The moment the president of a media company decides how to cover a news story, that medium’s journalistic integrity is in question. At Bell, this seems to happen from time to time under the director Kevin Crull, president of Bell Media.
The Globe and Mail (via Michael Geist) reports that Crull instructed Wendy Freeman, the president of CTV (owned by Bell), to exclude CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais from news coverage of the recent TalkTV decisions. The incident happened last Thursday. Since Freeman was afraid of losing her job, she complied, just as did other CTV news reporters.
Crull was furious over the regulator’s decision to unbundle cable packages under the new “pick and pay” model that allows consumers more control over their cable packages. This, however, will be introduced later next year.
As a result, any footage showing Blais was banned from the channel that day, together with Blais’ 5 p.m. appearance on the CTV show Power Play. So, CTV staff complied with Crull’s “order” for the same reason Freeman did. But later that evening, CTV’s chief anchor Lisa LaFlamme, Ottawa bureau chief Robert Fife, and a news producer decided to run a major CRTC story that included footage of Blais.
Bell Media spokesman Scott Henderson declined a request for an interview with Mr. Crull, and did not address specific details of the incident. In an e-mail, Mr. Henderson wrote: “Last Thursday’s CRTC decision was extensively featured on CTV, BNN, CP24, CTV News Channel, and our other news properties across Canada. As with previous CRTC announcements, the Chair and his comments were featured as part of our coverage. 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.”
Right. But earned journalistic integrity gets questioned in the light of such actions from Crull. And, by the way, this wasn’t the first time – see how Crull influenced CTV’s Bell coverage earlier here – and it seems unlikely to be the last.