Biased News Report and Revelation of Complainants’ Names and Addresses is Unacceptable, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, January 25, 2012 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a news report broadcast on CJSB-FM (CJ 104, Swan River, Manitoba) and also commented on the manner in which the station responded to complainants.  The CBSC found that a news report about an animal seizure had included biased and editorialized material contrary to the Codes of Ethics of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) and the Radio-Television Digital News Association (RTDNA).  It also established a rule that broadcasters should not reveal the personal information of complainants to others receiving broadcasters’ responses.

The report was a follow-up to an ongoing story about a man who had been charged with animal abuse and had his animals seized by authorities.  The report stated that the Swan Valley Animal Protection League (SVAPL), the group that was taking care of the animals, had requested additional money from the local government to cover the costs of spaying pregnant female dogs.  It pointed out that puppies had been aborted and some had frozen to death when left outside with no shelter.  The report concluded with comments that forced termination of pregnancies and the freezing death of puppies did not seem to be compatible with the SVAPL’s mandate of promoting animal rights as an extension of human rights and that the accused man had not been charged with “killing even a single puppy”.

The CBSC received numerous complaints about this report.  The broadcaster noted that the complaints seemed to be the result of an online campaign on the social media website Facebook and sent the same letter to all complainants with the names and e-mail addresses visible to everyone.  The CBSC’s Prairie Regional Panel concluded that the news report was biased because it “suggested a certain level of malice in the actions of the SVAPL” and had implied that the SVAPL’s actions were worse than those for which the man had been accused.  The Panel found violations of Clause 5 of the CAB Code of Ethics and Article 1 of the RTDNA Code of Ethics.

The Panel also stated that it was inappropriate for the broadcaster to have provided complainants’ full names and e-mail addresses to all complainants and that, in future, such an action by any broadcaster will be viewed as a violation of its CBSC membership requirements of responsiveness.

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