(Recasts with BCE executive apology)
By Alastair Sharp
TORONTO, March 25 (Reuters) - A senior executive at BCE Inc’s Bell Media unit apologized on Wednesday for interfering in editorial coverage after Canada biggest communications company was harshly rebuked by the country’s broadcast regulator.
The apology came after the Globe and Mail newspaper, citing unnamed sources, reported Bell Media’s President Kevin Crull told the head of CTV News not to conduct or air interviews with the chairman of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).
The regulator had just ruled it would force distributors to unbundle cable TV packages, a decision that could prove painful for Bell.
Crull acknowledged in a statement he reached out to the CTV News leadership team about the focus of coverage.
“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,” he said, describing his action as an “intrusion.”
The CRTC had issued a harshly worded statement about the matter earlier on Wednesday.
“An informed citizenry cannot be sacrificed for a company’s commercial interests,” CRTC Chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said in response to the Globe report. “Canadians can only wonder how many times corporate interests may have been placed ahead of the fair and balanced news reporting they expect from their broadcasting system.”
BCE, traditionally a telephone and Internet company, in recent years bought some of Canada’s largest media assets in a drive to control the cost of content sent through its satellite, internet and telecom networks.
BCE is fighting other CRTC rulings in the courts, including over Super Bowl advertising and a ban on discounting its own content sent to its customers’ mobile devices.
Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson, Christian Plumb and Lisa Shumaker