News Report on Cycling Accident Not Too Graphic, but Broadcasters Must Provide Official Logger Tapes, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, April 16, 2002 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a news report about a cycling accident that aired on CHAN-TV (Global, Vancouver) in April 2001. The news item, which reported the death of a cyclist who had fallen in the path of a truck, showed firefighters hosing down the road surface. A viewer felt that this scene was unnecessarily painful for the victim's friends and family in that “the implication for viewers was that the victim's blood was being washed away.”

The CBSC British Columbia Regional Panel reviewed the underlying tapes shot in connection with the preparation of the news report and determined that the report was not in breach of any broadcaster Codes. It made the following comments in its decision:

[I]t is clear that the conclusion drawn by the complainant is subjective and exaggerated. While it is certainly possible, if not in fact likely, that some of what was being washed away by the firemen's hosing of the street was the blood of the victim, it is at least as likely that other debris from the accident was involved. Any such impact would leave bits and pieces of metal, glass, possibly cloth, undoubtedly dirt from the undercarriage of the vehicle, and so on, on the street, all of which would need to be cleared away. There was absolutely nothing in the broad swathe of watering of the pavement that would have suggested any predominance of blood. There was certainly no indication in the voice-over that there was any blood involved, although the Panel assumes that there probably was some on the road. […] From the point of view of the Code, the Panel believes that the broadcaster did use “appropriate editorial judgment” in the footage that it shot (and from which it ultimately made its broadcast selection) and in avoiding any reference to blood that might have appeared ghoulish at the end of the day. There was no Code breach on this account.

Since CHAN-TV had, apparently inadvertently, lost the logger tapes of the news report, it was thus unable to supply them to the CBSC when required for this adjudication. Consequently, in order to help the CBSC adjudicate the issue, CHAN-TV provided the Council with tapes containing footage used in the newscast and a written transcript of the voice-over, as a substitute for the official logger tapes. Although this allowed the Panel members to adequately rule on the substance of the news item, the B.C. Panel reiterated that CBSC membership requirements clearly indicate that broadcasters must furnish official logger tapes of programming when requested by the Council to do so. The B.C. Panel found CHAN-TV in breach of its responsibilities of CBSC membership on that account.

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 500 radio and television stations and specialty services from across Canada are members of the Council.

– 30 –

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