CHWO-AM re Sunday Showcase with Murray Segal

ontario regional panel
R. Stanbury (Chair), M. Ziniak (Vice-Chair), R. Cohen (ad hoc), K. King,

THE FACTS

Sunday Showcase with Murray Segal aired on CHWO-AM (AM 740, Oakville, Ontario) from 10:00 am to noon.  The program consisted of various music and talk segments, including discussions with guests.  One recurring guest was the owner of a local home renovation company, who appeared on the program to discuss various matters relating to home renovation, improvement and repair.  That individual, Paul Napolitano, appeared on the April 1, 2007 episode of the program to talk with host Murray Segal (a full transcript of the segment can be found in Appendix A).

The episode began with the following exchange between Segal and Napolitano:

Segal:   […]  Mister Paul Napolitano of Royal Home Improvements is in the house.  [Napolitano laughs]  How’re you doin’, Paul?

Napolitano:        I’m doing great, Murray.  Thanks for having me.

Segal:   It’s good to see you.  Now, of course, our conversation began this morning very quickly with a hockey game that, uh, you apparently attended last night.

Napolitano:        Wow, what a, what a hockey game and what a situation down at the AC last night.  I was, I was invited down through, uh, friends and, uh, sitting in the upper bowl.  And, uh, just before the, uh, the overtime I, I believe some gentleman, some gentleman had a heart attack.

Napolitano went on to tell the story of how a man had a heart attack at the hockey game he attended and the woman who saved the man turned out to be a friend of Napolitano.  After a few moments, the conversation shifted to the topic of home renovations.

Segal:   […]  Well Paul, we are here to discuss, uh, spring has sprung and people, uh, you know, they get that urge to maybe say, ah, what should we do with this room? Or the patio?  We’re going to spend it at, uh, this summer we’ll be out there.  What should we do that, you know, it’s getting a little, uh, rough or maybe we want to expand this or that.  It could be the basement.  There’s so many parts of the home that we, uh, sometimes decide it needs a little work.

Napolitano:        Well, when you want to reinvent your home, whether it’s going to be an addition or remodelling, there’s, there’s some stages that you have to go through.  Probably the first of all, if you want to build an addition, uh, you call a, call prospective contractors up and have em come out and take a look at things.  It’s good to have a wish list of what you’re going to use the addition for.  For examp-, example, is it going to be a family room or a den?  Uh, is it actually going to be an addition to the kitchen?  Then you, you’ll go through a planning stage of what needs to be done.  You have to make sure you take care of all the paperwork, get your permits in order.  Uh, if you are gonna, uh, go through with the process and, and start calling, uh, contractors out, it’s important that you have a copy of a survey available cause eventually they’re gonna need that survey.  And through that survey with the different municipalities or townships it’ll tell you whether you, uh, can build the addition, uh, without any, uh, road blocks.  And sometimes you have to go through a variance, through a committee of adjustment to get it done.

Segal:   Mm hm.

Napolitano:        So that’s, that’s one of the first steps that you, that take place.

Segal:   I would think, uh, many people, uh, don’t even consider, uh, the possibility of remodelling, uh, before they say “maybe we should move.  I’m kind of bored of this place.  It’s not working for me.”  Whereas, uh, if they sat back and thought, “well, maybe if I just changed it up in here a little bit, did the basement or whichever it may be, that area, they may say, cause a lot of other things considered they maybe like where they are.

Napolitano:        Well that’s one of the often-asked questions on a major renovation or addition.  Uh, do we do the renovation and addition or do we sell the home?  And there’s a bunch of things that have to be, uh, taken into consideration.  Uh, first of all, what’s the value back from the addition or reno?  Uh, if you, you know, are you going to be there for a long period of time where it may not matter?  Or do you think you’re going to be there short term and for resale sometimes addition can help or it can hurt, depending on what you do.  You, one of the things you don’t want to do is take a three-bedroom home and turn it into a two-bedroom home, uh, for resale value.  Um, bathrooms are always a popular addition on, on, that should be on every floor of a, of a home.  So, so you gotta take it all into consideration.  You gotta take a look at your lifestyle, the neighbourhood, uh, you know, go with a, an agent and, and look at homes, uh, that would be of the size that you’re gonna add the addition and compare the cost.  There is a, a major cost, uh, factor too to moving as well.

