News Report was Unfair and Violated Privacy

Ottawa, August 22, 2013 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a news report broadcast on CTV Northern Ontario (CICI-TV, Sudbury) about a malfunctioning furnace.  The CBSC concluded that the report contained unfair and incomplete information contrary to the codes of ethics of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) and Radio Television Digital News Association of Canada (RTDNA).

The report was broadcast during both the 6:00 pm and 11:30 pm newscasts on November 28, 2012.  The report explained that an 87-year-old woman had her oil furnace serviced by a particular furnace maintenance company, but when the furnace was turned on afterwards, it started emitting smoke and carbon monoxide.  She had the furnace serviced again by a different company and the first company would not reimburse her for the work.

The owner of the first furnace maintenance company complained to the CBSC about numerous aspects of the report.  He alleged that the report had sensationalized the situation, failed to present a complete and accurate account of what had actually happened to the furnace, erroneously claimed he refused an interview and broadcast his image after he asked not to appear on camera.  The station responded that it had presented a factual account that included both sides of the story.

The CBSC’s Ontario Regional Panel concluded that the report did not sensationalize the story, but that it had been unfair toward the first furnace company owner.  The report had given the impression that the owner had refused an interview when in fact he had spoken at length with the reporter and had only requested that he not be shown on camera.  While it was not required that the report include all the technical details about how a furnace functions, it failed to provide a comprehensive explanation of what happened and the relationship between the two repair companies, resulting in a misleading report.  These aspects violated Clauses 5 and 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics and Article 1 of the RTDNA Code of Ethics.  The station also violated the Privacy provision of the RTDNA Code because it broadcast footage of the owner obtained surreptitiously which furthered the misleading impression that he was uncooperative.

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 760 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