April 9, 2015

The Globe and Mail | Huffington Post Canada

Bell Media, Canada’s largest communication and broadcasting company, announced Thursday that its president Kevin Crull will step down, effective immediately. Crull had been discovered trying to interfere with reporting at CTV, the largest television network in the country.

In a statement released on Thursday announcing Crull’s departure, George Cope, the president and CEO of Bell Media’s parent company BCE Inc., declared, “The independence of Bell Media’s news operations is of paramount importance to our company and to all Canadians. There can be no doubt that Bell will always uphold the journalistic standards that have made CTV the most trusted brand in Canadian news.”

In addition to CTV, Bell Media operates 30 local television stations and 106 radio stations, as well as a variety of specialty cable channels. CTV and its sister station CTV 2 reach 23 million viewers every week.

On March 19, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the governmental body that regulates the Canadian television market, ruled to unbundle the cable packages sold by the country’s communications firms. According to The Globe and Mail, whose media reporter James Bradshaw first broke the story, Bell was furious over the CRTC’s decision and banned CTV’s news divisions from airing any interviews with Jean-Pierre Blais, the chairman of the CRTC:

Later that day, sources say, [CTV News president Wendy] Freeman spoke with CTV’s chief anchor Lisa LaFlamme, Ottawa bureau chief Robert Fife and a news producer. Together, they decided they could not run a major CRTC story without including Mr. Blais, and defied Mr. Crull’s order. The 11 p.m. national newscast had a clip of Mr. Blais discussing the decision’s impact.

When the Globe and Mail story broke, the CRTC issued a formal statement denouncing Crull’s actions as “disturbing.” Crull himself issued a public apology:

It was wrong of me to be anything but absolutely clear that editorial control always rests with the news team. I have apologized to the team directly for this mistake. Indeed their strong and straightforward reaction to my intrusion only heightens my appreciation of their independence, integrity and professionalism. It is crucial to note that CTV’s coverage of the CRTC’s decisions was fair, balanced and extensive, and stands up in comparison to coverage of the issue by any Canadian news organization.

In short, I’ve re-learned a valuable lesson from the best news team in the business.

However, this seems to have been inadequate for the managers of BCE, Inc. According to The Globe and Mail, Mary Ann Turcke, the company’s present head of media sales for radio and local television, will take over as president of Bell Media.

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