[…]

Segal:   Well, let’s give your phone number so people can get in touch with you and [coughs], little cough there.  It’s 416-236-4400, 416-236-4400.  And also you can reach, uh, Royal online at www.royalhome.ca.  Now, we should discuss certain, uh, areas of the home and, uh, renovations that can be done, uh, well, it could be anywhere from, I suppose, uh, having new flooring put in to just taking a room apart and just putting it all back together again in a new way.

Napolitano:        Yeah, that’s one thing that we offer at Royal, is, uh complete renovations at all levels.  If you just wanna redecorate the home and, it might mean, uh, changing some flooring and some painting and, uh, maybe opening up some walls and, um, doing some, walking into the kitchen and taking care of countertops and, rather than just revamping the whole kitchen, uh, that’s something we can take care of as well.  So we’re, we’re glad to have our project managers come out and assess any, any renovation or, or, or need that might, you may want to have done and, and assess it and properly price the job out and put a budget together.

Segal questioned Napolitano about current trends in bathroom renovations and then led into a commercial break with the following statement:

Segal:   We’re going to take a quick little break and we’ll be back with Paul Napolitano of Royal Home Improvements.  Wanted to mention, you can reach Paul at 416-236-4400.  That’s 416-236-4400.  Seniors pay no tax.  Or you can reach them online with, uh, at www.royalhome.ca.

Following the break, the program resumed:

Segal:   […].  We’re with Paul Napolitano of Royal Home Improvements.  We’re discussing, uh, renovations in your home, areas of your home that, uh, you can enhance to maximize value or just for pure comfort and liveability.  You know, it’s not always about moving.  It’s about, uh, making your home suit you and your lifestyle.

Napolitano:        That’s right.  So whatever your needs may be, and, uh, we, we shouldn’t forget the exterior of the home, too.  Now’s a, a busy time.  People are getting outside in the nicer weather and they may want to put in new driveways, walkways, patios, decking, uh, retaining walls, all kinds of landscaping.  And that’s something, uh, we do in a big way as well.

They briefly discussed the effect of cold weather on exterior landscaping and then Segal suggested the following:

Segal:   So I suppose now would be a good time to, uh, get in touch, uh, hash over some ideas, see what works and then, uh, just get right to it when the, uh, time is right.

Napolitano:        Yep, uh, well, spring and fall are a good time to, uh, to take care of, uh, exterior needs and, and leave the summer months for things to, uh, recuperate and, and grow around it.  Whether it’s that you have to waterproof your foundation and you’re digging up gardens, uh, it gives, uh, the full season for them to recover.

Segal:   If someone said, you know, uh, “this year, I think I’d, we’d like to expand our backyard, maybe put in a nice patio, um, make it a little bit more, um, accessible for entertaining”, is it too late in the season to, uh, be able to enjoy, uh, the majority of the summer months and have that work done?

Napolitano:        Not if they act now and were, were able to, uh, get in there and, and, and work on the job.  Of course, depending on the size of the project, usually an average, uh, backyard project, uh, usually consists of, uh, a week’s work to two weeks’ work to, to complete.  So, no, you could certainly be enjoying it if, uh, people act upon it now to have us come in and help em out with some design ideas and, and different options, uh, to do.

They commented on the growing popularity of enclosed patios and outdoor kitchens.

Segal:   Could you get that done for them, Paul?

Napolitano:        We certainly could.

Segal:   Folks, you just give Paul and the good folks at Royal a call at 416-236-4400.  And, uh, you know, uh, listen, if you’ve got an idea, give em a call, discuss it with them.  Uh, I’m sure the good folks at Royal, you’d have no problem, uh, having a feasibility discussion with them, Paul, and taking a look at the property, seeing what, if it makes sense or not for them or bouncing around some other ideas and there’s no stupid questions, is there?  I mean, we just never know, uh, you sometimes think that, uh, boy, I’m the only person in the world that would ask a question like this, but, uh, you know, that’s why you’re in business, to help people through these, uh, decisions.

