No Conflict of Interest in Reporting on Related Companies, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, February 3, 2016 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning two separate broadcasts in which television stations reported on activities of other divisions owned by the same parent company. The CBSC concluded that broadcasters are allowed to cover stories involving their parent companies.

The CBSC received two complaints alleging conflict of interest in reports aired in May and June 2015. The first concerned a Global Ontario report about the online video streaming service shomi.  Shaw owns Global and is part owner of shomi, along with Rogers.  The report informed viewers that shomi would soon be available to anyone wishing to subscribe to it, rather than only to Shaw and Rogers television service customers as had been the case when shomi first launched.  The second complaint was about a report on CTV News Channel about Bell offering faster internet service in Toronto.  Bell owns CTV News Channel.  In both cases, the viewer felt that the reports inappropriately promoted other services owned by the same parent company.  He argued that this constituted a conflict of interest, as the parent company stood to gain financially from the positive news coverage of its services.

Global and Bell explained that the two stories were significant developments in the media and telecommunications industries which were in the public interest. They also explained that the decisions to run the stories had been taken by the news editorial teams with no interference or pressure from upper management of the parent companies.  Both reports disclosed that there was a relationship between the television stations and the services which were the subject of the reports.

The CBSC’s English-Language Panel examined the complaints under provisions of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics and Radio Television Digital News Association of Canada’s (RTDNA) Code of Ethics dealing with conflicts of interest and management intrusion into news.  The Panel found no breach of either code.  It stated that broadcasters should not be prevented from covering stories of interest to the public just because the subject might be related to the parent company.  The Panel noted that disclosure of any relationship between a broadcaster and a news subject is good practice, as was followed in these two instances.  With respect to these two specific news reports, the Panel found that they were informative, balanced, unbiased and did not serve as vehicles to attract customers to the parent companies’ other services.

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 900 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.