CHEK-DT re CHEK News report (motorcycle crash)

ENGLISH-LANGUAGE PANEL
CBSC Decision 17/18-0055 & -0056
2018 CBSC 8
April 11, 2018
S. Courtemanche (Chair), C. Bell, V. Dubois, K. Hesketh, S. Sammut, R. Waksman

THE FACTS

On September 11, 2017, during its 5:00 pm newscast, CHEK-DT (Victoria, BC) reported on a collision that had occurred earlier that day between a motorcycle and a truck.  The news anchor introduced the report with the statement, “Saanich Police are investigating a horrific crash between a motorcycle and a truck.”  There was then footage of the roadway, with debris in the road and police officers walking around a cordoned-off area.  The anchor then said, “Security camera footage shows the truck turning across traffic, smashing into the motorcycle, crushing it.  The motorcyclist was rushed to hospital, but the 58-year-old North Saanich man did not survive.”

As the anchor provided that verbal description, footage of the accident was shown.  A nearby security camera had captured the accident on film from a distance and at an awkward angle.  The accident itself is seen in the upper left corner of the screen and highlighted by a circle.  It is partially obscured by the security camera’s time stamp.  A dark-coloured vehicle is seen going across an intersection; the motorcycle is barely visible.  The footage is then zoomed in on and repeated in slow motion.  The motorcycle is crossing the intersection and it topples over as the truck crosses the intersection from the other direction.  Something trails the truck after the impact.  That footage was followed by more scenes of the police investigating the accident scene, including shots of the mangled motorcycle.  The deceased motorcyclist was not identified by name.  (A more detailed description and transcription are available in Appendix A.)

On September 12, the CBSC received two complaints about this broadcast.  Both complainants were concerned about the use of the security camera video in this report, and the fact that the clip was repeated in close-up, all without any warning to viewers.

CHEK-DT responded to the complainants on October 10.  The station argued that:

in the video, the collision was obscured.  The surveillance camera video was grainy and was recorded from far away.  Even when the video was enlarged, the point of impact remained obscured by a utility pole in the foreground and by a surveillance camera time stamp that was embedded onto the video.  There was also no sound in the video.  In addition, the motorcyclist was not identified in our report and there was no way a person could recognize the bike or identify the rider from the video.

CHEK also pointed out that, in the days following, it broadcast reports about the outpouring of condolences for the motorcyclist, as well as about a special ride intended to raise awareness about motorcycle safety.  The station also noted that it had held a special meeting of the news department where it had reviewed the importance of airing warnings prior to the airing of sensitive material and stated that it regretted not including a warning for this footage.  It indicated that it aims to balance “public interest against individual privacy and community standards, all of this weighted against an opportunity to build awareness and provide information that might help prevent future tragic occurrences.”

Both complainants submitted CBSC Ruling Requests.  They reiterated their concerns and also suggested that the motorcycle driver could have been identified from the information provided in the report, and that it was sensationalistic to show footage of a real person’s death.  (The full text of all correspondence is available in Appendix B.)

THE DECISION

The English-Language Panel examined the complaints under the following provisions of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Violence Code and the Radio Television Digital News Association of Canada’s (RTDNA) Code of Journalistic Ethics:

CAB Violence Code, Article 6.0 – News & Public Affairs

6.1       Broadcasters shall use appropriate editorial judgment in the reporting of, and the pictorial representation of violence, aggression or destruction within their news and public affairs programming.

6.2       Caution shall be used in the selection of, and repetition of, video which depicts violence.

6.3       Broadcasters shall advise viewers in advance of showing scenes of extra-ordinary violence, or graphic reporting on delicate subject matter such as sexual assault or court action related to sexual crimes, particularly during afternoon or early evening newscasts and updates when children could be viewing.

6.4       Broadcasters shall employ discretion in the use of explicit or graphic language related to stories of destruction, accidents or sexual violence, which could disturb children and their families.

6.5       Broadcasters shall exercise particular judgment during live coverage of domestic terrorist events or civil disorders, to ensure news coverage does not become a factor in inciting additional violence.

6.6       While broadcasters shall not exaggerate or exploit situations of aggression, conflict or confrontation, equal care shall be taken not to sanitize the reality of the human condition.