Napolitano:        And that’s right.  And on top of, uh, the promotions that we offer for, uh, discounts and incentives over the year, at all times seniors never pay the tax, so they’ll save, uh, the GST.

Segal:   And that adds up.  That adds up and, uh, Royal’s been in business a good long time.  They do excellent work.  And you cover the city pretty well, Paul, don’t you?  What, uh, what are the ar-, parameters, the areas that you cover?

Napolitano:        All across, uh, the GTA, whether it’s 416 or 905 we’d be able to service ya.  And we, we’ll even go outta town.  I was outta, outta, out in Hamilton, uh, last week, uh, to see a client with some roofing issues.  But we get all over the, uh, GTA and surrounding areas.  We’d be glad to go out and see people.

 Segal:   Well, give em a call, folks.  And as, uh, Paul mentioned, seniors pay no tax.  And, uh, that’s not a bad deal at all and they do fine work.  Thank you so much for joining us, Paul.  And thank you for bringing in your lovely daughter, Chelsea.  She is just gorgeous.  Twelve years old.

Napolitano:        Twelve years old.

Segal:   Well, I tell you, you’re gonna have to, when the guys start knocking on the door, you’re gonna have to, uh, [laughs] be the wolf at the door.

Napolitano:        Yes.

Segal:   She’s a great little girl.  Thank you so much.  Paul Napolitano, Royal Home Improvements.  Again their phone number, 416-236-4400.  Our time is about nineteen minutes before twelve.

That concluded the segment.

The CBSC received a complaint about the program dated April 5.  The complainant was concerned that the radio station did not reveal that the home improvement company had paid for the opportunity to appear on the program.  She outlined her concerns in part as follows (the full text of all correspondence can be found in Appendix B):

My complaint is with respect to a company that advertises on AM740 radio called Royal Home Improvements.  They have been running advertising spots for a number of years at different times throughout the day.  I have no problem with the actual ads they run […] but I do have major concerns about a segment broadcast on a show called Sunday Showcase with Murray Segal.

I have attached an email I sent to AM740 radio on December 8, 2004.  I will give you some of the background information and it basically tells my story.  […]  [M]y concern [was] that Murray Segal was “endorsing” Royal Home Improvements and Paul Napolitano personally.  I went on in this letter to say that one of the reasons my family decided to hire Royal Home Improvements for a home renovation was because of the comfort level Murray leaves with his listeners and his assurances that “the good work the folks at Royal do” [sic].  Were it not for Murray Segal’s assurances that this was such a great company to do business with, I would likely have gone elsewhere for my home renovation project.  Royal’s pitch line is “make one call and relax”.

I followed up [with CHWO] again last year (after enduring once again a Sunday morning show with Paul and Murray bantering about how great his family-owned business of 30 years is and how excellent their work is, etc.).

When I finally had an opportunity to speak with [the Program Director] […], he basically told me that AM740 and Murray Segal are NOT “endorsing” any company or person and that the timeslot on Murray Segal’s Sunday Morning Showcase is PAID FOR by Royal Home Improvements.  In other words, it’s just “advertising”.  I told him that if that was the case, then clearly the station should be saying so (much like political announcements clearly state “this has been a paid political announcement”) but Murray doesn’t say that nor does the station.  […]

I don’t know what part of the word “endorse” they don’t understand.  According to Webster’s Dictionary, “endorse” means “to give one’s name or support to; sanction; to aid by approval; to approve as, to ‘endorse’ an opinion.”  And that is clearly what Murray Segal is doing whenever he has Paul Napolitano on his Sunday morning show.

