CHEK-TV re Newscast

B.C. REGIONAL COUNCIL
(CBSC Decision 97/98-0500 and 0543)
E. Petrie (Chair), S. Warren (Vice-Chair), R. Cohen (ad hoc), H. Mack*, D. Millette

THE FACTS

In its 5:30 p.m. newscast on December 15, 1997 (repeated by the station on the following
day), CHEK-TV (Victoria) reported on the plight of a shopping mall Santa who had been
fired from his position. The text of the news report was as follows:

News Anchor: Well, Santa is back and, in just a moment, we'll show you another side of
the jolly old elf. It's a side you may not want your kids to see so we'll give you fair warning.
The man fired from his job at the Santa Claus hut in the CanWest Mall in Langford has a
new workshop to call his own tonight. Alan Turner will be behind the beard until Christmas
Eve at the Colwood Plaza.

Mall Santa: [With a child on his lap] There we go. How's that?

Reporter: Santa Claus is listening to the wishes of the good little boys and girls at the
Colwood Plaza. It's a new home for this Santa whose tale of being fired from a nearby mall
has gone nationwide.

Plaza Store Owner: I probably found out about it the same way everyone else did, through
the news, through the media. And of course it happened in this area so a lot of our
customers were talking about it.

Reporter: “It” was the firing of 50-year old Alan Turner also known as Santa Claus.

Plaza Store Owner: Well, we thought that he got kind of a raw deal and we thought he
deserved to be doing something that he really wanted to do.

Reporter: Turner is also pleased to once again be playing the role of the jolly old elf.

Mall Santa: Oh, it's wonderful.

Reporter: What's the best part about it?

Mall Santa: Children, families, and those who are hurting, too.

Reporter: [In front of the CanWest Mall] Turner was fired from the CanWest Mall 10 days
ago as their Santa. He says that he was fired over a candy cane incident involving a
misbehaving child. Mall management won't come on camera to talk about this story but off
camera they told us it was his behaviour and inappropriate comments that got Turner fired.

Mall Santa: [Crossing his hands over his groin] No, I'm not going to hold my jangles.

Reporter: Turner seems to be reveling in his newfound celebrity. He's repeatedly told the
story of being kicked in the groin by a child at the CanWest Mall. [Over a shot through the
window of Turner again covering his groin in the presence of a mother and her child,
although it is unclear whether they could see the gesture.] Today Turner grabbed his crotch
several times in the presence of kids jokingly to protect his genitalia from other children.
Plaza management was surprised and upset when we told them of Turner's behaviour and
wanted to see the video before commenting further. Maribeth Burton, CHEK-TV News.

The Complaints

Two complaints were sent to the CRTC, one from Mr. Turner, the affected individual, who
will be referred to as the Mall Santa herein, and the other from a disinterested member of
the viewing public, who will be referred to as the Complainant. Both of these complaints
were forwarded by the Commission to the CBSC, in accordance with their standard
practice. Since both contain matters of substance for the Council, both sets of
correspondence will be included; however, they will be distinguished as noted above. The
correspondence will be presented in the order received, the first group relating to the
Complainant, and the second to the Mall Santa.

The Complainant's Communications

The complainant began his communications by sending the following e-mail message on
December 17 to the News Director of the station.

The above news piece was the worst case of “news management” that I have seen. Your
reporter has obviously got some kind of conflict with Mr. Turner and used your station to
obtain retribution. One must watch the piece as it was aired both on Monday evening and
again on Tuesday evening to catch the obvious conflicts. You folks are experts at the use
of both images and words, and your reporter has used that expertise to shape a story to her
own ends.

While watching the original piece I pointed out to my wife the obvious conflict with what your
reporter was saying and the images being viewed. While stating that Mr. Turner was
“grabbing his crotch” the camera shows a man responding to something said off camera by
placing his hands in front of his “crotch”. The next shot shows Mr. Turner standing in front
of the window again miming for the “interviewer” the same motion. In addition you can see
the reflection of the mall owner laughing and carrying on during this shot. Mr. Turner then
places his hands down and backs up a reasonable distance to where a child comes into
view. It would have been impossible for that child to have seen anything.

