Failure to Retain Logger Tapes Is Violation of Membership Requirement

Ottawa, April 14, 2005 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the retention of logger tapes by radio station CJAD-AM in Montreal. The CBSC had received a complaint about the station’s broadcast of an episode of the Tommy Schnurmacher Show and the radio station confirmed the availability of the tapes; however, the station was unable to deliver tapes of the episode in question when requested to do so as a part of the CBSC’s review of the file. The CBSC Quebec Regional Panel found the broadcaster in breach of its obligation to retain logger tapes.

A listener had complained to the CBSC about comments made by the program host regarding the Governor-General and one of her trips overseas. Without the tapes, the Quebec Regional Panel was unable to rule on the substance of the complaint. The Panel pointed out the importance of the obligation to retain logger tapes for any regulatory evaluation of a complaint. It added that the CBSC Manual for broadcaster members requires them to furnish tapes of challenged programming upon request of the CBSC Secretariat. In referring to previous decisions where broadcasters had been found in violation of this responsibility of membership, the Panel stated that it

does not assume any deliberate act on the part of the broadcaster to make the tape unavailable, particularly since there is every chance that the host’s comments might, from a substantive point of view, have been found to be within the reasonable ambit of political commentary, had the logger tapes been reviewed. That aside, the Panel considers that the language of the CBSC Manual is unequivocal. It provides that the obligation of the broadcaster is to retain the logger tape of a challenged program “from the time of any request by the Secretariat until such time as the CBSC notifies the broadcaster that it is no longer necessary to hold the tape for purposes of resolution of the complaint.” [Emphasis added] It is not for the broadcaster to determine when it is no longer necessary to hold the tape. That is the responsibility of the Secretariat. In the present matter, the tape was requested well within the Council’s customary time frame for file evaluation. […] The failure to retain the tapes constitutes a breach of the broadcaster’s obligations of membership in the Council.

Canada’s private broadcasters have themselves created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, gender portrayal and television violence by which they expect the members of their profession will abide.  In 1990, they also created the CBSC, which is the self-regulatory body with the responsibility of administering those professional broadcast Codes, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic practices first created by the Radio Television News Directors Association of Canada (RTNDA) in 1970.  More than 550 radio and television stations and specialty services from across Canada are members of the Council. 

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All CBSC decisions, Codes, links to members' and other web sites, and related information are available on the CBSC's website at www.cbsc.ca. For more information, please contact the CBSC National Chair, Mme Andrée Noël CBSC Executive Director, John MacNab