I made it a point to listen to this past Sunday’s broadcast (April 1, 2007).  At approximately 11:20 am, Murray Segal introduced Paul Napolitano of Royal Home Improvements.  The theme appeared to be “spring has sprung” as Murray put it.  I took notes of the nearly half-hour show.  They began the show by exchanging warm greetings:  “how’s the wife”, etc.  […]  They then began discussing spring home renovation projects.  Throughout the show, Murray (and he does this all the time) goes on to say things like “give the good folks at Royal a call” and “they do fine work”.  […]  They are a “mutual admiration society” if ever there was one.  In fact, Murray even closes the time slot that day by thanking Murray [sic] for bringing in his adorable 12-year-old daughter Chelsea (and banters on about how Paul will have to keep the hounds at bay in a few years time) or something along those lines.

I remember on another occasion, when he had Paul Napolitano on his show and apparently Paul and his wife had just purchased a new house and they went on and on to talk about all the renovations Paul was doing on this new house.  My question is WHO CARES?  What is the purpose of having him on the show?  If this is truly just a paid advertising spot (as [the Program Director] claims), why doesn’t AM740 radio just say so?  Murray Segal should be stating either before or after the show that “this was a paid advertising spot by Royal Home Improvements and the comments are those of the advertiser and NOT the views of AM740.”

You can’t have it both ways.  What right does Murray Segal have to say to AM740 radio listeners “the good folks at Royal do fine work”?  How does he know?  Has he personally had work done by Royal at his home?  They sure didn’t do fine work for [my] family.  Is there some kind of quid pro quo going on here?  For his support and approval, perhaps Murray is getting home renovations on his own home?  It makes you wonder.  […]

[…]

It is unfortunate that AM740 does not want to address my concerns about this company but, more importantly, my concerns that I feel they themselves are “part of the problem” and not the solution.  As long as Murray Segal wraps his arms around his buddy Paul Napolitano on these Sunday morning shows and high-fives his friend about what a great company he’s got and how wonderful his work is, etc., etc., what is the public to believe?  I am willing to bet that Sunday Showcase listeners do NOT know that Royal’s time on Murray’s show is nothing but a paid spot, in fact just the opposite.  As I said, the two of them come across as a mutual admiration society and best buddies.

As I stated earlier, it was in part because of all the good things Murray had to say about Paul and Royal Home Improvements that my husband and I decided to call them.  I felt I could take Murray Segal’s approval and support of them to the bank.  It turned out I was wrong.

I want the CRTC or the CBSC to investigate my complaint with AM740 radio and explain to me the argument they are making that this is just a case of “advertising as usual”.  I do not agree and I intend to take whatever further steps necessary to bring this to the attention of the public so they are protected against this type of slick sales job.  It’s disgraceful.

CHWO responded to the complainant on May 9, explaining the station’s position:

I am in receipt of the complaint you have lodged against CHWO – AM740 Radio, dated 10 April 2007, which was forwarded to me by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, of which AM740 is a member in good standing.

First of all, I am sorry that your experience with Royal Home Improvements (Royal) was an unhappy one.  This company has been advertising with us for several years through which they have garnered much new business and many new clients who have gone on to hire them again and again.

[…]

You claim that you decided to choose Royal Home Improvements because of the advertising you heard on our station.  That’s a good thing – advertisers who use our station to reach our audience is how we stay in business.  Nevertheless, the ultimate decision to choose one company or advertiser over another is always up to you, the consumer.

With respect some of the specific concerns you have mentioned in your letter, it is hard for me to believe that you, who once worked at a successful Toronto radio station, did not understand the exchange you heard (and continue to hear) between our announcer, Murray Segal, and the representative of Royal Home Improvements as advertising.  Of course it was – and is.  Having worked in the advertising department of [a different Toronto radio station], surely you are familiar with the fundamentals of commercial radio, namely that a company will buy time on a station for the express purpose of getting its message out to the listeners about its product or service in the hopes of attracting more customers.  It’s not really relevant whether it takes ten seconds, thirty seconds, sixty seconds or five minutes – it’s a commercial bought and paid for by the advertiser.  The fact that our announcers are sincere and convincing in the process of having the advertiser’s message delivered is essential to the success of the advertising and is one of the elements an advertiser takes into account when choosing to advertise on our station.  I have no idea whether or not Murray Segal personally endorses Royal Home Improvement.  What I do know is that he is very good at presenting the advertisers who appear on his program in a positive, professional and sincere manner.  If you were an advertiser, isn’t that what you would want?  As a former commercial broadcaster who wrote advertising copy, I would be willing to bet that you understand that distinction better than most.

