MONTREAL – The president of the country’s largest communications company abruptly left his post Thursday, two weeks after he admitted to trying to influence national news coverage by one of its subsidiaries.
A corporate statement announcing the departure of Bell Media president Kevin Crull left little doubt of the link between his leaving and his interference in CTV’s coverage of the country’s broadcast regulator.
“The independence of Bell Media’s news operations is of paramount importance to our company and to all Canadians,” George Cope, head of Bell Canada and BCE Inc., said in a release.
“There can be no doubt that Bell will always uphold the journalistic standards that have made CTV the most trusted brand in Canadian news.”
Jeffrey Dvorkin, a media analyst and director of the journalism program at the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus, called Crull’s dismissal “very impressive.”
Bell Media understands that CTV News is “a crown jewel,” and that they need to “defend and sustain its reputation for integrity,” Dvorkin said.
“It is rare, at that level, for management to take such a dramatic action but I think it’s an indication of how Bell Media understands that its journalism is connected to its reputation,” he said.
“If its reputation starts to slide, then that has a terrible effect on its credibility and on the ability of Canadians to trust what it’s telling them …. It should send a message to other media organizations in Canada that this is the way to do things.”
Crull sparked widespread criticism last month for demanding CTV journalists not give any airtime to Jean-Pierre Blais, chairman of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.
He was apparently unhappy with Blais’s announcement of rule changes requiring broadcasters to offer a low-cost package to cable TV consumers and to allow them to “pick and pay” other individual channels.
In response, Blais called it “disturbing” that the country’s largest communication company in Canada would be “manipulating news coverage.”
CTV is a division of Bell Media, a company with assets in TV, radio, and the Internet, which is in turn owned by BCE Inc.
The backlash prompted Crull, who joined Bell in 2005, to apologize for what he called his “intrusion.”
“It was wrong of me to be anything but absolutely clear that editorial control always rests with the news team,” Crull said in a statement March 25.
“I have apologized to the team directly for this mistake.”
When Crull appeared before the CRTC three years ago, he insisted that Bell never interfered on the editorial side.
In his statement, Cope thanked Crull for his contributions to Bell’s customers and shareholders and praised him for his role in spearheading Bell Media investments in Canadian content.
Crull was replaced by Mary Ann Turcke, who takes over responsibility for Bell Media’s national broadcast and digital operations, Cope said.
Turcke, who also joined Bell in 2005, was formerly a media sales group president.