Aggressive Interview Style is Acceptable, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, February 3, 2012 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning an interview broadcast on Sun News Network’s public affairs program Canada Live.  On June 1, 2011, Canada Live host Krista Erickson interviewed Canadian interpretive dancer Margie Gillis.  Erickson questioned Gillis about public funding for the arts.  The CBSC received many complaints from people who felt that Erickson has mistreated Gillis during the interview.  The CBSC found no violation of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics.

Erickson’s interview with Gillis was part of a series of segments that Sun News Network did on taxpayer funded grants for the arts.  Erickson displayed on screen the dollar amounts that Margie Gillis and her dance foundation had received in government grants since 1998.  Erickson asked Gillis why her foundation required the money and why she felt Canada was not a “compassionate society” when it had given her so much money for her art.  At times, the two women talked over each other, but Gillis was given time to respond to questions and to assert her point of view about the value of art in society.

The CBSC received a record 6,676 complaints about the broadcast from people who felt Gillis had been treated unfairly.  The CBSC’s National Specialty Services Panel examined the complaint under clauses of the CAB Code of Ethics relating to fairness and balance.  The Panel concluded that there was no violation because Erickson was entitled to be aggressive in her questioning and to reveal her personal biases.  Gillis was provided ample opportunity during the 21-minute-long interview to state her position and articulated it well in the face of Erickson’s challenges.  At one point before a commercial break, Erickson asked Gillis if she would stay on the program to discuss further and Gillis chose to do so.  Although somewhat heated, it was a balanced debate on the topic.

The CBSC was created in 1990 by Canada’s private broadcasters to administer the codes of standards that they established for their industry.  The CBSC currently administers 7 codes which deal with ethics, equitable portrayal, violence, news and journalistic independence.  Nearly 750 radio stations, satellite radio services, television stations and specialty and pay television services across Canada are members of the Council.

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All CBSC decisions, Codes, links to members' and other web sites, and related information are available on the CBSC's website at www.cbsc.ca. For more information, please contact the CBSC National Chair, Mme Andrée Noël CBSC Executive Director, John MacNab