As far as what was said about the company on the air by either the representative from Royal or our announcer, such as slogans like “make one call and relax”, that is the responsibility of the advertiser.  Our concerns when approving advertiser messages are that the language and product are lawful; that health claims (if made) are approved by Health Canada; and that the messages are not targeting children.  We follow all Codes of Ethics and Standards at all times throughout all of our programming, including the advertising we air, and upon review of this case we have come to the opinion that none of those codes and standards have been breached.

As far as your suggestion is concerned that we should be identifying the fact that this was and is a paid commercial in the same way that political announcements are identified, (a regulatory requirement), at this time there are no regulations or voluntary standards that require a radio station to identify normal advertising as having been a paid commercial announcement.  On the practical side, from our perspective, to do so would be stating the obvious and the additional commercial clutter it would cause would be very poor programming, indeed.

The complainant submitted her Ruling Request via the CBSC’s website form on May 14 and sent the CBSC a copy of a letter she addressed to the station which expressed her dissatisfaction with their response:

First, I would like to say that you have cleverly misrepresented what I was saying.  An example is I referred to the fact the reason I chose Royal was because of Murray’s “endorsement” on his Sunday Showcase broadcast with Paul Napolitano.  You suggest I said I chose Royal because of the “advertising” I heard on the station.  You purposely distorted what I said.  It wasn’t the “advertising” I heard, it was Murray’s “endorsement” of the company month after month.  He personalizes the conversation in such a manner and agrees and supports Paul’s qualifications, experience, workmanship, etc.

[…]

And you imply that everything is hunky-dory as far as you are concerned and any problem I may have had with Royal is “my problem” and has nothing to do with AM740.  I’m afraid we will have to agree to disagree on the subject.  Everything is not fine in the world of Royal Home Improvements.

You stated:  “You claim that you decided to choose Royal Home Improvements because of the advertising you heard on the station.” (italics mine)  That is not what I said.  My letter to the CBSC clearly stated that [the Program Director] is the one who calls the ½-hour banter between Murray Segal and Paul Napolitano on his show Sunday Showcase as being simply “advertising” and I said I disagreed with his interpretation of what that ½ hour is and what it represents to the listening public.  My position is that Murray Segal is “endorsing” this company and any reasonable person listening to the banter between the two of them would agree.  What is it about the word “endorse” you don’t understand […]?  I will repeat what Webster’s Dictionary states:  “endorse” means “to give one’s name or support to; sanction; to aid by approval; to approve as to ‘endorse’ an opinion.”

Clearly Murray Segal is “endorsing” Paul’s message by the very fact he “aids by approval”.  He also clearly is giving his name and support to what Paul is saying and claiming on air.  This isn’t about “advertising”, it is about “endorsing” a company or product by insinuating yourself into the conversation as Murray does.  You state “whether it’s a 10 sec., 30 sec., 60 sec., or 5 minutes it is a commercial bought and paid for by the Advertiser.”  Sorry, but I disagree.  And ½ hour is not 5 minutes and when the two of them sit “side by side” and talk as a mutual admiration society, that is not what I call a “commercial” or an “advertising” spot.

I have no problem with Royal’s 60-second radio spots that are on throughout the day every day.  Anyone can tell it is a 60-second radio spot and no one is reading the script (the announcer) and adding his two cents in with comments like “call the good folks at Royal, they do great work”.  To do so following the 60-second spot would be an “endorsement” by that announcer.  That does not happen on a 30- or 60-second spot.

But Sunday Showcase is a complete different story.  Murray Segal spends ½ hour segments with this company endorsing what Mr. Napolitano is saying as if it is the gospel.  For you to suggest the reason Murray doesn’t state that the entire ½ hour with Paul is “a paid commercial advertising spot” is there is no regulatory requirement forcing you to do so (unlike political announcements where it is a requirement) and you said that “on the practical side, from our perspective, to do so would be stating the obvious and the additional commercial clutter it would cause would be very poor programming, indeed.”

