The Unauthorized Broadcast of a Caller’s Voice Breaches Standards,Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, July 20, 2004 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the broadcast of a brief exchange with a caller associated with the promotion of an on-air contest by CISS-FM (Toronto, also known as JACK 92.5).  The Ontario Regional Panel concluded that, by broadcasting the complainant’s call without her authorization, CISS-FM had breached the terms of Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics, which requires the full, fair, and proper presentation of news, opinion, comment or editorial. 

On October 8, 2003, CISS-FM announced a contest, which was to consist of a giveaway of $92 in lottery tickets late that afternoon.  A listener who had called in to find out the telephone number she would need to dial at contest time found that her brief exchange with the deejay had in fact been broadcast (apparently on a tape-delayed basis) as a part of the promotion for the contest.  Although she had not been identified on-air and the brief dialogue consisted merely of a confirmation of the number to call to attempt to win the tickets, the complainant objected to the broadcast of that recording on the grounds that her voice had been used without her consent. 

While the Ontario Regional Panel did not find that the broadcast invaded the privacy of the complainant (since she had not been identified), it did find that the broadcaster’s use of her voice without her consent breached one of the standards to which private broadcasters adhere. 

It may be that many individuals have no objection to the use of their voices on air; some may even relish that opportunity.  That general principle cannot, needless to say, be determinative of the rights of any individual not to have his or her voice broadcast.  In order to ensure, however, that there is no confusion on the part of callers, any broadcaster ought to make it clear, at the time of inviting listeners to call, that the line they are calling (or, in such cases, the machine on which they are leaving a message) is one that may result in the conversation being broadcast or edited for rebroadcast.  It is hardly necessary for this Panel to suggest to broadcasters the myriad of creative or enticing ways to provide such information to a caller.  The simple bottom-line point of the Panel is that potential callers must be made aware that, in calling or leaving a voice recording, they are in effect providing their consent, even if only implied, to the broadcast of some or all of their words.  There was not, in anything the Panel has read in the correspondence or listened to on the recording of the challenged item, any such consent given in this case.

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 530 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