Special Effects Have No Place in News Reports, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, January 11, 2017 — The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a news report broadcast on Global Calgary and Global Edmonton in April 2016.  The CBSC concluded that the visual and audio effects added to the report rendered it unfair and biased in contravention of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics and the Radio Television Digital News Association of Canada’s (RTDNA) Code of Ethics.

The report was about a man in Red Deer who had been charged under that City’s unusual anti-bullying by-law after his neighbours complained about him. The report referred to him as a “neighbour from hell” and “Bitter Bob”.  It included interviews with his neighbours describing the man’s harassing behaviour, as well as an interview with the man who accused his neighbours of being out to get him.  The report featured visual and audio effects that had been added during the editing stage, such as cheerful music and bright lighting when showing the man’s street, but black-and-white colour and the sound of a crow cawing when zooming in on the man’s house.

A viewer complained that the report had been biased against the man, contained some inaccuracies and violated the man’s privacy. Global agreed that the special effects had been inappropriate, but considered the report otherwise acceptable under the codes.

The CBSC’s English-Language Panel agreed. It concluded that “the use of music and special effects […] have no place in a news report” and the report therefore breached Clauses 5 and 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics and Article 1 of the RTDNA Code of Ethics.  The points alleged by the complainant to be inaccurate were either unverifiable or not particularly material.  The Panel concluded that the report did not violate that man’s privacy because he granted an interview to the reporter.

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.