Bell Media owns tv and radio stations, cable, internet and cellphone operations across Canada.
Photo Credit: CBC

Corporation executive interferes in news coverage

The president of Bell Media, a company that owns Canada’s largest private broadcaster, interfered in the way its news departments covered a decision involving it, reports the Globe and Mail.

Bell President Kevin Crull became furious after learning that the government regulator, the CRTC, would force media companies to give consumers more choice in picking the cable television stations they pay for.  Companies currently sell bundles of stations, which means consumers have to pay for many stations they don’t want.

Crull is said to have called the head of CTV News and to have ordered that an interview with the head of the CRTC not be aired on any of the network’s stations.

Code of ethics forbids interference

This flies in the face of the code of ethics adopted by private broadcasters themselves. The Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ own code says “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.”

This is apparently not the first time Crull has interfered in news coverage. In August 2013, Carleton University Professor Dwayne Winseck published emails Crull sent to CTV news executives urging certain coverage of the possible entry of Verizon into the Canadian telecommunications market.

In the latest case, CTV’s bureau chief in Ottawa, Robert Fife disregarded Crull’s order and included a sound bite from the head of the CRTC in its coverage of the story. The Globe reports that news employees were afraid of losing their jobs, but that Fife was less vulnerable given his greater seniority.

‘Journalistic integrity and independence…will continue,’ says Bell

A Bell Media spokesman declined the Globe’s request for an interview on the issue but, in an email, wrote that the CRTC decision was extensively featured on several of its outlets and that “CTV News has earned its reputation as Canada’s (No. 1) news broadcast through its adherence to journalistic integrity and independence, and will continue to do so.”

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