He Said/She Said: The decline and fall of Bell’s Kevin Crull


Join Greg and Diane every Monday as we debate what’s on our minds. This week: What to make of the news that Bell Media fired president Kevin Crull over his interference in his networks’ news coverage of the CRTC TalkTV decisions?

She said: 

It’s been a brutal few weeks in the Canadian media world, with more CBC job cuts announced, Shaw’s reorganization and PostMedia’s acquisition of Sun Media leading to layoffs, PostMedia announcing a $58 million loss, and Nova Scotia slashing its film and television tax credit. And then there was Kevin Crull’s non-voluntary exit from Bell. That one is harder to shed a tear over.

Bell did absolutely the right thing here. No apology could make up for the need for him to “relearn” the lesson of editorial control belonging to the news team, not the business team. Public confidence had to be regained but more importantly, I’d say, BCE and Bell Canada president and CEO George Cope’s and the news team’s confidence in their Bell Media president was irreparably damaged.

It’s hard to believe such news interference doesn’t happen elsewhere without becoming so public. I also don’t believe news stories about abrupt exits  can ever encompass all the straws on that camel’s back. Bell and the CRTC have been in a simmering feud since the acquisition of Astral, which was first denied and then approved with greater concessions than Bell had wanted to make. The CRTC’s recent and odd SuperBowl simulcast decision will cost Bell dearly. No broadcasters are happy with the pick and pay and other decisions designed to please consumers.

How much of the tainted relationship between Bell and the CRTC was placed at Crull’s feet? How much of Crull’s arrogance is what trickled down into a corporate brand that often oozes arrogance?

In any case, I can’t cheer over someone losing a job, but I can’t be unhappy over this one either. Canadian media is getting consolidated into fewer and bigger silos. Less competition, fewer people delivering the news, reduced revenues — the last thing our media needs is more proof that the public’s chance of getting accurate, unbiased news from them is getting slimmer too.

He said: 

I’m on the same page as Diane here and she’s pretty much said everything I was thinking. I did find it interesting that in the days following the story of Crull’s meddling in CTV News the network’s PR machine went quiet. The statement from Crull where he admitted he needed to “relearn” rather than say “I’m sorry” was expected but not the silence that followed for days afterward. It was almost as if they hoped the story would go away, but more likely meetings were held to decide what the heck to do.

The right decision was made. Crull had been butting heads with the CRTC and its head, Jean-Pierre Blais, for awhile and Bell Media needed to go back to the drawing board with a new face.