6.7       Broadcasters shall refer to The Code of Ethics of the Radio-Television News Directors Association of Canada (RTNDA) [since 2011, called the Radio Television Digital News Association of Canada – RTDNA] for guidance regarding broadcast journalism in general.

RTDNA Code of Journalistic Ethics, Article 5.0 Respect

Our conduct will be respectful, always taking into account editorial relevance and the public interest.

[…]

5.2       We will act with sensitivity and restraint when reporting on potentially dangerous situations and when using violent or graphic images and descriptions.

[…]

5.4       We will avoid sensationalism.

5.5       We will not infringe on a person’s privacy unless we believe there is overriding public interest.

The Panel Adjudicators read all of the correspondence and carefully reviewed a recording of the challenged broadcast.  The Panel concludes that CHEK-DT breached Article 6.3 of the CAB Violence Code for failing to warn viewers in advance of showing the motorcycle crash footage.  CHEK-DT did not violate any of the other aforementioned code provisions.

The questions put to the Panel were:

In the circumstances, was it appropriate to broadcast security footage of crash?

Should CHEK-DT have provided a warning to viewers before airing the security footage?

Broadcasting Disturbing News Footage

Broadcasters are required to use appropriate editorial judgment and caution under Articles 6.1 and 6.2 of the CAB Violence Code and Article 5.2 of the RTDNA Code of Journalistic Ethics when airing violent footage.  Moreover, given that Article 6.6 of the CAB Violence Code also states that broadcasters shall not sanitize reality, the CBSC has determined, in certain circumstances, that the broadcast of violent footage is acceptable.[1]

In fact, the CBSC has recognized “that society has a right, if not an obligation, to have presented to it the reality of the news, however unpleasant or even intolerable that news may be from time to time”.[2]  The CBSC understands that “television is a visual medium and that television broadcasters are entitled to seek and broadcast video footage to illustrate their stories unless that footage is so extraordinary or graphic, on the one hand, or exaggerated or exploitative, on the other, that it is apparent that it ought not to be broadcast.”[3]

The key elements considered by the CBSC in such situations are:

  • Whether the broadcaster exercised appropriate editorial judgment in airing the footage in that the video segment is used beyond simply engaging the audience’s attention;
  • Whether the broadcaster exercised caution in its use of the violent video segment by not exaggerating or exploiting situations of aggression, conflict, confrontation or disturbing events;
  • Whether the video shots were reasonable, sufficiently distant and did not in any way attempt to exaggerate the awful circumstances of the disturbing event;
  • Whether there is a legitimate need to broadcast the scenes of extraordinary violence, or a need for graphic reporting on the delicate or disturbing matter;
  • Whether there was editorial context or additional clarification provided for the video segment either through an introduction or follow-up;
  • Whether the broadcaster used special additional vigilance in making its editorial choices in situations where the violent video segment was created by the perpetrator of a crime;
  • In situations where there is repetition of the violent video segment, whether such repetition was appropriate or necessary and not excessive and whether the broadcaster exercised caution in the repetition of the footage.

In the present circumstance, CHEK-DT provided context to the disturbing video footage.  The news segment started with the anchor reporting that “There have been a string of serious and deadly crashes in the last 24 hours on Vancouver Island.”  The anchor then introduced the investigation into the “horrific crash between a motorcycle and truck”.

At that point, the station aired the first part of the video footage where the viewer saw police officers in neon vests walking around the accident scene that included debris on the road and yellow police tape blocking off the area.  The anchor then provided additional context by detailing the time and area of the incident and then explained that “Security camera footage shows the truck turning across traffic, smashing into the motorcycle, crushing it”.

As detailed earlier, the security footage captured the accident from a distance and from an awkward angle; there was no sound and it was grainy in quality with a time stamp on it.  It was not really possible to see the motorcycle until the footage was shown again zoomed in and in slow motion.  It was only at that point that the viewer could discern that there was a collision between the truck and motorcycle and that afterwards the motorcycle toppled over.  It was not possible to identify or see the operator of the motorcycle nor was the motorcyclist identified by the anchor.  The footage that followed included more scenes of the police investigation of the accident site along with shots of the mangled motorcycle.

