CKND-TV re Newsline

PRAIRIE REGIONAL COUNCIL
(CBSC Decision 96/97-0081)
S. Hall (Chair), D. Braun (Vice-Chair), K. Christensen, D. Dobbie, V. Dubois and D. Ish

THE FACTS

During its 6:00 p.m. Newsline broadcast, CKND-TV (Winnipeg) reported on the charges
laid against Graham James, a junior hockey coach. The story (of 2 minutes19 econds in
length) was introduced by the news anchor. It began over a shot of Graham James, with
the words “CONVICTED COACH” below. The news anchor said:

Good evening. Thanks for joining us. It's a horrible thought for any parent with a child in
sport, your son or daughter, molested by a coach, a person in a position of trust and
authority. As we told you last night on Newsline, former MJHL coach Graham James was
sentenced to three and a half years in prison for sex crimes involving some of his players.
As Newsline's Warren Preece reports, it likely wasn't an isolated incident in the world of
amateur sports.

The news report by Warren Preece was followed by an interview with a professor from the
University of Winnipeg. It was in turn followed by an interview with a representative of the
Coaches Association of Manitoba, who observed that “The coach is often the most
influential person in a young athlete's life.” The report returned to the interview with Prof.
Kirby, who added: “It's one where the athlete's are very dependent on the coach for their
success as players and in fact for their success as people.” The news report concluded
with the reporter's comments:

Calls for more aggressive education for athletes are coming from all quarters. There are
sexual harassment policies in place in different sports but a lot of work remains to be done
to ensure young athletes know where to turn when confronted by an abusive coach. In
Winnipeg, Warren Preece, CKND Newsline.

Later in that newscast (at 6:26 p.m.), the sports segment also dealt with the Graham
James story. The sports anchor began:

The Chairman of the Western Hockey League's Swift Current Broncos is calling it a black
day for the whole hockey world. Ben Wiebe made that statement after Graham James, a
former coach of the Broncos, pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting some of his former
players and was sentenced to three and a half years in jail. The news has indeed shocked
the world of hockey.

The story continued with a report from CICT-TV, Calgary, which began:

As a father figure and coach, Graham James held incredible power and authority over his
players. He could assess their talent, assign ice time and control their lives and careers.
But for ten years, James violated that trust and committed three hundred and fifty acts of
masturbation and fellatio on two of his players. He pled guilty to sexual assault and got
three and a half years.

The report then cut to a comment by the Crown prosecutor, who used the expression
“some of the assaults took place …” The defendant's lawyer was interviewed and the
reporter concluded: “James was described in court as a homosexual who could not find
gay men his age. …”

The Letters of Complaint

A Winnipeg resident sent two letters of complaint. In the first, dated January 3, she said:

I was both pleased and disappointed with your coverage of this story. First the good stuff.
the sports anchor did the BEST job with this story. I find that ironic since sports anchors and
reporters USUALLY go over the top with their use of hype, jargon and 'cute' catchphrases
to beef up their reports but he didn't do that with this story and I commend him for his
professionalism. He stated the facts and nothing more, well done.

Warren Preece OVERALL did a good job on his report except for his including someone's
comment that Graham James assaulted these kids because he was a homosexual who
couldn't find men his own age to have sex with. If you did any research on the facts about
such things you would have found out that most normal people without sexual partners,
homosexual OR heterosexual, do NOT abuse children. Only pedophiles abuse children,
boys OR girls, and most pedophiles are heterosexual NOT homosexual. Pedophiles have
an abnormal sexual preference for children, usually of one gender or the other, but the main
point is that the preference is for children period. It is a fallacy that lack of access to sexual
partners of one's own age is why pedophiles abuse children. Many pedophiles are married
or live with an adult partner or if nothing else have access to sex from adult male or female
prostitutes or, as with any single person, meeting partners in other ways, bars, clubs, etc.
But pedophiles don't WANT sex with adults, access or opportunity has nothing to do with
it. As an excuse or a reason it is pathetic. It is a choice that they make and to present this
false information as fact with no counterargument does a disservice not only to most
homosexuals but to ALL people who don't abuse children whether they have an adult
partner or not.

Lastly, I would like to comment on [the news anchor's] introduction to the story. Phrases like
'sex charges' and 'sex crimes' are commonly used by media in these cases but are basically
meaningless oxymorons. Underage children cannot even legally CONSENT to sex so to
CALL this sex is just plain wrong. Graham James was convicted of hundreds of 'sexual
assaults' not acts of 'sex'. 'Sex' is a legal, voluntary activity participated in by people of an
age to consent to it. It's not a crime. Sexual assault, gross indecency, and sexual
interference are 'crimes' and can be offences an individual can face criminal 'charges' for.
Using phrases like 'sex charges' and 'sex crimes' is not just bad reporting, it's very poor
English as well. These phrases are vague, inaccurate and misleading. Sexual assault and
sex are not the same things. One is a crime and the other is not. Am I making my point?
I hope so because it's bad enough the rapists and child molesters don't know the difference
at least the rest of us should know better.

