Journalistic Independence Code (2008)


Broadcast news reports are vitally important to Canadians. They contribute information that helps Canadian audiences to form opinions and make decisions regarding matters, events and issues of public interest and importance.

The innovative use of new technologies and the improved co-ordination and deployment of news-gathering resources can improve news coverage available to Canadian audiences. News reporting by broadcasters and newspapers can often be complementary, with distinct strengths determined or influenced by their respective technologies. That diversity and the differing scope of their respective delivery platforms ensure for their respective viewers and readers the ability to access appropriate information in a timely and relevant fashion.

As the number of sources of information in society increases, the nation’s broadcast news organizations have the collective goal of assuring the diversity and quality of information, and the distinctiveness of editorial voices presented to Canadians. This is not inhibited by the common ownership of news-gathering resources and the use of complementary technologies, which can together create greater opportunities to provide information to Canadians; consequently, nothing herein shall be understood as requiring the separation of such resources. The broadcast news organizations of corporate groups that include broadcast and print media can achieve the goals of diversity and distinctiveness while harnessing the benefits of cross-media ownership arising from appropriate economies of scale to expand and diversify the coverage of events.

Accordingly, through the application of this Code, and in accordance with the Principles and Practices established herein, the broadcasters subscribing to it support

It is, of course, the case that each owner of a broadcasting organization that subscribes to this Code is separate and distinct in its corporate structure as well as its management goals and practices. It follows that each such organization will manage its activities differently and in accordance with its own corporate philosophy. Nonetheless, the owners of broadcasting organizations that subscribe to this Code will conform to the Principles and Practices established herein, will collaborate fully with requests made by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council to obtain the information necessary for it to fulfill its mandate hereunder, will accede to the authority of the Council to declare a broadcasting organization in compliance with or in breach of this Code, and will comply with any rulings made by the Council.

Overriding Principle

This Code is intended to support the provision to Canadians of the broadest possible scope of news coverage by distinct broadcast news organizations which comply with the standards that are: a) established herein and b) consistent with the journalistic provisions in the Code of Ethics and the CAB Violence Code of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters and the Code of Ethics of the Radio Television News Directors Association of Canada [in 2011 renamed the Radio Television Digital News Directors Association of Canada].

All broadcast licensees which subscribe to this Code, including their news organizations, owner corporations and employees, will be expected to respect the spirit, as well as the letter, of this policy, as interpreted by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council. The responsibility for adherence to the Principles and Practices established herein lies with the broadcaster members of the Council.

Principles and Practices

1. Management Structures

Broadcasters will maintain news management and presentation structures that are separate and distinct from those of their affiliated newspapers. Affiliated newspapers are those over which the broadcaster or the owner corporation of a broadcaster has effective control or which the broadcaster or the owner corporation of a broadcaster operates.

2. Separation of News Management Decisions

Every broadcaster will ensure the independence and separation of its news management from that of any affiliated newspaper in order that decisions on journalistic content and presentation on its broadcasting services be made solely by that broadcaster.

3. No Advisory Conflicts

News managers will not sit on the editorial boards of affiliated newspapers; nor will broadcasters permit any member of the editorial board of any affiliated newspaper to participate in the news management of their broadcasting operations. News managers may, however, sit on committees or bodies intended to co-ordinate the use of news-gathering resources.

4. Complaints

Complaints concerning issues relating to broadcast journalistic aspects of cross-media ownership shall be submitted to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, which will deal with them in accordance with the Council’s established procedures. Complaints may come from any source, including both the broadcast industry and the general public. They will be initially reviewed by the CBSC Secretariat in order to determine whether or not they relate to the Principles and Practices established herein and raise an issue requiring adjudication. Any complaints requiring adjudication shall be submitted to the Council’s Journalistic Independence Panel.

5. Panel Membership and Operation

The Journalistic Independence Panel will be an impartial and neutral body, composed of a minimum of ten and a maximum of sixteen adjudicators, half of whom may be, or have been, officers or employees of licensees of Canadian broadcasting undertakings or companies related or affiliated thereto, and half of whom shall not be, or have been, officers or employees of, or have any remunerative association with, Canadian broadcasting undertakings or companies related or affiliated thereto. The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council will exercise sole authority over the appointment of panel adjudicators and will assure their independence and general qualifications. The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council will also be responsible for the good operation of the panel.

When investigating or adjudicating any matter, the Panel shall sit as a body of five, the CBSC National Chair, two persons representing the industry, one of whom shall be a journalist, and two the public, none of whom shall have a conflict of interest vis-à-vis the broadcaster under investigation.

6. Panel Investigations and Adjudications
Upon receipt of a complaint that appears to raise an issue relating to the Principles and Practices, the CBSC Secretariat will provide the broadcaster an opportunity within three weeks to provide a response to the substance of the complaint. The Secretariat may, at that time, request that the broadcaster reply to any specific questions it raises and that the broadcaster furnish any documentation related thereto. The Secretariat will then respond to the complainant within 45 days thereafter regarding the CBSC’s proposed disposition of the matter, advising the complainant either that the file will be closed and providing the reasons therefor, or that it will be referred to the Journalistic Independence Panel.

If, in order to investigate the merits of a complaint referred to the Journalistic Independence Panel, the Panel considers it necessary to request information from the broadcaster or any affiliated broadcasting company, it shall be entitled to:

The Panel shall review the submissions and arguments of all the parties and any evidence it has gathered; it shall be entitled to draw an adverse inference in circumstances in which the broadcaster does not collaborate in furnishing any evidence requested by it.

No employee will be financially or professionally penalized for complying with the requests of the Panel, including for any loss of time required to comply with any such requests.

7. Panel Decisions

Once all necessary material has been delivered to the Journalistic Independence Panel and it has deliberated, the Panel will render a written decision, which will set out its reasons and conclusions and the steps, if any, that it recommends be taken by the broadcaster. The decision will be remitted to the complainant, the broadcaster, the CAB and the CRTC and will be posted on the CBSC web site and communicated electronically to all parties interested in receiving it, in accordance with customary CBSC practice.

8. Compliance with CBSC Decisions

The broadcaster will respond to the decision of the Journalistic Independence Panel within 30 days of receiving the written notification from the Panel and will, if any action is required, within 60 days of that notification, indicate the steps it has taken to comply with the terms of the decision.

9. Code Publicity

A subscribing broadcaster will provide a copy of this Code to each of its employees and freelance journalists and will emphasize the importance of complying with the Principles and Practices set out in this Code.

Broadcasters subscribing to this Code will air Public Service Announcements to make audiences aware of the Principles and Practices as well as the role of the CBSC and the process to file a complaint.

10. Reports

The CBSC will prepare an annual report, consisting of summaries of all complaints and adjudications, along with such other information as may be appropriate, which it will make public and transmit to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission at a regular date every year to be determined by the CBSC in consultation with the Commission.