The Panel considers that the broadcaster exercised appropriate editorial judgment and caution in the use of the security footage.  CHEK-DT did not exaggerate nor did it exploit the accident.  The footage was sufficiently distant, lacked any sound and with its poor quality, its broadcast did not exaggerate the awful accident.  The broadcaster set up the segment properly and also provided additional context in its follow up.  In the circumstances, the Panel considers there was a legitimate reason to broadcast the security footage.

With regards to the repetition and zooming in of the security footage, as stated earlier, in the initial broadcast of the security footage, it was not possible to see the actual accident.  It was only when the footage was shown again and zoomed in slow motion that the viewer could see the collision and the motorcycle toppling over.  Moreover, there was no sound accompanying the segment.  With this single repetition and given that this repetition provided better information to the viewer on the accident, the Panel considers that the repetition was appropriate and not excessive.

The complainants were also concerned that the security footage and description of the motorcyclist as a 58-year old from North Saanich provided too much information and therefore, could be in breach of the code.  The Panel does not consider that either the security footage nor the description of the motorcyclist involved in this accident amount to a breach of privacy under Article 5.5 of the RTDNA Code of Jounalistic Ethics.  The individual involved in the accident was never named nor were there any visual representations that would allow the viewer to clearly identify the individual.  This conclusion is consistent with privacy determinations found in previous CBSC decisions to this effect.[4]

Given the above, the Panel does not consider that the broadcast of the security footage amounts to a breach of the CAB Violence Code (Articles 6.1 and 6.2, and 6.4 to 6.7) nor does it breach Article 5 of the RTDNA Code of Journalistic Ethics.

The Need for a Warning to Viewers

The complainants are also concerned that there were no viewer advisories provided with this news segment.  The Panel notes that the anchor did introduce the segment by saying that there was a “horrific crash between a motorcycle and truck” but did not provide a clear advisory prior to airing the news segment.

Although the violence in the security footage was neither extraordinary nor excessive, the Panel does believe that it was disturbing.  Viewers should have been clearly advised in advance of the sequence to come and that the images and outcome of the accident could well be categorized as disturbing.[5]  The Panel considers that the public in general needs to be informed so that individual viewers are then in a position to decide what is, or is not, palatable for them and their families.

Accordingly, the Panel has determined that the broadcaster breached Article 6.3 of the CAB Violence Code for failing to warn viewers in advance of showing the motorcycle crash footage.

Broadcaster Responsiveness

In all CBSC decisions, the Panels assess the broadcaster’s response to the complainant.  The broadcaster need not agree with the complainant’s position, but it must respond in a courteous, thoughtful and thorough manner.  In this case, CHEK-DT, has in its response, satisfied its obligation to respond adequately to the complaints.  The broadcaster fulfilled its obligations of responsiveness and, subject to the announcement of this decision, nothing further is required in this regard in this instance.

ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE DECISION

CHEK-DT is required to:  1) announce the decision, in the following terms, once during prime time within three days following the release of this decision and once more within seven days following the release of this decision during the time period in which CHEK News was broadcast, but not on the same day as the first mandated announcement; 2) within the fourteen days following the broadcasts of the announcements, to provide written confirmation of the airing of the statement to the complainants who filed the Ruling Requests; and 3) at that time, to provide the CBSC with a copy of that written confirmation and with air check copies of the broadcasts of the two announcements which must be made by CHEK-DT.

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has found that CHEK-DT breached the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Violence Code in a report aired during the 5:00 pm CHEK News on September 11, 2017.  CHEK-DT failed to provide a warning before airing disturbing footage of a vehicle accident, contrary to Article 6.3 of the Violence Code.

This decision is a public document upon its release by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.

[1] CTV re Canada AM (Airborne Hazing) (CBSC Decision 94/95-0159, March 12, 1996); CICT-TV re a news report on the Tour de France (CBSC Decision 00/01-0982, January 14, 2002); CHAN-TV re a news item concerning a fatal accident (logger tapes) (CBSC Decision 00/01-0839, January 23, 2002); CTV Newsnet re a News Item (Hostage Murder in Riyadh) (CBSC Decision 03/04-1817, December 15, 2004); CTV re coverage of the fatal luge accident at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games (CBSC Decision 09/10-0895+, November 12, 2010).

