CITY-TV re CityPulse (Tenant Relocation)

ONTARIO REGIONAL COUNCIL
(CBSC Decision 96/97-0252)
A. MacKay (Chair), R. Stanbury (Vice-Chair), R. Cohen (ad hoc), P. Fockler, M. Hogarth, M. Ziniak

THE FACTS

On July 16, 1997, CITY-TV (Toronto) aired the following report as part of its CityPulse
newscast.

Anchor: We'll be visiting several of your neighbourhoods tonight to look at a number of
issues; but we begin in Parkdale for the latest on the landlady who recently bussed many
of her tenants to Aylmer, Ontario.

Laura Di Battista: You didn't go. Why didn't you go?

Diane (tenant): I didn't want to go. I'm not trustworthy [sic] of the situation.

Laura Di Battista: Diane is one of a handful of tenants left in this dilapidated rooming-house in Parkdale. All the other tenants, mostly psychiatric patients and elderly people,
were bussed off to Aylmer, Ontario because the landlady told them she was renovating.
Today the place is like a ghost town.

Laura Di Battista: This has been all cleaned out. There were people living here before?

Diane: Yeah, 50 people.

Laura Di Battista: What we now know is, the landlady has put this building up for sale. It's
listed as an income-generating property, making up to $43,000 gross a month. Here's the
listing: it's going for $1.4 million.

Chris Korwin-Kuczynski (City Councillor, Ward 2): Well, this is what we're trying to do
is get some answers, and the problem here is that we have so many different departments
that have carriage of this, that we're trying to co-ordinate everything together.

Laura Di Battista: The landlady, Ann Maxwell, promised the tenants that they could move
back in two months, but the city says she won't even get a renovation permit by then. The
Housing Ministry is also investigating Miss Maxwell; among other things to find out whether
she's done this kind of tenant shuffle before.

Chris Korwin-Kuczynski: I can assure you that it's not going to be done again, and that's
the reason why we're standing tough on this issue right now.

Laura Di Battista: City of Toronto staff have been scrambling to try to find a way out of this
bureaucratic mess. They've been talking to officials at the Ministry of Housing and to
officials in Aylmer, and Chris Korwin-Kuczynski says he hopes to have the whole matter
resolved by the beginning of next week.

The Letter of Complaint

On July 24, a viewer complained of the so-called “neighbourhoodism” perpetuated by this
broadcast, referring to a previous complaint she submitted regarding inaccurate reporting
concerning the Parkdale neighbourhood (see CITY-TV re CityPulse (Neighbourhood Drug
Bust)
CBSC Decision 96/97-0216, February 20, 1998). The letter read substantively as
follows:

Since my initial letter to you, CityTV has, disappointingly, broadcast another news item that
once again erroneously identified the neighbourhood of Parkdale. This was aired on a news
programme on the 16th July, 1997.

The item in question concerned a rooming house at 46 The Queensway, Toronto. This
address in the area of High Park, adjacent to Parkdale. The concern is that, despite my
initial complaint to you, and CityTV's reply to me, they are still continuing their sloppy and
irresponsible news coverage of our neighbourhood.

Our community is trying to reverse negative stereotyping. We feel frustrated that every gain
we make is undermined by careless news coverage in the media. We would appreciate any
help you can give us on this issue.

To this letter was attached a map of the Parkdale area.

The Broadcaster's Initial Response

On August 22, the Director of Business Affairs/Legal Counsel responded to the
complainant with the following:

… In order to respond to your allegations, we require further information in respect of
exhibits which you have attached to your two complaints. Could you clarify the source of
the map which you have enclosed with your July 24th letter. Someone had hand-written the
words “provincial boundary of Parkdale” on the map. Is it your contention that the provincial
electoral boundaries and the municipal area commonly known as “Parkdale” are one in the
same? Could you also confirm the identity of the publisher of the map, and further the
source (and identify of the publisher) of the map (with hand-drawn boundaries) which was
appended to a previous complaint (July 17, 1997) relating to a May 5, 1997 telecast. On
what basis were the “hand drawn” boundaries calculated?

Further Correspondence from the Complainant

On September 11, the complainant responded to the broadcaster's request with the
following:

The following is the information you requested in your letter of the 22th August, 1997.