At no time in the tape shown did Mr. Turner “grab his crotch” as your reporter states. She
has instead created the story by skilful editing and manipulation of words. I mentioned to
my wife that despite seeing the images I could just picture some little old ladies ringing the
phones off the hook after the story aired. Apparently this is exactly what happened.

Reporters are supposed to be objective — this one was on a vendetta to pillory this guy.
I do not know Mr. Turner and he may be the jerk of the century, however, that does not give
you (as the station) nor your reporter the right to “create” news where none existed.

Perhaps it is about time we viewers started to contact the CRTC when we see “managed
news reports” like this. I am truly tired of reporters using their own personal agendas to
broadcast “news” items that are only there to further their own ends. Their immediate
response is freedom of the press that only comes with RESPONSIBILITY and I certainly do
not see that in this report.

The complainant sent the following letter to the CRTC two days later.

The story purported to be a follow up to a previous story of a Santa Claus fired from a local
mall for refusing to give a child a candy cane due to bad behaviour. Amongst other things
the child apparently kicked Santa in the groin and pulled his beard off. The child was to go
to the back of the line and start over again if they wanted a candy cane. The parents did not
complain — one of the co-workers did and the man was fired. Media reports at the time had
another mall hire the Santa and Monday was his first day on the job. The opening sentences
of Ms. Burton's piece immediately indicated to me that there was more going on than a
story.

Momentary shots showed Santa placing his hands in front of his groin (as in a protective
gesture) followed by another shot showing Santa in a picture window again miming for the
camera. Once he had completed the gesture he backed up and in the background one could
see a child getting ready to see Santa. The child could only have seen Santa's back.

Ms. Burton's commentary referred to Santa as “grabbing his crotch” and intimated that these
actions were continuing inappropriate actions on Santa's part. While watching the piece with
my wife on Monday evening, I pointed out the obvious conflict with what the reporter was
saying and the images being viewed. The attached e-mail sent to R. Palmer, Manager of
News Services at CHEK 6 outlines the complaints I had.

Subsequent to my sending the e-mail the Victoria Times Colonist and the Sidney News
Review both confirmed my impressions while watching the piece. The reporter had
exchanged words with Santa before the interview and was angry. The information contained
in the articles confirmed my contention that this reporter was out to get Mr. Turner and
succeeded by using her ability to shape a story and broadcast it.

Electronic news by virtue of the time frames involved is brief. Reporters and stations have
a responsibility to ensure that when editing is done that they bend over backwards to be fair.
It is very easy to take something out of context, emphasize with voice over or commentary
and present as fact something that is not true. I believe that this is just such a case. With
all the hype surrounding this story I can picture Mr. Turner “cutting up” in front of the camera
for a few seconds and then an angry reporter taking that footage and shaping a story to
conform to it.

I spoke with Mr. Palmer on Thursday morning. It was apparent from the start that he was
In full support of his reporter despite confirming words had been exchanged between the
reporter and Turner. The station, according to Palmer, has received complaints both for and
against in about equal numbers. Mr. Palmer's defense of the story is simply that Turner
should have known better than to act out as he did. When I pointed out that there would
have been no acting out if the camera weren't there Mr. Palmer again disagreed.

People who have to deal with the media on a regular basis are obviously much more
circumspect in their actions. The vast majority of us have no idea how skilful editing can
create stories. Such is the case here. When a comment made off camera to a reporter can
ultimately result in that commentator's firing from a job it is time to say enough. This item
should never have been aired especially at this time of year.

The interesting part of this whole exercise is that despite all the controversy of their actions
in the print media, CHEK 6 has had no follow-up reports other than to announce Mr.
Turner's dismissal on Tuesday evening. Amazing how the story changes when the shoe is
on the other foot.

Because the complainant had not heard from the station by January 12, he sent another
letter to the Council on that date, together with his Ruling Request. That letter read in part:

I find it very interesting that CHEK-TV was able to “create” this controversy in the first place
as a “news” item, yet they can ignore all the print media (Times-Colonist, News Review etc.)
as well as the complaints Mr. Palmer has acknowledge receiving at the station. The other
electronic media have also ignored this matter. Is this a manifestation of the “old boys club”
within the so-called journalism of electronic media?

