Peak Communicators
March 26, 2015

Heads Must Roll Over Interference in Objective News Coverage at CTV

Bell Media CEO Kevin Crull has to go. Wendy Freeman, president of CTV News, must go too.

How can viewers of Canada’s largest private broadcaster have confidence in this news source when the owner dictates how news is covered and the head of news allowed it fearing for her job? In an unprecedented statement from Canada’s broadcast regulator, the CEO of Bell Media which owns CTV was lambasted for meddling in news coverage.

Crull has apologized for interfering in CTV’s coverage of the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission’s decision to allow less expensive cable and satellite TV ‘pick and pay’ options which could impact Bell Media’s bottom line.

An obviously enraged Crull banned CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais from all CTV news coverage after he saw him interviewed on Bell-owned BNN, a business television channel.

Fearing for the loss of her job, CTV News chief Wendy Freeman caved in and allowed the manipulation until more ballsy news people in her organization gathered ranks and put Blais on the late news. But Freeman’s waffling and giving up editorial control under pressure let down all those who work in CTV newsrooms across the country.

Real reporters put their jobs on the line when told how to cover news or to leave out elements that balance coverage. They push back harder when their own management tries to influence what should be fair and objective news coverage for commercial interests.

Crull’s weak mea culpa explanation of how he was merely suggesting coverage that showed the impact of the CRTC decision, apparently without the CRTC chairman’s input, is not enough.

Enlightened Canadians will wonder what other news stories have been ‘shaped’ by CTV’s ownership. What credibility does CTV News have now?

Years ago, I was one of three reporters who strongly protested a decision by the television station president who blocked coverage of a lawsuit launched by disgruntled contestants of a game show produced there.

We told him this could never happen again and pointed out the damage that could be done to the station’s reputation as well as our professional reputations. To my knowledge, there was no further meddling.

That was immediate action with a strong statement to maintain independence and objectivity in reporting news. Bell Media and CTV also have to make the strongest statement possible to regain and retain credibility. That can only be done with the removal of those who don’t uphold these principles.

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