The complainant then sent a second letter on January 20 which covered much of the same
ground but was framed differently.

Sex offender, sex scandal, sex abuse, a dozen references to sex and not one mention of
power. What will it take for the media to get it through their thick skulls that these crimes
are not ABOUT sex, they're an abuse of power – the abuse of power in relationships and
between groups in society in general. As long as the media and thus the public believe it
IS about sex, nothing will ever change. The criminals will continue to abuse and the victims
will continue to suffer in silence. Because you keep telling people it's about sex, those
abused feel ashamed, that this is somehow their fault for 'attracting' their perpetrator. If they
understood it was about the adult abusing the power that they have over them they'd know
it wasn't their fault and there's no reason to be ashamed to tell someone, right away. But
that ISN'T what you are telling them, is it? No, according to you it's about something so
emotionally charged, especially for males, that they are unlikely to EVER tell anyone no
matter HOW much they are suffering. A few people do hear the truth somewhere, perhaps
from a therapist, perhaps from the U.S. media which does a better job on these stories,
people like Sheldon Kennedy. He told because he finally understood that what had
happened to him wasn't about sex, it wasn't his fault and there was no shame in coming
forward and making sure the abuse of his perpetrator's current victim(s) was stopped. No
thanks to YOU. If it wasn't for Sheldon's courage, no one would ever know. The media
certainly never investigated this story prior to his disclosure and I doubt they ever would
have because of your belief that such things are just about people's private sex lives, right?

Sexual assault is no more about sex than physical abuse of children is about anger.
Everyone gets horny, everyone gets angry, but not everyone goes out and rapes or beats
up children. How simply do I have to EXPLAIN this to you? There is something WRONG
with these people. They are not NORMAL. That's what they'd LIKE you to think, that they
ARE normal and this is just about sex and love versus the perversion of them and their
opposites — violence and hate. These people abuse the power they have in a relationship
in order to use the other as a sexual object, or in the case of physical abuse, as a punching
bag, but to them, the other IS just that, an object, not a human being with feelings and
rights. They 'get off' on controlling and manipulating their victims in order to terrorize them
enough to get them to do whatever they want them. They do not see their victims as
equals, they are possessions that they own. Does this sound like sex to you?

Confusing the real nature of these crimes which is the abuse of power only serves to
continue the ignorance of the general public regarding these criminals and thus leaves them
much less well prepared to protect themselves or their children from becoming victimized.
I thought one of the roles of the media was to inform people of the facts, to provide people
with clear and accurate information on issues that may affect them. Unfortunately this
seems to be a case of the blind leading the blind. It's bad enough you don't know what you
are talking about but you compound the problem by keeping everyone else as ignorant and
misinformed as you are.

The Broadcaster's Reply

The News Director, Information Programming, at CKND-TV responded to the January 3
letter on January 20. Her letter and the complainant's second letter to the station bore the
same date and obviously crossed in the mail. The broadcaster's reply was in the following
terms:

Thank you for your letter regarding the above story broadcast January 3, 1997. I have
reviewed both the script and video of Warren Preece's story on Graham James, and the
6:00 p.m. edition of NEWSLINE.

Neither anyone interviewed, nor Warren Preece in his voice-over made any comment of,
as you say, in your letter, “Graham James assaulting these kids because he was a
homosexual who couldn't find men his own age to have sex with”. Neither was there any
comment in Mr. Preece's story which could have implied such a deduction. Our report
pertained to the specifics of the charges against Graham James and the impact on children
in sports. It was not, nor was the story set up to be, a report on the behaviour of pedophiles.

You may have been confused with a story broadcast in the Sports segment of the newscast.
That particular story was filed by CICT Calgary describing the court proceedings which said
“James was described in court as a homosexual who could not find gay men his age.”

As to the usage of the phrases “sex crimes” and “sex charges”, these are commonly
understood phrases used in everyday language and can apply to a story pertaining to crimes
or charges involving sexual acts committed against men, women or children.

We take very seriously our obligation to provide accurate and balanced reports, particularly
on sensitive issues such as the Graharn James story.

We appreciate your viewpoint and hope this clarifies our broadcast pertaining to this subject.

The viewer was unsatisfied with this response and requested, by her Ruling Request dated
February 3, that the CBSC refer the matter to the appropriate Regional Council for
adjudication.

The Complainant's Response

The complainant also sent a reply to the letter from CKND-TV. In it she said:

Thank you for your response to my letter but since it is late I have already forwarded my
lack of satisfaction with your response to my original letter – no response to the date of the
deadline. I know the media puts their news coverage in a format that would be best
described as “news for dummies”, but I am NOT confused about the broadcast of the above
story and the complaints (and compliments) that I had about it. I took notes at the time and
used them to write my letter so I feel quite comfortable with the accuracy of my complaints
(and compliments).