If CHEK-TV is prepared to go to these lengths to destroy an individual acting as Santa
Claus, what are they prepared to do in the case of politicians and other controversial
figures? Is there one set of rules for prominent individuals who control some power and
another set for the “average Joe” on the street?

With that Ruling Request, the listener requested that the CBSC refer the matter to the
appropriate Regional Council for adjudication.

The Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

The News Director of CHEK-TV responded of January 12 to all of the foregoing
correspondence in a single letter. He said:

Thank you for your letter of concern regarding the news item involving Santa Claus/Mr. Alan
Turner, broadcast on CHEK TV on December 15-16, 1997. Unfortunately the fax from the
Canadian Broadcast Standards Council arrived over the holidays and could not be properly
addressed until the appropriate management representatives returned from the break. We
apologize for the delay.

We have also received a second fax from the Council in which you express concern about
this delay. For the record, this fax is intended to respond to both of your faxes.

We regret that you were upset by our December 15 story (rebroadcast Dec. 16) concerning
the actions of Mr. Turner. Our story was not intended to offend but rather, tell the story of
a mall Santa Claus who, having been fired from the same job a week earlier, then chose to
engage in behaviour not normally associated with someone in that position. And, we are
confident that our news team handled this story responsibly and complied with all applicable
broadcast codes of conduct.

I appreciate the opportunity to respond to your main points of concern, as well as provide
some important background information.

Your version of events in the second paragraph of your December 19, 1997 fax to the
Council is essentially correct. Mr. Turner felt that he had been fired by the first mall for
sending a child who he said pulled his beard and kicked him in the groin to the back of the
line. However, your fax does not mention that the first mall later told CHEK TV, and we
reported, that it had fired Mr. Turner for “inappropriate comments and behaviour”.

Other parts of your fax contain a number of misconceptions about what actually happened
when we visited Mr. Turner on the first day of his new job at the second mall. In it, you state
that “momentary shots showed Santa placing his hands in front of his groin (as in a
protective gesture) followed by another shot showing Santa in a picture window again
miming for the camera. Once he had completed the gesture he backed up and in the
background one could see a child getting ready to see Santa. The child could only have
seen Santa's back.”

Our raw footage shows that in the first incident, Mr. Turner touched his crotch in plain view
of parents and children. Whether he was miming for the camera is irrelevant. Three minutes
later, at precisely 12:00:46 p.m., (as verified by imprinted time code) a second incident took
place while our camera operator was videotaping Mr. Turner speaking to children on his
knee. Seven seconds after a child stepped down and while others were in the room, Mr.
Turner looked straight at our camera, touched his crotch and stated “No, I'm not going to
hold my jangles.” At no time was he asked to do so by anyone in the room, a fact which is
verified by the audio portion of our raw tape.

Please understand that the decision to use this footage in a story was not taken lightly. We
understood that it would be disturbing to some viewers and therefore aired a warning before
broadcasting the story. We were also aware of the possible ramifications of airing pictures
of Santa Claus performing such gestures. At the same time, we felt there were ramifications
to ignoring the incident. Indeed, we are living in an age of heightened sensitivity toward such
incidents, regardless of circumstances or intent, and particularly where children are
involved.

In your December 19 fax to the Council, you contend that our reporter “was out to get Mr.
Turner”. I have spoken with our reporter Meribeth Burton on numerous occasions and at
some length about this story and am satisfied that that is not the case. It is true that she was
shocked because Mr. Turner greeted her in front of other people with the statement: “Well,
here's Meribeth Burton with the dyed-blonde hair job.” Taken aback, she left the room for
a moment and returned to conduct the interview after the children and parents had left.

You also state that “With all the hype surrounding this story I can picture Mr. Turner 'cutting
up' in front of the camera for a few seconds and then an angry reporter taking that footage
and shaping a story to conform to it.” With all due respect, that is simply not what happened.
In fact, Ms. Burton's assignment that day was to do a “happy” news story about Santa Claus
being “back on the job.” We did not shape the story; rather, the story changed in a way that
was, needless to say, inconceivable.

