to use AIR. It cost us nothing, and they don’t even get to own it.

  16. And this is why concentration of media is BAD!
    Bell should be forced to divest itself of one of the following:

    Bell mobility or All radio and TV channels.

    It cannot be trusted to prevent corporate influence manipulate the news.

  17. RE: Argl.
    “”Mono”polization is about one company controlling everything. Here there are 3.5 large companies and a bunch of little guys. Far from a monopolization. ”

    If you are referring to my monopoly comment, then you obviously misunderstood. Bell has a monopoly on the media assets it owns, in the same way copyrights/patents/trademarks are monopolies. Yes, there are many broadcasters that aren’t owned by Bell/Rogers etc. However, Bell has a monopoly over the CTV and CTV-related programming for example. It can choose how the TV programming is licensed in regards to the mediums on transfers. Does this make sense to you?

    “And BTW – all those companies paid over $4 BILLION dollars to the government/taxpayers last auction for a license to use AIR. It cost us nothing, and they don’t even get to own it. ”

    Ok, but a) OTR is not an options for many areas of the country, even the Ottawa Valley, and b) What does this have anything to do with violating the broadcast act by presenting deceptive news? I mean, is your point here that since Bell, Rogers, et al., have the pay a lot of money to broadcast over-the-air (even though there are returns from advertisers in any case) that they can do whatever they want with the programming, including manipulating the news?

  18. RE: Argl.
    Oh, I missed @drivebycomments message. Well, regardless Argl., he clearly said “monopolization”, which in this case is referring to consolidation of TV stations into a monopoly overtime. No where did he say that we had a monopoly (based on the “cabal of companies” he mentioned) but that we are heading in that direction.

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  20. Time to tell the media companies to split off their access services (Wireless/Wireline) from content, or we’re going to see more of this interference. Personally I know that CTV is owned by Bell, Global is owned by Shaw, (and CITY is owned by Rogers) and that trying to get an honest news item about Wireless competition is impossible since all the news channels are owned by someone with a dog in the fight, including the government (CBC/CRTC.)

  21. CBC Has Been Using Their Power….
    To influence the average Canadian’s politics by pushing an extremely left-wing agenda for years and no one has ever cried “foul!”, why should the Bell/CTV move surprise anyone?