Well, I do not agree with you at all that “to do so would be stating the obvious”.  You are implying that all your listeners KNOW that what they are listening to is a paid commercial albeit one that runs half an hour long.  Murray is a “participant” in this so-called “commercial” as you call it.

[…]

There should be a “disclaimer” given that the “views expressed are those of Royal Home Improvements and not the views of Murray Segal or AM740.”  That is what you should be doing and I intend to pursue this matter until it is resolved to my satisfaction.  I want to protect vulnerable seniors from exploitation from a company like Royal Home Improvements.

[…]

You end your letter by stating “I don’t know what else we can do.”  Well, you can start by making sure the station’s policy moving forward is to make a “disclaimer” before or after Murray’s time slot with Mr. Napolitano and Royal Home Improvements stating the so-called “obvious” […].  That would be the right thing to do.  What is not the right thing to do is to continue taking their “advertising dollars” with no regard to the consumer or the listening audience.

I am requesting a Ruling in this matter.  If I don’t agree with the Ruling, I will contact the CRTC, the media and anyone else I have to in order to challenge your position and get the facts out.

THE DECISION

The Ontario Regional Panel examined the complaint under the following provision of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics:

Clause 6 – Full, Fair and Proper Presentation

It is recognized that the full, fair and proper presentation of news, opinion, comment and editorial is the prime and fundamental responsibility of each broadcaster.  This principle shall apply to all radio and television programming, whether it relates to news, public affairs, magazine, talk, call-in, interview or other broadcasting formats in which news, opinion, comment or editorial may be expressed by broadcaster employees, their invited guests or callers.

Clause 14 – Advertising Details

(a)        Broadcasters recognize that they are responsible for the acceptability of advertising material they broadcast.  All commercials must conform to applicable laws and regulations.

(b)        Broadcasters shall ensure that advertising material within a newscast is clearly distinguishable from the news information adjacent to it.  To this end, any commercial message broadcast within a newscast should not be read by the newsreader.

(c)        Broadcasters shall ensure that there is no influence by advertisers, or the perception of such influence, on the reporting of news or public affairs, which must be accurate, balanced, and objective, with fairness and integrity being the paramount considerations governing its reporting.

The Panel also referred to the following clause of the CAB Code of Ethics:

Clause 5 – News

The Panel Adjudicators read all of the correspondence and listened to the broadcast in question.  The Panel concludes that the station violated both Clauses 6 and 14.

Program Sponsorship Rules

Although the broadcaster and the complainant were at loggerheads on the issue of disclosure, they were in fact agreed on the essential fact, namely, that the challenged program was, in the words of the broadcaster, “a commercial bought and paid for by the advertiser.”  And that is the issue for, assuming that the program was indeed a commercial, the question is whether an ordinary radio listener would have known that.  While the apparent experience of the complainant in commercial radio enabled her to be aware of that fact, it is the reaction of the ordinary uninformed (in commercial radio practices) listener that counts.  In the view of the Panel, such audience members could be expected to recognize 15- or 30-second commercial spots, but they would not know, without advice, that the challenged Sunday Showcase was nothing more or less than paid flattery.  The failure to inform them is misleading and unfair.

There is, however, another issue of concern to the Panel.  It flows from the station President’s statement in his letter of May 9 that “at this time there are no regulations or voluntary standards that require a radio station to identify normal advertising as having been a paid commercial announcement.”  While it is true that there is no specific nominate code provision dealing with sponsored programming, there is a standard that has been defined by the CBSC in its decision in CFRB-AM re an episode of the Health Show (CBSC Decision 04/05-1171, December 15, 2005).  The CFRB decision was the CBSC’s first opportunity to deal with the issue of paid or sponsored programming and it was this very Panel that rendered that decision.

