News Broadcast about Anti-Terror Measures Lacked Rigour, but was not Inaccurate, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, May 1, 2008 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the broadcast on CTV Newsnet of two February 28, 2007 reports on the subject of Parliament’s decision to vote down the extension of certain anti-terrorism measures.  A viewer complained that some of the information provided in the reports was inaccurate.  The CBSC’s National Specialty Services Panel concluded that the comments made by one of the news anchors were not presented as rigorously as they should have been.  Nonetheless, the Panel ruled that none of the content was so materially false or misleading as to constitute a breach of the provisions relating to accuracy in either the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics or the RTNDA – Association of Electronic Journalists’ Code of (Journalistic) Ethics.

Both reports were entitled “Anti-Terror Measures Voted Down”.  The first was an interview by a CTV news anchor of a former CSIS Officer.  The anchor questioned the former CSIS Officer about the implications of the Government’s decision for investigating terrorist-related crimes.  At one point, the anchor commented that “You can arrest a guy on suspicion, hold him indefinitely, force him to testify.  That doesn’t sound Canadian to a lot of people.”  A viewer complained that the statement was inaccurate because the law did not allow indefinite detention.  CTV argued that the anchor was posing questions to his guest, not making factual statements.  The National Specialty Services Panel concluded that the interview did not violate the Code provisions relating to accuracy, but that

the anchor’s approach was unfocussed, exceedingly casual and without the rigour that an audience is entitled to expect from a news anchor.  […] While it is fair to expect that expert interviewees will provide facts, these should be delivered in reply to questions rather than apparently factual assertions on the part of the news anchor.  […]  The bottom line, though is that […] [the Panel] does not conclude that the interview was materially false or misleading.

The second report was an interview with a representative from Amnesty International Canada by another CTV news anchor.  The anchor commented that the anti-terrorist provisions that had been voted down “were rarely used anyway”.  The same viewer complained that this statement was inaccurate since the measures had actually never been used.  The Panel concluded that the difference between “rarely” and “never” was “immaterial, a distinction without a difference, a cautious use of words”.  It found no Code breach.

The Panel also disagreed with the complainant that the reports demonstrated bias in favour of the Liberal Party.

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.  More than 630 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