Should I have gotten 'confused' as you so patronizingly suggest, does this imply that if you
use news clips from other broadcasters you take no responsibility for their content or their
accuracy? That's what you seem to be suggesting by blaming CICT Calgary for the
'offending comment'. ANYTHING you broadcast IS your responsibility.

As to the usage of phrases like 'sex crimes' and 'sex charges': yes, these are 'commonly
understood phrases used in everyday language' – so are profanity and ethnic and racial slurs
but you don't commonly use them in your broadcasts, do you? I would assume that you don't
used them because people would find them offensive. Just like I, and no doubt many other
people, find phrases like 'sex crimes' and 'sex charges' offensive.

And yes, those phrases are used to describe crimes against men, women and children. You
obviously didn't get my point – THEY ARE INACCURATE. These are crimes of violence not
of sex, regardless of who the victim is.

The CBSCs Prairie Regional Council considered the complaint under the Code of Ethics
of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) and the Code of (Journalistic) Ethics
of the Radio and Television News Directors Association (RTNDA). The relevant clauses
of those Codes read as follows:

CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 6 (News)

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.

Article 3, RTNDA Code of (Journalistic) Ethics (in pertinent part):

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.

The Regional Council members viewed a tape of the entire Newsline program in question
and reviewed all of the correspondence. The members consider that the program is not
in breach of either Code. As the Ontario Regional Council previously observed in a case
involving similar issues, namely, CIII-TV re Newscast (Early Parole Hearing) (CBSC
Decision 96/97-0001, May 8, 1997), it is not without sympathy for an aspect of the
complainant's concerns.

The Content of the Program

As the complainant herself noted, the major portion of the newscast and sportscast were
appropriately presented, even from her point of view. The references were almost
uniformly to the former coach's sexual assaults or to the specific acts, namely,
masturbation and fellatio, which he had performed on his young hockey players. The
nature of the reporting, in addition to its approach to the crimes in question, was, in the
view of the Council, somewhere between sober and horrified at the betrayal of the young
people by the coach, who is, as stated in the newscast, “often the most influential person
in a young athlete's life.” To the extent that the story was sensational, it could be said to
have resulted from the story itself and not from the reporting of it. It was, in the view of the
Council, “full, fair and proper”. There is no question of any breach of the Codes.

As noted above, however, the Ontario Regional Council dealt with a broadcaster
description of “sexual assault” ending in murder in the reporting of the “faint hope clause”
early parole hearing in CIII-TV re Newscast (Early Parole Hearing) (CBSC Decision 96/97-0001, May 8, 1997). The Council there also found that the broadcaster was not in breach
of the CAB Code of Ethics. They added the following comments regarding the use of “sex”
as an adjective associated with crimes of the nature of those in either the Clifford Olson
or the Graham James cases, which the Prairie Regional Council considers apt in the
circumstances of this decision:

Despite this conclusion, the Council considers that there is an important message in the
complaint which rises above the simple technical concern of Code breaches and which was
obviously the paramount issue for the complainant. Her concern was related, in a broad
sense, to the use of the word “sex” in reports concerning crimes involving rape, murder and
other forms of violence against women (which could be extended, presumably, to cover
men and children of either gender). The Council members agree with the complainant that
there may be a tendency in the media to readily use the word “sex” adjectivally in relation
to the reporting of crimes whose nature is not essentially sexual, but which rather involve
an abuse of power. The issue for the Council is not a grammatical one; it relates rather to
a willingness, even if generally unintentional, to link “sex”, a generally permissible social
activity, with physical crimes extending from assault through murder, which are not. The
Council considers that broadcasters should be more cautious in their linking of the two.

The Broadcasters Response

The CBSC always recognizes the broadcaster's obligation, as a CBSC member, to be
responsive to complainants. In this case, the Council does agree with the complainant that
there appeared to be an attempt to lay some responsibility for the CICT-TV portion of the
newscast at the feet of the Calgary broadcaster. There is no doubt that CKND-TV was
fully responsible for the clips it chose to use, whatever their origin. The letter was
otherwise a serious attempt to deal with the matters raised by the complainant. In her
view, the station did not “get it” but this does not, in the view of the Council, constitute a
default on the part of the station.

Moreover, in this instance, the Council does believe it appropriate to observe that, if
anyone was being patronizing in this matter, it was the complainant and not the
broadcaster. By using phrases like “Am I making my point?”, “It's bad enough you don't
know what you're talking about …” and so on, it was she who was condescending and not
the broadcaster. While she is free to adopt such a position in her complaint, it ill behoves
her to accuse the broadcaster of taking such a position when the broadcaster has not done
so.

Finally, it is appropriate to note here that the correct version of the broadcast was that
given by the broadcaster and not that resulting from the note-taking of the complainant.
Council members each had the full logger tape of the broadcast in their possession and
the transcription of the relevant portions is provided above. While the Council
understands that it is difficult for a complainant to catch precise wording “on the fly” as a
newscast is going by, the complainant's accusation of bad faith on the part of the station
in telling her what had really been said was utterly unsupported by the logger tape.

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.