[2] CTV re Canada AM (Airborne Hazing) (CBSC Decision 94/95-0159, March 12, 1996).

[3] CTV Newsnet re a News Item (Hostage Murder in Riyadh) (CBSC Decision 03/04-1817, December 15, 2004).

[4] CTV re Canada AM (Airborne Hazing) (CBSC Decision 94/95-0159, March 12, 1996); CTV re coverage of the fatal luge accident at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games (CBSC Decision 09/10-0895+, November 12, 2010).

[5] Ibid.



Appendix A

The report in question was aired during the 5:00 pm CHEK News broadcast.

anchor Stacy Ross: To other news now and the carnage on our roads.  There have been a string of serious and deadly crashes in the last 24 hours on Vancouver Island.  Saanich Police are investigating a horrific crash between a motorcycle and truck.

[footage of road:  police officers in neon vests walking around accident scene; there is debris in the road and yellow police tape blocking off the area]

It happened just after 12:30 this afternoon at the intersection of Boleskine and Harriet Roads.  Security camera footage shows the truck turning across traffic, smashing into the motorcycle, crushing it.

[security camera footage captured accident from a distance & an awkward angle: there is a time stamp of “09-11-2017 Mon 12:32:53” in upper left corner; the accident itself is seen in upper left corner & highlighted by lighted circle; a dark vehicle is seen going across intersection; the motorcycle is barely visible.  The footage is then zoomed in on and shown in slow motion.  The viewer can see that a two-wheeled vehicle is crossing the intersection as topples over as the dark truck crosses the intersection from the other direction.  Something trails the truck after the impact.]

The motorcyclist was rushed to hospital, but the 58-year-old North Saanich man did not survive.  The road was immediately shut down to all vehicle and pedestrian traffic for several hours.

[close-ups of debris on road and damaged blue & silver motorcycle; close-up of yellow tarp-like object on road; an officer pulling yellow tape across road with police trucks nearby; another shot of debris on road and mangled motorcycle]

Police say it won’t reopen until much later this evening.  Motorists are being advised to use alternate routes.  Anyone with information about the crash is asked to call Saanich Police.  No word yet on any charges.

Appendix B

The Complaints

The CBSC received two complaints about this broadcast.

17/18-0055

The following complaint was submitted via the CBSC webform on September 12, 2017:

Television or Radio Station:         CHEK

Program Name:                  CHEK News

Date of Program:                2017/09/11

Time of Program:               1700

Specific Concern:    On September 11, 2017, on the 5:00PM Newscast, CHEK showed video surveillance of a crash that was a fatal motor vehicle collision.  The television station knew it was a fatal crash and broadcast it as such.  Furthermore the station replayed the video with an enlarged/zoomed in version of the video.  There was no warning to the viewers that the scene they were about to view was graphic or disturbing.  Given the time of the newscast there would be a significant likelihood that children could be watching.  This appears to be in direct violation of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Violence Code (1993) section 6.3.

I spoke to the News Director, [R. G.], about the video being posted online and on their newscast.  The video remains online and it appears they’ve now posted their whole newscast online without a warning to views.

17/18-0056

The following complaint was also submitted via the CBSC webform on September 12, 2017:

Television or Radio Station:         CHEK

Program Name:                  CHEK News

Date of Program:                2017/09/11

Time of Program:               5pm (specific clip begins approximately 7 minutes and 25 seconds into the broadcast)

Specific Concern:

Dear Sir or Ma’am,

I am writing to express my concern and disappointment regarding the decision by CHEK News to broadcast security camera footage of a fatal motorcycle collision.

The news clip even included a close up / enhanced replay showing an explosion of mist as the truck crushed the motorcyclist.

The clip was broadcast on the 5pm news.  No viewer advisory was shown before the clip.  The clip currently remains on the CHEK News website: https://www.cheknews.ca/5pm-newscast-september-11-2017-365453/

Following the CHEK News broadcast, the police department investigating the collision took the rare and unusual step of publicly criticizing CHEK News by posting the following message on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SaanichPolice/status/907654742406348800

“Can’t believe you obtained the video & then aired the death of someone on your newscast.  Insensitive to the #yyj family, friends & coworkers”

I wish to echo the concerns expressed by the Saanich Police Department.  It is one thing to show the aftermath of a collision, it is another matter entirely to broadcast the serious injury or death of a motorcyclist on the air.

