By James Bradshaw
Published Wednesday, Mar. 25 2015
The owners of Canada’s largest private broadcaster, CTV, and the country’s television regulator have been locking horns for months as the TV network complained about a series of regulatory decisions. Now those tensions appear to have boiled over.
Sources say that when the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission decided last week to unbundle cable packages, Kevin Crull, president of Bell Media, which owns CTV, became furious and intervened in the way the network’s journalists covered the news.
The incident happened last Thursday, not long after the 4 p.m. release of the CRTC’s so-called “pick-and-pay” decision, which will give consumers more freedom to choose cable and satellite TV channels. Analysts predict the change will be bad for the bottom line at BCE Inc., the parent company of Bell Media.
Shortly after the announcement, CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais appeared on BNN, a Bell Media-owned business news station, for a six-minute interview with reporter Greg Bonnell.
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.
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