The Health Show was a talk radio program on which the host and guests discussed health-related issues.  Sometimes the guests were invited by the station, but other times the guests were representatives of a company that had paid to appear on the program.  A listener complained that, on those occasions where the guests had paid to appear, that fact was not adequately disclosed to the audience.  He complained about one particular episode in which two representatives from a retirement residences corporate chain discussed elder care.  In that case, unlike the matter at hand, the program included an introduction, which stated that the program was “brought to you by Retirement Residences Group”.  There was no such disclaimer in the case of the challenged Sunday Showcase under consideration here.  In any event, this Panel concluded that the CFRB disclaimer was inadequate.  It ruled that broadcasters must provide “clear, transparent and unequivocal disclosure [emphasis added] of the sponsorship” of a program and that CFRB had failed to do so in that instance.  In that decision, the Panel began by referring to other countries’ rules related to sponsored programming, and then extracted and adapted those principles in the following way:

The bottom line is that potential confusion on the part of the listener (or viewer) is the concern.  Just as text-heavy, story-styled full pages in newspapers are headed “[advertisement]” when they are thought to be at risk of inducing readers into believing that they are the objective news items or features prepared by the publication’s staff, broadcast equivalents that could be potentially confusing to radio or television audiences merit their own style of confusion avoidance.

[…]

[T]here must be disclosure of the fact that there is a link between some sponsor and the services or goods being promoted during the program.  The Panel wishes to emphasize that there is nothing inherently wrong or problematic in providing expertise to audiences.  Such information may indeed be extremely helpful and informative.  The problem results only from the potentially incorrect audience expectation that an expert on a subject who is presented by a broadcaster has been chosen by the broadcaster on the basis of his or her expertise and not on the basis of having paid for the opportunity to access audience members listening in good faith and innocence.

It is not the intention of the Panel to attempt to write a set of specific rules that must apply to the broadcast of sponsored programming.  The Panel considers that it is sufficient to lay down the principle that the broadcaster airing sponsored or paid programming must advise its audience of that sponsorship clearly, transparently and unequivocally.  The disclosure must also be made at the beginning and end of the program and sufficiently frequently during it that persons tuning in after the start of the program will be able to listen to the broadcast on an informed basis, in terms of the relationship between the sponsor and the program content. [Emphasis added]

The Panel then commented on that particular broadcast:

The point is that the language was soft-pedalled and the host appeared to the Panel to avoid connecting the sponsorship with the guests, when that would have been the material issue for members of the audience.  […]  In some respects, the burden on the broadcaster to provide more and clearer information is greater in circumstances where audiences may be used to programs where the guests are obviously independent and without financial interest in the episode being aired.  […].  Indeed, the obligation may be still greater when the station broadcasting such sponsored programming is a news and talk station since that broadcast format consists primarily of spoken word.  While all stations have the obligation to provide a clear, transparent and unequivocal disclaimer, listeners to a news and talk station could more easily confuse paid or sponsored content with regular news and information programming.

As the CAB Code of Ethics provides in Clause 6, broadcasters must provide a “full, fair and proper presentation of news, opinion, comment and editorial” in the context of public affairs, call-in, interview and magazine format programming.  It is the full and the fair that are missing in the present instance.  Moreover, the vagueness of the “disclaimer” presents a problem in terms of the required distinction between advertising content and news or public affairs, as anticipated by Clause 14(b) and in terms of the perception of influence by advertisers “on the reporting of news or public affairs, which must be accurate, balanced, and objective, with fairness and integrity being the paramount considerations governing its reporting. [Emphasis added.]”  Much of the discussion in the second half of the one-hour show lost any element of disinterested, detached, independent perspective, focussed as it came to be on the Retirement Residences Group solutions to all issues.

As to the applicability of the principles laid down in the CFRB decision, the broadcaster is reminded of its obligation under the CBSC Manual to respect CBSC decisions, whether these have been rendered in connection with its own programming or with respect to the programming of any other broadcaster.  It is, for example, provided in the Manual that

By joining the CBSC and in order to remain in good standing therein, broadcaster members of the Council must broadcast in accordance with the standards established in the Codes, as these have been interpreted in the Council’s jurisprudence, and adhere to those additional rules established in this Manual.  In the event that such adherence is not respected, the broadcaster member in question shall not be entitled to remain a member of the Council.

