Fishing for Votes on Sports Info Program during Election Campaign Was Inappropriate, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, November 12, 2008 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning an episode of the fishing information program Going Fishing broadcast on Global on September 29, 2007.  The leader of the Ontario Conservative Party, John Tory, appeared as a guest on the program and the host, Darryl Cronzy, asked him questions about the Conservatives’ policies on various fishing, hunting and wildlife management issues.  The CBSC concluded that the broadcast was improper and unfair because it aired during an Ontario provincial election campaign.

Going Fishing is a weekly half-hour fishing series that follows Cronzy as he fishes in locations across Canada and discusses a wide variety of issues related to angling.  On the September 29 episode, Cronzy fished with John Tory.  During much of the program, they discussed fishing tips and techniques, but Cronzy also asked Tory about his party’s policies on several occasions.  Discussions related to funding for wildlife programs, the bear hunt, natural resource conservation and fish hatcheries management.  Towards the end of the program, Cronzy said “Listen, I’m not telling you who to vote for” and then contradicted his verbal statement by pointing at John Tory in an obvious and exaggerated manner.

The CBSC received a complaint from a viewer who was concerned that the episode had effectively been a partisan pitch for the Conservative Party.  Global acknowledged that the episode had not been screened prior to broadcast and wrote that it had not intended to favour one party over another, but that the station had provided airtime to all political parties on various programs throughout the election campaign.

The CBSC’s National Conventional Television Panel examined the complaint under Clauses 6 and 7 of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics which, combined, require a fair and proper presentation of public affairs.  In its decision, the Panel pointed out that the requirements are more rigorous during election periods.  Broadcasters must provide equitable treatment of candidates and issues; although “equitable” does not mean “equal”, the provision of airtime to parties must be fair and just.  The Panel further stated that, even in non-political programs like Going Fishing,

 

care should be taken not to advantage one political party or candidate over other equivalent contenders.  […]  The policy exposure opportunities afforded to the leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party and the overtly partisan perspective of the program host combined to provide an inequitable advantage to that party.  Nor was there any indication in the correspondence that a comparable opportunity was offered to the Conservative Party’s political rivals.  Consequently, in the view of the National Conventional Television Panel, the broadcast of the September 29 episode halfway through the Ontario election campaign breached the fairness requirements of both Clauses 6 and 7 of the CAB Code of Ethics.

Canada’s private broadcasters have themselves created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, equitable portrayal, television violence and journalistic independence 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 ethics created by the RTNDA – Association of Electronic Journalists in 1970.  More than 690 radio stations, satellite radio services, 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