I note that in a decision released earlier this year, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council determined that a violent sci-fi show should be broadcast at 9pm instead of 8pm.  The CBSC also determined that the show required viewer advisories.  I would respectfully suggest that the same criteria – at a minimum – should apply to a community television station wishing to broadcast the death of a real person who lived in that very same community.

I believe that CHEK News violated the following provisions of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Violence Code (1993):

6.1 Broadcasters shall use appropriate editorial judgment in the reporting of, and the pictorial representation of violence, aggression or destruction within their news and public affairs programming.

6.2 Caution shall be used in the selection of, and repetition of, video which depicts violence.

6.3 Broadcasters shall advise viewers in advance of showing scenes of extra-ordinary violence, or graphic reporting on delicate subject matter such as sexual assault or court action related to sexual crimes, particularly during afternoon or early evening newscasts and updates when children could be viewing.

Please note that I am submitting this complaint as a concerned citizen. These are my own personal views and they do not represent the official views of any organization or employer.

Broadcaster Response

CHEK sent slightly different responses to each complainant on October 10.

17/18-0055

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your complaint through the CBSC with respect to a segment of video aired by CHEK News.

Please be assured that the journalists of CHEK News take their responsibilities seriously.  We voluntarily abide by the CAB Code of conduct and the RTDNA code of ethics and we do our best to uphold community standards and the expectations of our viewers.

I am in agreement with you that, in general, CHEK would want to avoid broadcasting a video showing the point of impact of a fatal crash.  However, there are some extenuating circumstances in this case that were factors in our decision to broadcast the video that warrants consideration:

Firstly, the motorcyclist survived the impact.  According to Saanich Police’s own initial news release, the motorcyclist was “transported to hospital with serious injuries.”  It was hours later media were informed that unfortunately, the rider had succumbed to those injuries.  Secondly, in the video, the collision was obscured.  The surveillance camera video was grainy and was recorded from far away.  Even when the video was enlarged, the point of impact remained obscured by a utility pole in the foreground and by a surveillance camera time stamp that was embedded onto the video.  There was also no sound in the video.  In addition, the motorcyclist was not identified in our report and there was no way a person could recognize the bike or identify the rider from the video.

It is perhaps most significant that I have received no complaints from the general public.  According to Numeris, approximately 60,000 people watched our report on Sept. 11.  We received no viewer complaints about that report during or since the broadcast.  I can assure you that our viewers do not normally hesitate to call or write us about something they find distasteful or inappropriate.  That was clearly not the public perception with this report.

While I am aware of the public response to your critical post on the Saanich Police Twitter account, I suspect most of those who commented there were reacting to the characterization of the video and had not actually seen our report.  The one responder, who had said they had watched our report, in fact, defended the coverage.

I would like to clarify about our posting online.  CHEK posted a story about the crash on its website.  But the video was not part of this online story.  The only way the video could be seen in CHEK’s online presence was by searching through the hour-long news broadcast posted to our website.  CHEK livestreams its newscasts.  The stream is automatically archived on our website after completion of the newscast.  You may have seen the video in a story posted by another media outlet, but CHEK did not post the video separately, only within the context of our newscast.

As a responsible, community broadcaster, CHEK did not just air the video and move on.  The next day, we covered the outpouring of condolences for the 58-year-old motorcycle rider, [R. H.].  Our story told how [the motorcycle rider] was an educator who touched the lives of thousands of students, helping them to choose the right career path.  Later in the week, CHEK reported about a special ride held by a group of motorcyclists who were paying tribute to [the motorcycle rider] and raising awareness about motorcycle safety.  [The motorcycle rider] was an individual who made a difference in his community – and more people are aware of who he was as a result of our coverage.