It should be noted that it is the responsibility of CBSC broadcaster members to ensure that all persons in relevant positions will be familiar with the CBSC jurisprudence and the Council’s decisions as they are rendered. [Emphasis original]

Not only does the CBSC expect that the rules it lays down in its jurisprudence will be followed, but the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) also has such an expectation.  Thus, in the decision renewing the licence of a Quebec broadcaster, the CRTC reminded the licensee that it was obliged to respect the sponsored programming rule laid down in the CFRB decision.  In CJMS Saint Constant – Licence Renewal, Broadcasting Decision CRTC 2006-352 (10 August 2006), the Commission stated:

At the hearing, the Commission advised the licensee of a recent decision by the Canadian Standards Broadcast Council (CSBC) [sic] regarding sponsored programs, i.e., CBSC decision 04/05-1171.  The Commission recommended that the licensee read the decision to ensure it fulfills its obligations when broadcasting sponsored programs. The Commission reminds the licensee of its responsibility to comply with the CSBC [sic] decision when broadcasting sponsored programs.

In the matter at hand, in addition to the non-disclosure of the paid sponsorship of the program, the host insinuated himself to an undue extent in the “selling” of the product, namely, the services of the builder.

There are analogous circumstances anticipated in Clauses 5(3) and 14(b) of the CAB Code of Ethics.  The news example, Clause 5(3), permits broadcasters to analyze and elucidate the news, but requires, on the other hand, that “such analysis or comment [must be] clearly labeled as such and kept distinct from regular news presentations.”  So, too, broadcasters are “entitled to provide editorial opinion, which shall be clearly labeled as such” but any such opinion must be “kept entirely distinct from regular broadcasts of news or analysis.”  The point about that news-opinion relationship is that broadcasters may not sow confusion.  They must distinguish between news and opinion that might be misunderstood by audiences as a part of the news.  Similarly, and for similar reasons relating to the concern about confusion on the part of the audience, in the advertising context, Clause 14(b) requires that “advertising material within a newscast is clearly distinguishable from the news information adjacent to it.”

In the sponsorship environment, broadcasters must correspondingly ensure that their programming will not be a source of confusion for their audiences.  This can only be achieved by following the principle laid down by this Panel in the CFRB decision; namely, “The broadcaster airing sponsored or paid programming must advise its audience of that sponsorship clearly, transparently and unequivocally.”  This was not accomplished in the matter at hand and the Panel concludes that CHWO has breached Clauses 6 and 14 of the CAB Code of Ethics.

Broadcaster Responsiveness

In all CBSC decisions, the Council’s Panels assess the broadcaster’s responsiveness to the complainant.  In the present instance, the Panel finds the response of the broadcaster’s President was thoughtful and candid.  Although neither the complainant nor the Panel agree with his substantive position on the applicable standard, the broadcaster is never under any obligation to agree with the complainant.  It is the commitment to dialogue with a complainant who has made the effort to register a concern that is the issue.  Not only is there no fault in the difference of perspectives, it is the case that every matter that goes to a Panel for adjudication begins with just such a disagreement between the complainant and the broadcaster.  The Panel considers that CHWO-AM has fully met its CBSC membership responsiveness responsibilities in this instance.

ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE DECISION

CHWO-AM is required to:  1) announce the decision, in the following terms, once during peak listening hours 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 Sunday Showcase with Murray Segal was broadcast; 2) within the fourteen days following the broadcasts of the announcements, to provide written confirmation of the airing of the statement to the complainant who filed the Ruling Request; 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 CHWO.

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has found that CHWO AM 740 breached provisions of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Code of Ethics in its broadcast of an episode of the Sunday Showcase with Murray Segal on April 1, 2007.  Although that episode of the program was a paid or sponsored show, CHWO did not clearly, transparently and unequivocally disclose either that fact or the relationship between the sponsorship and the guest on the program.  By failing to do so, it did not fully and fairly provide information to audiences on a public affairs program, contrary to the provisions of Clauses 6 and 14 of the CAB Code of Ethics.

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