A free, independent and secular country needs a robust media that gives its citizen reliable information. If you care about truth and informed citizens then you simply must have responsible and independent journalists. While this is not directly related to a secular Canada, I felt this abuse of power needed covering. But questions like this could also arise when covering science, religious or secular issues.
The Globe and Mail reports that when the CRTC said that customers must be allowed to choose individual channels and not only pick from cable packages president Kevin Crull of Bell Media called the CTV President to tell her how to report this story:
Almost immediately, Mr. Crull called Wendy Freeman, the president of CTV News, according to sources close to the network who spoke on condition of anonymity. Mr. Crull told Ms. Freeman he was in charge of the network and that Mr. Blais was not to appear on air again that day, according to accounts of the exchange.
After the call, sources say, Ms. Freeman contacted CTV staff to tell them of the directive from Mr. Crull and not to use clips of Mr. Blais, telling some she felt she would be fired if they did not comply. Other CTV employees were concerned for their jobs, according to a source.
As the day wore on CTV stopped including interviews with the CRTC chariperson:
Mr. Blais was booked for an interview on the CTV show Power Play at 5 p.m., hosted by Don Martin. But minutes before the show went to air, CTV cancelled Mr. Blais’s appearance. A CRTC spokesperson confirmed the cancellation, but said no reason was given. Instead, the program led with Mr. Martin discussing the decision with Mr. Bonnell.
A news story filed for 6 p.m. local newscasts by CTV reporter John Vennavally-Rao contained no footage of Mr. Blais, even though he had spoken to reporters and TV cameras.
Later that day, sources say, Ms. 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. Mr. Fife reported the story, as it was decided his seniority put him on more solid footing than Mr. Vennavally-Rao.
Eventually, those with seniority fought back by including clips of the CRTC chairperson. In a PR move Bell Media president Kevin Crull claimed this is a moral victory for his team. As Corey Mintz put it:
This glosses over the fact that his directive did change how it was reported at all levels, even by the people who disobeyed. In a statement Kevin Crull said [emphasis mine]:
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.
They did what they could, and should not have been put in that position. Good on the news teams. But this highlights how corporations try to use their power to under inform Canadians. And remember: news coverage was changed during the time in question until those with seniority were able to fight back.