It is also important to point out that Ms. Burton was not aware of either incident when she
interviewed Mr. Turner. Her photographer never mentioned it. Indeed, it was not until she
was viewing the raw tape while en route back to our station that she saw the first incident.
She did not know about the second incident until a videotape editor brought it to her
attention later that afternoon.

Ms. Burton's actions were prudent and reasonable. She contacted senior newsroom
personnel and vetted her material through our lawyer. This is standard operating procedure
under any such circumstances and she followed it to the letter.

I appreciate that you do not agree with our story, and I respect that view. News judgment
is exercised by human beings and is by its very nature subjective. Our viewers may not
always agree with every decision we make, but it is important that we welcome and
encourage their views. To that end, I would like to thank you for your letter and your concern
on this issue.

The Complainant's “Rebuttal”

The complainant replied to the CHEK letter on January 15.

I would like to explain why the response is unacceptable point by point. First, however, I
would point out that there is absolutely no response to [sic] why if this was in fact a 'news'
story there has been no follow-up by CHEK on the controversy they created. The print
media spent days in both articles and editorials over CHEK's conduct. Mr. Palmer
acknowledged to me by telephone that the station had received critical complaints like mine.
Despite this CHEK ignored the real news story in an effort to distance itself from this case.
Perhaps they do not wish to tarnish their image, as they are now busy announcing an
expanded newscast.

Paragraph 5 Mr. Palmer explains that Mr. Turner was fired originally for “inappropriate
comments and behavior”. The insinuation here is that this is continuing behavior.
Unfortunately the original CHEK reporter and all the print media also confirmed that the
“inappropriate behavior” was refusing to give an unruly child a candy cane and that the
“inappropriate comments” were Mr. Turner's saying “God Bless” as each child left. Mr.
Palmer's comment is pure spin doctoring.

Paragraph 6 is Mr. Palmer's opinion only. My comments are what I saw in his broadcast.
There is no misconception about what I and other viewers saw.

Paragraph 7 has several points which require comment. Firstly if there is raw footage
showing these actions in front of children and parents why was this footage not used. The
footage used clearly shows Mr. Turner placing his hands in front of his crotch and not
“grabbing his crotch” as Ms. Burton proclaims in the broadcast. The footage showing Santa
in the window also clearly shows the mall manager, who Burton at some point interviewed
in front of the same window, laughing and carrying on as Turner mimics protecting himself.
The reflection was very clear and the mall manager is identifiable. Clearly Turner was
“playing” to his boss's encouragement.

Paragraph 8 amazed me. I consulted with my wife. At no time in the pieces we viewed were
there any of the usual warnings about the content of the broadcast. Is this an example of
after the fact editing? These two paragraphs alone require that this complaint go forward to
be viewed by the Board.

The balance of Mr. Palmer's comments are also unacceptable. Ms. Burton clearly sums up
the piece at the mall. This reporter did not drive all the way back to the station, edit the
piece and then drive all the way back to the mall to do a summation, drive back to the
station, reedit and then present the piece. The summation was done at the mall with the
knowledge of the material on tape. Whether Burton knew of the taped incidents when she
interviewed Turner is moot. The complaint is that the whole piece was edited and 'shaped'
to ensure Turner at least was chastised by the mall owners. Burton wanted revenge for the
comment Turner made and she got it. Her anger came through loud and clear in the first
broadcast — enough so that I commented to my wife that it was obvious there was conflict
between Burton and Turner. It was some two days later when that assertion was confirmed
by both the print media and Mr. Palmer.

This is not theory ladies and gentlemen. A man was fired from the only job he had, days
before Christmas and all because a reporter was mad. Keep in mind the time of year and
the nature of the broadcast. Mr. Palmer's response is little more than an attempt to put a
spin on a series of poor judgements that were made by the reporter and the station. I repeat
again, if this was truly a newsworthy item, why has there been no follow-up by the station
over the controversy they created? The answer is simple. A detailed investigation as done
by the print media shows the station in poor light and they are concerned about protecting
their “award winning newscast”..

