Listener Feedback to Radio Station Not Confidential, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, August 28, 2015 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning comments made in an editorial broadcast on CFBK-FM (105.5 Moose FM, Huntsville, Ontario) on December 3, 2014.  A listener had sent feedback to the station about its programming and a host had responded to her on air, providing her full name.  The listener then complained to the CBSC that the host had “defamed” her on air.  The CBSC found no breach of any broadcast code.

During an editorial segment entitled “Shots & Afterthoughts”, a Moose FM host responded to criticisms the station had received from a listener.  A listener had sent a private Facebook message to the station, complaining about the music played on the station and the interview skills of one particular host.  That host responded to her criticisms on air and stated her full name.  The listener then complained to the CBSC, alleging that the host had “bullied” her on air.  She was especially concerned that her full name had been aired because she lived in a small town and had not intended for her opinions to be broadcast.

In its response to the complainant and the CBSC, Moose FM explained that the original Facebook message was posted in a manner that all employees could see it, that the host had already sent an apology to the complainant and that the comments about the complainant had not been defamatory in any way.

The CBSC’s Ontario Regional Panel examined the complaint under provisions relating to proper comment and privacy of the Codes of Ethics of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) and the Radio Television Digital News Association of Canada’s (RTDNA).  The Panel concluded that there was no breach of any code.  It considered that the host’s on air response to the criticisms leveled against him were reasonable and polite rather than hateful.  With respect to the broadcast of the complainant’s full name, the Panel found no violation of privacy because the message had been sent to a social media platform available to all station employees, rather than to a specific individual, and there was no indication that the listener wanted her message kept confidential.  Accordingly, there was no reasonable expectation for privacy.

The CBSC was created in 1990 by Canada’s private broadcasters to administer the codes of standards that they established for their industry.  The CBSC currently administers 7 codes which deal with ethics, equitable portrayal, violence, news and journalistic independence.  Nearly 900 radio stations, satellite radio services, television stations and specialty and pay television services 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