No Code Breach for Use of Terms “Veteran” and “Service Dog” in News Reports, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, October 13, 2016 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the use of the terms “service dog” and “veteran” in news reports broadcast on CTV News Channel and Global Edmonton (CITV-DT) in January 2016.  The CBSC concluded that the reports did not violate any broadcast codes.

The broadcasters covered a story about Canadian Forces Base Edmonton’s dog policy. The base had put restrictions on the areas where dogs were permitted.  A sergeant who had a dog to help him cope with his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) complained about the new rules.  In the reports, the sergeant was described as a “veteran” and the dog as a “service dog”.  A viewer complained that these two terms were inaccurate.  He argued that “veteran” refers to former armed service members whereas the sergeant was still an active member at the time of the reports.  He felt that “service dog” was inaccurate because the sergeant’s dog did not meet the legal definition of that term as set out in Alberta legislation.  The viewer suggested that the dog should have been called a “support dog”.

The CBSC’s English-Language Panel examined the complaint under the accuracy provisions of the Codes of Ethics of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters and the Radio Television Digital News Association of Canada.  With respect to “veteran”, it noted that some definitions refer to “long experience of military service” and do not insist that it refer only to former forces personnel; therefore, there was nothing inaccurate in using that word to describe the sergeant since he had served in Bosnia and Afghanistan, among other places.  With respect to “service dog”, the Panel acknowledged that the sergeant’s dog did not meet Alberta’s definition of that term, but concluded that that detail was not material to the stories, as they focussed on the potential hardships faced by PTSD sufferers under the base’s dog policy rather than dog classifications.

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.  Around 800 radio stations, satellite radio services, television stations and specialty and pay television services across Canada participate in 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 . For more information, please contact the CBSC National Chair, Andrée Noël, at anoel@cbsc.ca or CBSC Executive Director, John MacNab, at jmacnab@cbsc.ca or by telephone at (613) 233-4607.