The Ruling Request having already been received, the matter was referred to the B.C.
Regional Council for adjudication.

The Mall Santa's Complaint

The Mall Santa sent a letter to the CRTC on December 23; a two-page note was appended
thereto. The covering letter read as follows:

Owing to national media coverage, you are quite possibly aware of the recent Santa Claus
saga here in Victoria. I found myself in an almost unprecedented position of being “laid off”
by a local mall for a “disciplinary” rebuke given to a child.

As if it wasn't enough prior to Christmas in having to face (i) unemployment and (ii) unfair
and unjust dismissal, this event took second place to an even bigger humiliation … a repeat
lay-off from the same “job” in a second mall! … Yes, after one day!

What could possibly have turned an overwhelming local, provincial and even national
sympathy re my predicament in the first, into a complete 180 reversal of support in the
second? I will tell you lest perchance, the news has not yet reached your ears.

Your Victoria station, CHEK TV, decided to publicize what was requested, demanded and
stated to be an OFF CAMERA humorous quip. Not only was this so stated by myself, but
was heard and witnessed by other adults in the room.

Never in a million years would I dream that CHEK TV would trivialize, publicize and
deceptively lie to the public. Its decision to publicly broadcast this not only led to my release
(after one day!), but, in the light of the whole preceding situation, such an act discredited my
character, tarnished any good reputation I had, and caused me to lose hundreds of dollars
two weeks before Christmas. …

On top of all this, even though I have been involved directly with radio and television for
many years, I have never been interviewed by a journalist whose literal opening remark to
me was, “You're a bloody asshole.” I, who am never lost for words, was stunned
speechless! …

The material portions of the two pages of annexed material are quoted here:

It was in rare speechless amazement that I viewed local, national and international reaction
to my “canning” at Can-West Mall. It was in horror and disbelief that I witnessed the reason
for the second at Colwood Plaza. Most of my anger was directed at myself … for I am
surely guilty at the “sin” of naivete.

(i)

My clip statement was an opening jovial line, prior to interview, and by way of
reception comment to the two journalists. It was a “play on a word” in a response
to a word (“jangles”), coined NOT by me, but by the media, (please note … I had no
personal problem with the journalists use of this word … in fact I found it seasonally
amusing!)

(ii)

I would vow under oath that the CHEK journalists were intent on a “setup”. If not,
then why were a mother and child deliberately positioned to walk in front of the
store … And then asked to stare in the window at Santa?

(iii)

Never having met the interviewer before, I was stunned by her unbelievable
opening remark, “You're a b______ a______!”

(iv)

It if wasn't a “setup” why have I received calls from adults present in the store who
distinctly recall me strongly declare … “this is definitely OFF-camera”.

(v)

At NO time did I touch my “jangles” … I may be incredibly naive but, arguably not
insane! Rather, I took a soccer positional stance … witnessed every week in this
game.

But, naturally, CHEK TV's Managing Director, Robert Palmer, attempts to assure me “the
camera does not lie”. Not only do your cameras lie, Mr. Palmer, when placed in the hands
of degenerate journalists, but so do your tapes after visiting your editing room!

The Broadcaster's Response to the Mall Santa

The News Director at CHEK responded on February 2.

We regret that you were terminated by the Colwood Plaza. However, we are satisfied that
the termination was the result of your behavior, not our news report. It was never our
expectation that it would be anything but a happy news story when we assigned our reporter
to cover your hiring by the plaza. However, you chose to behave in a certain manner in front
of both children and adults, as well as our news camera. It is our understanding that the
plaza regarded your behavior as unacceptable and you were accordingly terminated.

Furthermore, we do not believe we violated any applicable broadcast standards codes in
our handling of this story.

I would like to take this opportunity to clarify several points in your December 23, 1997 letter
to the CRTC.

You state that you were “laid off by a local mall for a disciplinary rebuke given to a child.”
In fact, the mall told CHEK TV that you were fired for inappropriate comments and behavior
which had nothing to do with that incident at all.