Also later in the week, I held a special meeting of the news department where we reviewed the use of the video.  I reviewed the relevant parts of the RTDNA and CAB codes, the former of which is posted in our newsroom.  During this meeting, I reiterated the importance of issuing warnings prior to the airing of certain videos.  I regret that we did not include such a warning prior to this footage airing.  In both police work and in the field of journalism, we make decisions every day around whether to share certain information, including images, with the public – balancing public interest against individual privacy and community standards, all of this weighted against an opportunity to build awareness and provide information that might help prevent future tragic occurrences.  I am sure it was those considerations that factored into Saanich Police’s decision to retweet an image of a totally wrecked vehicle with a reminder to drive carefully over the Thanksgiving Weekend.  An important reminder and message for sure.

Having said that, I appreciate the opportunity to address your concerns through the CBSC, as well as your public message on Saanich Police Department Twitter account and those expressed directly over the phone.  Again, thank you for taking the time to share your feelings on this issue.

17/18-0056

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your concerns brought to my attention through your complaint to the CBSC.

Please be assured that the journalists of CHEK News take their responsibilities seriously.  We voluntarily abide by the CAB Code of conduct and the RTDNA code of ethics and we do our best to uphold community standards and the expectations of our viewers.

I agree with you that broadcasters must be careful in how they depict a serious or fatal crash.  There are some extenuating circumstances in this case that were factors in our decision to broadcast the video:

Firstly, the motorcyclist survived the impact.  According to Saanich Police’s initial news release, the motorcyclist was “transported to hospital with serious injuries.”  It was hours later media were informed that unfortunately, the rider had succumbed to those injuries.

In the video, the collision was obscured.  The surveillance camera video was grainy and was recorded from far away.  Even when the video was enlarged, the point of impact remained obscured by a utility pole in the foreground and by a surveillance camera time stamp that was embedded onto the video.  Also, the video was silent.

The motorcyclist was not identified in our report and there was no way a person could recognize the bike or identify the rider from the video.

The video was repeated only once in the report.  The video has not been broadcast since Sept. 11 on CHEK, because the motorcyclist was identified the next day.

As a responsible, community broadcaster, CHEK did not just air the video and move on.  The day after the collision, CHEK covered the outpouring of condolences for the 58-year-old motorcycle rider, [R. H.].  Our story told how [the motorcycle rider] was an educator who touched the lives of thousands of students, helping them to choose the right career path.

Later in the week, CHEK reported about a special ride held by a group of motorcyclists who were paying tribute to [the motorcycle rider] and raising awareness about motorcycle safety.  [The motorcycle rider] was an individual who made a difference in his community – and more people are aware of who he was as a result of our coverage.

Also later in the week, I held a special meeting of the news department where we reviewed the use of the video and discussed balancing public interest with individual privacy and community standards.  I reviewed the relevant parts of the RTDNA and CAB codes, the former of which is posted in our newsroom.  The code demands use of discretion and forbids “exploitation” and “exaggeration” of violent events.  It also says broadcasters should be equally careful not to “sanitize” reality.  I believe CHEK producers did employ discretion in this case.  I reiterated the need to provide warnings about sensitive material. I regret that we did not include such a warning prior to this footage airing.

It is fair to say that everyone will have a different opinion about what is appropriate and what is not.  Feedback from our viewers helps guide us and usually indicates if we have crossed the line.  Numeris ratings measurement shows 60,000 people saw our report on Sept. 11.  We received not one phone call or email complaint from viewers about our coverage.

Having said that, I respect your opinion and appreciate the opportunity to address your concerns through this process.

Additional Correspondence

17/18-0055

The complainant submitted his Ruling Request on October 11:

BACKGROUND:

On September 12, 2017 the Saanich Police submitted a complaint concerning a report from CHEK News.

CONCERN:

On September 11, 2017, on the 5:00PM Newscast, CHEK showed video surveillance of a crash that was a fatal motor vehicle collision.  The television station knew it was a fatal crash and broadcast it as such.  Furthermore the station replayed the video with an enlarged/zoomed in version of the video.  There was no warning to the viewers that the scene they were about to view was graphic or disturbing.  Given the time of the newscast there would be a significant likelihood that children could be watching.  This appears to be in direct violation of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Violence Code (1993) section 6.3.

CORRESPONDENCE:

On September 19, 2017 the CBSC replied and gave CHEK News an opportunity to reply to the concerns within 21 days.  On October 10, 2017 I received a reply from the broadcaster, however, the concerns have not been addressed.  I would therefore like to file a ruling request.