  • The map included with my letter of the 24th July, 1997 was provided by the
    administration office at the Provincial Legislature.
  • The historically recognised boundaries of Parkdale are as follows; from Lake
    Ontario, north along Dufferin St. to Queen St., and then north-west along the
    railway to just south of Fermanagh Ave, from there, west to Roncesvalles Ave., and
    then south to Lake Ontario. (1887 Edwards' map of the town of Parkdale).
  • As electoral boundaries on all political levels are subject to the whim of
    government, the historical boundaries given above are those which identify
    Parkdale more accurately. The provincial electoral map extends those boundaries
    north and east. It is the only political map to identify an area solely as Parkdale.

The question of boundaries is, however, academic. The point at issue is
“neighbourhoodism”. It is not necessary to mention a particular community in relation to
negative issues, and especially so when the issue is not germane to that neighbourhood.

The Broadcaster's Substantive Response

On October 25, the Director of Business Affairs/Legal Counsel responded to the
complainant's letter [all emphasis original]:

In respect of the actual telecast, it would appear that your grievance does not relate to the
accuracy of the subject matter of the story. Our review of the tape of the broadcast
indicates that CityTV accurately reported the controversy involving a landlord who had
removed tenants from their home in a rooming house, to a location far outside of the
Greater Toronto Area.

The news report accurately stated that:

  • the rooming house was located [at] 46 The Queensway;
  • the tenant identified as Diane, was being evicted from her lodging;
  • the landlady (Ann Maxwell) had put the building up for sale;
  • The rooming house was listed as an income generating property making up to
    $43,000 gross a month. It was listed for 1.4 million dollars;
  • the Ontario Housing Ministry was investigating “Ms. Maxwell, among other things
    to find out whether she's done this kind of tenant shuffle before”;
  • Residents of the rooming house had enlisted the assistance of Councillor Chris
    Korwin-Kuczynski (Toronto Ward 2 City Councillor) who appeared in the report on-camera and informed viewers of the action being taken by the municipal
    government;
  • City of Toronto staff were conferring with officials at the Ministry of Housing, and
    to officials in Aylmer, where tenants of the rooming house had been relocated by
    the landlady;

Based upon our review of the tape of the telecast, the report complied with the Code of
Ethics of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters
and the Radio Television News
Directors Association of Canada Code of Ethics
which are the only “broadcast codes”
which would be applicable in this situation. We submit that the report was provided with
accuracy and without bias. Further, the telecast fully complied with the RTNDA Code of
Ethics, including Article One which states:

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

In compliance with the both the CAB and RTNDA Codes, the reporting of the news item was
not biased in any manner. Further, we presented the views of the victim (Diane) and the
municipal politician, Councillor Chris Korwin-Kuczynski (properly identified as the Toronto
Ward 2 Representative), and thereby presented a balanced, accurate, fair and informative
report.

However, your complaint appears to be well outside of the ambit of any of the Broadcast
Codes administered by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council. In fact you do not
appear to dispute the municipal address which was published in the news report: “46 The
Queensway”. So, it appears that the accuracy of the report in that respect is uncontested.

You appear to contest whether the building was located in a particular “neighbourhood”. We
telecast the municipal address of the building and to contextualize the location. We
referenced a neighbourhood proximate to the building. We did not state, as you infer, that
the building was located in a particular provincial electoral constituency.

In your letter of July 24, 1997 …, you disclose that the basis of your complaint to the CBSC,
is that we engaged in “negative stereotyping” of residents of Parkdale. That is simply not
true. There [sic] story in no way “stereotyped” residents of any community. Rather, the
story was a sympathetic [sic] to the plight of a group of residents of Toronto, who happened
to reside at 46 The Queensway. Was the story somehow negative towards your
“community”,
as you alleged? That assertion is without any merit. Quite the contrary, the
news report showed that the municipal politician, Councillor Chris Korwin-Kuczynski, was
acting decisively and responsibly and it showed that municipal and provincial officials were
doing their jobs, and attempting to assist the individuals who had become displaced. This
was a positive story in respect of the response of local government to the plight of some
people. The fact that the landlord had displaced residents is indisputable.

Obviously in the minds of viewers, Councillor Chris Korwin-Kuczynski's representation is
synonymous with Parkdale and its residents. The point is, regardless of the various maps
which you have provided to the CBSC, the rooming house located at “46 The Queensway”
falls within the jurisdiction of the elected municipal representative who represents residents
of Parkdale.