You state that CHEK TV “decided to publicize what was requested, demanded and stated
to be an OFF CAMERA [sic] humourous quip. Not only was this so stated by myself but was
heard and witnessed by other adults in the room.” Neither our reporter or camera operator
are aware of any such statement on your part, nor does it appear on our raw footage. I
assume the statement you refer to is “No, I'm not going to hold my jangles.” In fact, our
camera videotaped you for 52 seconds prior to your statement. The same child was on your
lap for the entire time, and you made the comment precisely seven seconds after she
stepped down. You looked straight at our camera, said it and placed both hands over your
genitals. The audio portion of the tape clearly reveals the sound of children and adults in the
room at the time. There was no indication that you made any request or demand that
anything you said or did be off camera.

You will recall that you called me on December 16 to complain about our coverage. My
notes of that conversation indicate that I invited you to come to CHEK TV and view the raw
footage. You declined the invitation.

At the end of your letter you refer to a comment made by our reporter Meribeth Burton. That
comment was made to you privately but it was unfortunate and CHEK TV apologizes for any
offense it may have caused. However, you omit from your letter any reference to your
preceding statement you made to her. When she entered the room you said, well within
earshot of everyone present, “Oh, it's Meribeth Burton with the dyed-blonde hair job.” There
were several other adults in the room and Ms. Burton was shocked and embarrassed by
your remark. In contrast, she made her comment to you while crouched down beside you
and out of earshot of everyone else.

Finally, it is important to point out that you are exploring your options with respect to civil
action against CHEK TV. Although we believe your complaint is unfounded, we believe it is
in fact not so much a standards issue as it is a defamation question. We believe that the
Canadian Broadcast Standards Council should consider whether it is more appropriate for
the courts to rule on this matter. We will of course co-operate fully with the Council however
it chooses to proceed. We have preserved both the newscasts as well as the raw footage
to illustrate the accuracy of CHEK's account of your behavior.

The CBSC's B.C. Regional Council considered the complaint under the Code of
(Journalistic) Ethics
of the Radio and Television News Directors Association (RTNDA).
Clauses 1, 3 and 7 of that Code read as follows:

ARTICLE ONE:

The main purpose of broadcast journalism is to inform the public in an accurate,
comprehensive and balanced manner about events of importance.

ARTICLE THREE:

Broadcast journalists will not sensationalize news items and will resist pressures, whether
from inside or outside the broadcasting industry, to do so. They will in no way distort the
news. Broadcast journalists will not edit taped interviews to distort the meaning, intent, or
actual words of the interviewee.

ARTICLE SEVEN:

News directors recognize that informed analysis, comment and editorial opinion on public
events and issues is both a right and responsibility that should be delegated only to
individuals whose experience and judgement qualify them for it.

The Regional Council members viewed a tape of the program in question and reviewed
all of the correspondence with the complainants. The Council members were also
supplied with the raw footage of the broadcaster which was the basis for the news report.
The Council considers that the broadcaster has not breached any of the foregoing articles
of the RTNDA Code of Ethics.

Editing the News Report

The members of the B.C. Regional Council had the opportunity to view a copy of the raw
footage in its entirety. There is no question whatsoever that the video portions of the
ultimate newscast were not “doctored” to leave an impression which did not reflect the
actual occurrences. The complainant who was directly affected by the report, the Mall
Santa Claus, was offered the opportunity to go to the television station to review the tapes
but he chose not to do so. That was certainly his option but he might have thus satisfied
himself that no tampering with the tape had occurred.

It does go without saying that there is no obligation on the part of a broadcaster to use all
of the material shot for the purpose of the story or to use the material in the order in which
it was shot. Every broadcaster is also entitled to edit that material to condense the story
to fit the available time and, indeed, to focus the story in the way in which it believes the
story should be told provided, of course, that it does not thereby distort or sensationalize
the story. The conflict, if any, which may generally occur, and does in this case, flows from
the options which the reporter has to use some of the footage that was available to tell the
story one way or to use other footage to tell the story another way. The reporter (and, of
course, the station) in this case chose a route which did not please the Mall Santa or the
other Complainant. The question is whether the broadcaster was entitled to do so or not.

