The Globe and Mail’s James Bradshaw reports that Bell Media President Kevin Crull banned CTV media properties from including CRTC Chair Jean Pierre Blais in coverage of the recent TalkTV decisions. The report indicates that Crull ordered the head of CTV News to stop including Blais in coverage following an interview on BNN, which led to the cancellation of an interview with Don Martin and dropping him from local news stories (he was included in the national newscast as Robert Fife defied the order). Bell Media has still not publicly commented on the pick-and-pay decision. Crull is the same Bell executive who earlier this month called for the blocking of U.S. channels and for new measures to make it more difficult for Canadians to access U.S. Netflix.
I would say the story is shocking, but this is not the first time of reports that Crull has meddled in news coverage related to his company. In August 2013, Dwayne Winseck reported that Crull intervened on coverage of the wireless sector when Verizon was considering entry into the Canadian market. Winseck posted emails from Crull to news executives throughout CTV urging certain coverage of a wireless report throughout Bell Media’s television and radio stations. I wrote about Winseck’s story here.
Steve Faguy followed up with Bell following the post who claimed that “our news divisions are independently managed and have the full power to make editorial decisions, as outlined in the CTV News Policy Handbook.” That claim is unsurprising, since the CAB Code of Ethics says that “news shall not be selected for the purpose of furthering or hindering either side of any controversial public issue, nor shall it be formulated on the basis of the beliefs, opinions or desires of management, the editor or others engaged in its preparation or delivery.” Yet given that the Wendy Freeman, the President of CTV News, apparently felt that she would be fired if she did not comply with Crull’s demands, Bell’s claims of editorial independence ring hollow.