The Weather Network & MétéoMédia re 30 Day Forecast

AD HOC BILINGUAL PANEL
CBSC Decision 16/17-1869 & -1872
2017 CBSC 10
October 12, 2017
A. Noël (Chair), M. Arpin, P. Gratton, T. Porrello, A. Wylie

THE FACTS

The Weather Network is an English Canadian specialty service devoted solely to weather forecasts, reports and information segments about weather.  MétéoMédia is its French-language counterpart.  There are standard definition (SD) and high definition (HD) channels for both services.

On The Weather Network HD on April 13, 2017 at 3:00 pm (and presumably other dates and times), the station displayed different weather information for different cities in British Columbia, including an hourly forecast, a 7-day forecast, and a 14-day forecast.  One such segment was labeled “Vancouver 30 Day” which featured a graph with temperature as its vertical axis and date as its horizontal axis.  There was a white line showing historical average temperature, a yellow line showing the actual temperature of previous and current days, and a blue line for predicted temperatures on upcoming days.  The dates displayed were “Apr 9” through to “May 6”, which was actually 28 days.

The same graph, similarly titled “Vancouver 30 Days”, appeared on The Weather Network SD.  The only difference was that the graph on that channel displayed 27 days.

The corresponding information for Quebec City on MétéoMédia was entitled “30 Jours”.  Again, in fact only 28 days were displayed on the HD channel and 27 on the SD channel.

The CBSC received a complaint from a viewer in British Columbia who noted that the segment’s title, “30 Day/30 Jours”, did not accurately reflect the information in the graph, which showed only either 27 or 28 days.

The Weather Network and MétéoMédia issued a single response to the complainant.  They explained that “technical limitations of space on the screen and detail issues in Standard Definition (SD) make it difficult to squeeze 30 days onto the screen in all cases without decreasing the font size which would have made the information tougher for viewers to read.”  They agreed that the graph title was misleading and committed to change it.  They sent the CBSC a June 6 The Weather Network broadcast where the title had been changed to “Next 4 Weeks”.

The complainant filed a Ruling Request because he felt that an appropriate title should have been given to the graph from the outset.  (The full text of all correspondence is available in the Appendix.)

THE DECISION

The CBSC Adjudicating Panel examined the complaints under the following provisions of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics and the Radio Television Digital News Association of Canada’s (RTDNA) Code of Journalistic Ethics:

CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 5 – News

It shall be the responsibility of broadcasters to ensure that news shall be represented with accuracy and without bias.  […]

RTDNA Code of Journalistic Ethics, Article 1.0 – Accuracy

We are committed to journalism in the public interest that is accurate and reliable.  […]

[…]

1.3       Errors and inaccuracy that affect the understanding of a news story will be unambiguously and promptly corrected.

The Panel Adjudicators read all of the correspondence and viewed the segments in question.  The Panel concludes that there is no breach of either code provision.

Accuracy of Information

It is not every inaccuracy that will amount to a breach of the above-noted code provisions.  For an error or inaccuracy to amount to a code breach, a Panel will need to determine if it was material to the information being conveyed.  In many previous decisions, the CBSC has recognized that inaccuracies that do not affect the overall purpose of the message will not amount to a code breach.  For example, when a street was alleged to be located in a certain neighbourhood that it was not, the Panel considered that the misidentification of the location was not sufficiently material as to constitute a code breach.[1]  Similarly, where a host stated that ambulances featured a cross because of its connection to the healing message of Jesus Christ (when in fact there is no such link; it is simply the symbol of the Red Cross Society), the Panel determined that it was an inadvertent error, and that because the origin of the symbol was not part of the substance of the program, it did not constitute a breach.[2]

In one decision, the complainant was concerned that a news report on a Parliamentary motion with respect to Olympic clothing was inaccurate because the story used the term “uniform” in the place of “clothing”.  The Panel considered that the complaint amounted to “hair-splitting” and found that “what matters far more to audiences is the forest rather than the trees”.[3]

In considering the issue raised in the broadcasts in question, the Panel considers that this complaint is also hair-splitting, and even verging on the frivolous.  The purpose of the segments was to provide a long-term look at the weather.  This was equally accomplished by providing 27, 28 or 30 days.  Despite the errors raised by the complainant, the dates covered were clearly shown across the bottom of the screen.  It is highly unlikely that a viewer would somehow be misled.

The Panel also notes that upon receiving these complaints the broadcasters have modified their broadcasts so that the words “30 Days/30 Jours” no longer appear.  The Panel commends the broadcasters for taking that corrective action.

Broadcaster Responsiveness

In all CBSC decisions, the Panels assess the broadcaster’s response to the complainant.  The broadcaster need not agree with the complainant’s position, but it must respond in a courteous, thoughtful and thorough manner.  In this case, although the broadcaster was a few days late in sending its response, due to an internal error, the Panel considers that the broadcaster fulfilled its obligations of responsiveness and nothing further is required in this regard in this instance.

This decision is a public document upon its release by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.