Fairness and Reality

The issue for the B.C. Regional Council cannot be fairness or generosity, as stated by the
Complainant. There is not, as he states, “a responsibility to ensure that when editing is
done that they bend over backwards to be fair.” One can acknowledge that, to the extent
that Mr. Turner lost his job (as apparently happened) following the newscast, and during
the Christmas season, he must have suffered. One can also acknowledge that there is
some likelihood that the second firing might not have occurred had the news report not
been broadcast. The unfortunate result cannot, however, colour the broadcaster's
entitlement to tell the story in such a case. There are narrow circumstances, relating
primarily if not solely to the reporting of criminal activities such as hostage-takings, in
which it is a broadcaster's duty not to report events in such a way as to exacerbate a
problem which may result in physical injury or death. Such a principle does not extend to
a non-criminal area of reporting as is at hand in this case.

Questions, then, of fairness and generosity cannot be the issues which the Council is
required to face in the context of the Code of (Journalistic) Ethics. The duty of the Council
must be to assess, as Article One of the RTNDA Code of Ethics requires, whether the
broadcaster's duty to “inform the public in an accurate, comprehensive and balanced
manner” has been met. Thus, a reporter cannot, as the same paragraph of the
complainant's letter says, “take something out of context” or “present as fact something
that is not true.” These things cannot, the Council agrees, be done in general, nor, in their
view, were they done in this case.

The Mall Santa's Choices

While the reporter might have chosen to steer the story in a direction which would not have
shown the Mall Santa covering his groin, she was not obliged, by any set of standards, to
do so. It was, after all, Mr. Turner who chose to cover his crotch; there is no allegation that
anyone else invited him to do so. In his letter of December 23, he acknowledges his own
naïveté in doing so. His decision to do so in the presence of news cameras was certainly
injudicious since he alone opened himself to the risk that such footage could be recorded
and used. While the reporter might have been ungenerous in building the story this way,
it is perfectly clear that Mr. Turner created the opportunity for her to do so and, indeed, in
some respects asked, if not taunted, her to do so. The seguë from the earlier story, which
became a national tale and apparently involved a kick to the groin, to a second story with
a groin-related aspect, is obvious. It is regrettable that Turner created that situation
because the other footage of him playing the role of Santa left a clear sense that he was
good at his job as a Mall Santa. Moreover, as stated by the Complainant, Mr. Turner
probably did not fall into the category of individuals who deal more frequently with the
media and “are obviously more circumspect in their actions.” The Council finds, however,
that the direction of this story did not, in the end, depend on “skilful editing”. It was an
obvious direction, given the circumstances, which were not of the broadcaster's making.

The Council also believes that it should respond to the question of the reporter's choice
of words, namely, “grabbed his crotch” rather than “covered his crotch”. It does not find
that the choice of the second phrase would have materially affected the story. What
impacts upon the viewer are the visuals, which speak for themselves.

As to the exchange of words between the Mall Santa and the reporter, which has been of
some importance to the complainants, the Council considers that what is relevant is that
the insults, if actually hurled in either or both directions as noted in the correspondence,
occurred off air. They were not issues relevant to the public and were not used in the
newscast. To the extent that the complainants wish to use these to impute a motive to the
reporter for the story, the Council believes the argument cannot be supported. The issue,
in the end, is whether the report which was broadcast was justified as a function of the
primary resource, namely, the videotaped material. As the Council has concluded above,
it was. Consequently, the imputation of motive is a non-issue.

Broadcaster Responsiveness

The CBSC always recognizes the broadcaster's obligation, as a CBSC member, to be
responsive to complainants. In this case, the Regional Council considers that the
responses from the broadcaster to both the Complainant and the Mall Santa dealt fairly
with the letters of complaint. Nothing more could have been expected of the News
Director. Consequently, the station did not breach the Council's standard of
responsiveness.

This decision is a public document upon its release by the Canadian Broadcast Standards
Council. It may be reported, announced or read by the station against which the complaint
had originally been made; however, in the case of a favourable decision, the station is
under no obligation to announce the result.