The CBSCs Ontario Regional Council considered these complaints under the Codes of
Ethics of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) and the Radio Television News
Directors Association (RTNDA). The relevant provisions read as follows:

CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 6

It shall be the responsibility of member stations to ensure that news shall be represented
with accuracy and without bias. The member station shall satisfy itself that the
arrangements made for obtaining news ensure this result. It shall also ensure that news
broadcasts are not editorial. News shall not be selected for the purpose of furthering or
hindering either side of any controversial public issue, nor shall it be designed by the beliefs
or opinions or desires of the station management, the editor or others engaged in its
preparation or delivery. The fundamental purpose of news dissemination in a democracy
is to enable people to know what is happening, and to understand events so that they may
form their own conclusions.

Therefore, nothing in the foregoing shall be understood as preventing news broadcasters
from analysing and elucidating news so long as such analysis or comment is clearly labelled
as such and kept distinct from regular news presentations. Member stations will, insofar as
practical, endeavour to provide editorial opinion which shall be clearly labelled as such and
kept entirely distinct from regular broadcasts of news or analysis and opinion.

It is recognized that the full, fair and proper presentation of news, opinion, comment and
editorial is the prime and fundamental responsibility of the broadcast publisher.

RTNDA Code of (Journalistic) Ethics, Article 2

News and public affairs broadcasts will put events into perspective by presenting relevant
background information. Factors such as race, creed, nationality or religion will be reported
only when relevant. Comment and editorial opinion will be identified as such. Errors will
be quickly acknowledged and publicly corrected.

The Regional Council members viewed a tape of the program in question and reviewed
all of the correspondence. The members agreed that the broadcast did not contravene the
above-noted codes.

The Accuracy of the Report

The only issue in contention with respect to the accuracy of the report, is whether the
building featured in the news item is indeed located in the neighbourhood of Parkdale.
Maps were presented by the complainant and contested by the broadcaster. The Council
takes no position, however, on the correctness of either the complainant's or the
broadcaster's position. Apart from the fact that the CBSC is not an evidence-gathering
body, as stated in CFRN-TV re Eyewitness News (CBSC Decision 96/97-0149, December
16, 1997) and other CBSC decisions, the point is essentially moot. Even the complainant
stated in her letter that “the question of boundaries is … academic”. Despite that
concession, the Council believes that it should point out, in this case, as it did in CITY-TV
re CityPulse (Neighbourhood Drug Bust)
CBSC Decision 96/97-0216, February 20, 1998),
that anyone viewing the first newscast objectively would not have arrived at the same
conclusion regarding the stigmatization of Parkdale.” The issue here is the action of the
landlord and the practice of tenant-shuffling. Few, if any, would know or even care
whether 46 The Queensway is civically located in Parkdale or High Park. If a broadcaster
inadvertently recounted a news story about Basque terrorists and carelessly reported that
Barcelona was in Italy, could this possibly be a reason for any sanction in terms of the
broadcaster Codes? Surely not. Barcelona is where it is, just as 46 The Queensway is.
At worst, placing either location elsewhere could be embarrassing for the broadcaster, but
certainly not an offence under any Code.

The Issue of Stigmatization by the Media

The complainant's main contention is that “it is not necessary to mention a particular
community in relation to negative issues, and especially so when the issue is not germane
to that neighbourhood.” The Council disagrees with the complainant on this point. In the
Council's opinion, a broadcaster is entitled to make the determination of whether viewers
would be likely to have an interest in having news items contextualized in a manner which
is objective and has nothing to do with discrimination on any of the enumerated bases in
the human rights provision of the CAB Code of Ethics, which is not the case here.
Regarding the complainant's precise concern about “neighbourhoodism”, the Council finds
it sufficient to reiterate its conclusions on this issue stated in CITY-TV re CityPulse
(Neighbourhood Drug Bust)
(CBSC Decision 96/97-0216, February 20, 1998):

Parkdale was not the broadcaster's issue; it was the drug bust. By identifying the Police
Division responsible for the bust, street designations and other details, CITY-TV provided
relevant peripheral Metro Toronto geographical information. Even in this connection,
Parkdale was not the central issue. If anything, Parkdale residents were given credit for
aiding in the multiple arrests over the course of the previous 60 days. The Council finds no
bias or even any imbalance, much less a breach of either of the Codes of Ethics in this
regard.

In the present instance, the Ontario Regional Council applies the same finding by analogy.
The broadcaster has breached no Code in its presentation of the story.

Broadcaster Responsiveness

In addition to assessing the relevance of the Codes to the complaint, the CBSC always
assesses the responsiveness of the broadcaster to the substance of the complaint. In this
case, the Council considers that the broadcaster's response addressed fully and fairly all
the issues raised by the complainant. Nothing more is required. Consequently, the
broadcaster has not breached 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.