News Report Should Have Identified YouTube Clip’s Creator, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, August 25, 2010 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a story broadcast on APTN’s National News on November 17, 2009.  The news story was about the unauthorized removal of an international stone boundary marker in Akwesasne.  The report included a YouTube video clip of a group of people removing the stone marker.  The CBSC found a violation of the Radio Television News Directors Association of Canada’s (RTNDA) Code of Ethics for APTN’s failure to identify the creator of the clip, when it had the information in hand that would have enabled it to do so.

The news segment in question consisted of the news anchor interviewing the APTN reporter who was following this story.  The boundary marker had been removed, but no one was admitting to being involved in its removal and the authorities seemed reluctant to pursue the matter.  The reporter explained that a clip of the unauthorized removal had been put up on the video-sharing website YouTube; APTN broadcast a portion of that clip as a part of his report.

The complaint came from the person who had filmed the clip.  She stated that the reporter had contacted her regarding use of the clip and that she had told him that he was not allowed to use it in a broadcast.  APTN responded that it had not taken credit for the clip because it had clearly indicated that the clip was from YouTube, which it argued is “a public domain and available to anyone.”

The CBSC’s National Specialty Services Panel examined the complaint under Article 11 (Intellectual Property) of the RTNDA Code of (Journalistic) Ethics, which states that “Broadcast journalists will strive to honour the intellectual property of others”.  The Panel explained that it could not make any determination with respect to what was said during off-air telephone conversations between the reporter and the complainant (which had also been a part of the original complaint).  It did, however, find APTN in breach of Article 11 for its failure to identify the clip’s creator:

As APTN’s Director of Creative Services & Scheduling said in her response of December 11 to the complainant: “At no time did APTN take credit for this footage or even allude to having shot this particular story.”  While that was undeniably a step in the right direction, in the view of the Panel, the credit given was insufficient.  As this Panel said in [a previous] decision, “the definition of what is fair, what, in terms of the RTNDA Code, will ‘honour the intellectual property of others’, must, at the very least, and consistent with Section 29.2 of the Copyright Act, mention the source, including the name of the author, of the photographic work […] particularly where, as in the present matter, the identity of the photographer was known.”  In the matter at hand, the Panel is of the view that the broadcaster had the legitimate option of using the complainant’s real name, which was known to […] the reporter, or the handle that she used on the YouTube video.  APTN did not, however, have the option of using neither.  Consequently, the Panel finds APTN in breach of Article 11 of the RTNDA Code of (Journalistic) Ethics for its failure to identify the creator of the video, when that information was available to it.

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 and the pay television Codes, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic ethics created by the RTNDA – Association of Electronic Journalists in 1970.  More than 735 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