[1] CITY-TV re CityPulse (Neighbourhood Drug Bust) (CBSC Decision 96/97-0216, February 20, 1998) & CITY-TV re CityPulse (Tenant Relocation) (CBSC Decision 96/97-0252, February 20, 1998)

[2] CHKT-AM re comments made on Home Sweet Home (CBSC Decision 11/12-1750, November 16, 2012)

[3] CIVT-TV (CTV British Columbia) re reports on CTV News at 11:30 (“Seal Fur Uniforms” & “Oil Spill”) (CBSC Decision 08/09-1660, September 24, 2009)


Appendix

The Complaints

The CBSC received the following complaints on April 4, 2017 via its webform:

Program Name:      The Weather Network

Date of Program:    2017/04/03

Time of Program:   3:00 pm

Specific Concern:    In the local forecasts that are aired every ten minutes on the tens that are 3 minutes long, one segment of the forecast was “30 days” in both the heading & footing but when I looked at the content itself, it only goes up to 27 days on the standard definition version and 28 days on the high definition version of the local forecast.  The 30 days segment is only currently on the standard definition version and not the high definition version because of the winter tv programming on The Weather Network.

Program Name:      MétéoMédia

Date of Program:    2017/04/03

Time of Program:   3:00 pm

Specific Concern:    In this TV station’s “Prévisions locales”, there was a segment called “30 days” but the forecast actually only goes up to 27 days not 30 days.  “Prévisions locales” is French for “local forecast”.

The complainant submitted another complaint on April 24:

Television or Radio Station:         The Weather Network

Program Name:      Local Forecast

Date of Program:    ongoing but most recently 2017/04/24

Time of Program:   Ongoing every ten minutes on the tens but most recently 12:20-12:23am

Specific Concern:    During the Local Forecast, there is a feature called 30 days but when I looked at the standard version, it only goes up to 27 days and when I look at the high definition version of the local forecast, it only goes up to 28 days.

On April 25, the CBSC informed the complainant that it had received both of his complaints about The Weather Network and that he should expect a response from the broadcaster within 21 days.

On April 28, the complainant wrote back to the CBSC:

Hi,

I would like to have MétéoMédia (sister station & French counterpart of The Weather Network) to be added to both complaints as this concern is happening on both weather stations as they are owned by the same company.

Because it took MétéoMédia longer to confirm that it had retained the loggers, it was not until May 4 that the CBSC confirmed receipt of the complaint about MétéoMédia and agreed to treat together the files re The Weather Network and MétéoMédia.

On May 29, the complainant wrote back to the CBSC, first via email:

Hi,

I haven’t received a response from the broadcasters regarding my complaints made last month regarding the 30 day forecast which was part of the local forecast on both The Weather Network & MétéoMédia in which the broadcasters were supposed to respond by within the last two weeks but didn’t.

Then via the online Ruling Request form:

Date of Broadcaster Response:  Broadcaster never responded to complaint

Comments:  I wasn’t satisfied with the broadcaster’s non-response to my complaint concerning the 30 day forecast which was part of both the standard definition & HD versions of the local forecast so I am seeking a ruling request regarding the broadcaster’s failure to respond to my complaint.

The CBSC responded to the complainant on May 29, telling him that the CBSC had reminded the broadcaster to respond.  The broadcaster said that the response had been written and was supposed to have been sent out the previous week, so they would investigate why the response had not been sent.  The broadcaster sent its response later that day.

Broadcaster Response

The Weather Network and MétéoMédia are sister stations owned by Pelmorex, so it sent one response to the complainant on May 29:

Thank you for taking the time to reach out to us about your concern regarding one of our products within our Local Forecasts, on both The Weather Network and MétéoMédia.  We investigated your concern and wanted to explain why the decision was made to show only 27 days in a 30 Day Forecast.  Technical limitations of space on the screen and detail issues in Standard Definition (SD) make it difficult to squeeze 30 days onto the screen in all cases without decreasing the font size which would have made the information tougher for viewers to read.

We realize that the titling of the information in regards to what is being shown can be misleading and we will be changing the title of the segment to better reflect what is being shown.

Thank you for being a loyal Weather Network/MétéoMédia viewer and we hope you continue to enjoy our programming.

Thank you for choosing The Weather Network,

Additional Correspondence

The complainant filed a single Ruling Request for both files via the online form on May 30:

Subject:         Ruling Request for 1617-1869 & 1617-1872

Date of Broadcaster Response:  Monday May 29th, 2017

Comments:  I am requesting a ruling on the broadcaster’s response because I believe that the broadcaster’s proposed solution to my complaint concerning one of the products in the local forecast should have been done when it made its debut on TV on April 4th, 2016.  I am only satisfied with the broadcaster’s response if both the council and the panel examining my complaint is satisfied.  I would like to thank the broadcaster for responding to my complaint even though it was past the required time period required for response.  I am also seeking a ruling on if the broadcaster took too long to respond to my complaint as the response was supposed to be given within 21 days of the council sending the broadcaster a copy of my complaint.