The complainant also wrote back directly to CHEK:

Thank you for responding to Saanich Police Department’s concerns regarding the segment of your news broadcast on September 11, 2017.

I would like to address a few of your points.  The first where you’ve stated “Firstly, the motorcyclist survived the impact.  According to Saanich Police’s own initial news release, the motorcyclist was ‘transported to hospital with serious injuries.’  It was hours later media were informed that unfortunately, the rider had succumbed to those injuries.”

The original media release was sent at 1:25 PM advising of the crash.  There was then email correspondence between CHEK News and myself stating that, in essence, the crash didn’t sound like it would have a positive outcome.  At 3:34 PM I sent an updated media release stating this was now a fatal collision and the rider had succumbed to his injuries.  After fully knowing the rider had perished, CHEK News made the conscious decision to still air the surveillance video and the moment of impact which caused the rider to die.

The second point I will address is your statement of “Secondly, in the video, the collision was obscured.  The surveillance camera video was grainy and was recorded from far away.  Even when the video was enlarged, the point of impact remained obscured by a utility pole in the foreground and by a surveillance camera time stamp that was embedded onto the video.  There was also no sound in the video.  In addition, the motorcyclist was not identified in our report and there was no way a person could recognize the bike or identify the rider from the video.”

During the introduction to the segment the CHEK News Anchor described the scene as “a horrific crash between a motorcycle and truck”.  The surveillance video is played and enlarged as the CHEK News anchor states the truck is seen “smashing into the motorcycle, crushing it”.  I’ve reviewed your newscast, and the surveillance video that was aired, and I disagree with your conclusion that the point of impact remained obscured.  During the video you can actually see the rider attempting to avoid contact with the truck and then him/his motorcycle being “crushed” as described by your anchor.

I’d also like to point out that during your newscast the aftermath of the crash is shown in detail from multiple angles.  There are a number of close-ups of the motorcycle which could easily identify the rider.  In addition to this, as the surveillance video is played and enlarged, the CHEK anchor states “The 58 year old North Saanich man did not survive”.  If you rely on 2016’s census information for the region, this would limit the rider to one of 500 possible people within all of Greater Victoria (this is also assuming all 500 men from North Saanich aged 55-59 have motorcycles).

Lastly, although you may not have received any complaints from your audience, I can tell you I have.  We have over 300 full- and part-time employees at the Saanich Police Department and this newscast has been a topic of conversation with civilian staff, volunteers and police officers.  A number of people have actually sought me out asking what “we”, as an organization, could do about CHEK airing this video.  All people, who have come forward to me, have stated they wish they had never seen the video on your newscast and this piece of the program was not necessary.

Again, thank you for your reply, however, I’ve still filed a ruling request on behalf of the Saanich Police Department as I don’t believe you’ve addressed our concerns.

17/18-0056

The complainant filed his Ruling Request on October 17:

Good morning,

First off, thank you to [CHEK’s News Director] for responding.

I would like this complaint to advance to the next step in the process so that a formal review can be conducted by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.

My reasons for the request for a formal review are as follows:

1) I fundamentally disagree with the decision to broadcast the collision.  It offended the community here in Victoria, sensationalized the news coverage and also violated CBSC standards.

2) The video was broadcast multiple times on CHEK News on September 11.  This included CHEK News at 10pm by which time CHEK knew the motorcyclist had died.

3) [The News Director] acknowledges that he regrets CHEK not including a warning to viewers prior to the video being aired.  However CHEK has not publicly informed viewers of this error, nor have they apologized for it.

4) [The News Director] says that “not one email complaint or phone call from viewers” was received by CHEK.  This is highly misleading as there was an enormous online backlash against the airing of the video.  I have extensive comments from viewers on my public Facebook and Twitter posts about this incident.  I will forward these to the CBSC.  Unfortunately CHEK deleted all of its own Facebook and Twitter links to the video so all of the negative comments they received have disappeared.  Again, I believe it was very misleading for CHEK to claim – using carefully phrased language – that it had not received any complaints about airing the fatal crash.  In fact I even have a Facebook message from someone who says they contacted CHEK and never heard back.