CRTC Chairman: Alleged Bell Media Manipulation of News is “Disturbing”

CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais, has issued a statement on allegations Bell Media chief Kevin Crull interfered with CTV news coverage over the former’s recent TalkTV announcement.

Blais details how the allegations are “disturbing” and that TV licenses are a privilege which should include obligations in the public interest:

That a regulated company does not like one of the CRTC’s rulings is one thing. The allegation, however, that the largest communication company in Canada is manipulating news coverage is disturbing. Holding a radio or television licence is a privilege that comes with important obligations that are in the public interest, especially in regards to high-quality news coverage and reporting.

The CRTC chairman went on to say “Canadians can only wonder how many times corporate interests may have been placed ahead of the fair and balanced news reporting they expect from their broadcasting system.”

The statement specifically calls out CTV, noting they are members of The Association of Electronic Journalists and they are required to adhere to the RTNDA Code of Ethics.

The issue at stake here is Bell Media’s head, Kevin Crull, allegedly cancelling video coverage of Blais on CTV News talking about the CRTC’s recent TalkTV announcements, which will affect Bell’s bottom line negatively, according to analysts. Crull supposedly told staff to cancel an interview with Blais and to not feature him on the network.

Thankfully, CTV chief anchor Lisa LaFlamme, another Ottawa bureau chief and a news producer defied Crull’s alleged directive and later aired a segment at the 11PM national newscast to include a clip of Blais.

Bell issued a statement to The Globe and Mail (which it owns a 15% stake in) to note the following:

“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.”

Bell Media and the CRTC have recently been at war over a variety of issues, including the subsidizing of data for the company’s mobile TV app, and how U.S. Super Bowl TV ads will finally be shown in Canada starting in 2017.