Radio Station Entitled to Respond to Criticisms on Air, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, June 15, 2006 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the Vietnamese language open-line program Lac Viet Radio, broadcast on Fairchild Radio Vancouver (CHKG-FM).  The program had broadcast announcements in Spring and Summer 2005 stating that it would no longer accept telephone calls from a particular individual who had criticized the program in a local Vietnamese periodical publication.  The CBSC British Columbia Regional Panel determined that the broadcasts did not violate the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics

Lac Viet Radio (Ðài Phát Thanh Lac Viêt), which is broadcast on Saturday mornings, contains information and discussions of interest to the Canadian-Vietnamese community.  An individual had written to the station complaining that the station did not play the Vietnamese national anthem during its broadcasts or display the Vietnamese flag at its functions.  The station explained that it wanted to remain neutral with respect to controversial political issues in the Vietnamese community.  That same individual then wrote open letters criticizing the station that were published in a local magazine and he also apparently raised the issue at community meetings.  Following those actions, Lac Viet Radio broadcast statements on several occasions explaining that it would not be accepting telephone calls from the individual because he had publicly denounced the program. 

The CBSC received a complaint from the boycotted individual, who complained that those announcements were unfair and contained inaccurate information about him.  The broadcaster explained that it was merely stating its position in response to his criticisms.  In later broadcasts, the broadcaster did, however, reverse its position on access to the program by allowing the complainant to express his opinion on air. 

The B.C. Panel examined the complaint under Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics, which requires the “full, fair and proper presentation of news, opinion, comment and editorial.”  The Panel observed that previous CBSC decisions have found a violation of that clause when broadcasters have announced complainants’ names on air.  This case was different because it was the complainant himself 

who rendered the entire matter public by publishing two open letters in Vietnamese-Canadian periodicals.  He focused on the matters of concern to him and criticized Lac Viet Radio to essentially the same audience that would be potential listeners of the weekly radio program.  Moreover, it was he who first chose to make these issues public.  […]  It is only fair for Lac Viet Radio to be able to respond.  Not only did they do so but they did so temperately and even generously by inviting [the complainant] back on their airwaves after they had decided not to do so.  The Panel finds their fairness exemplary and considers that they have breached neither of the foregoing Code provisions by their broadcasts.

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 590 radio and 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