Unorthodox Reporting of a Multiple Murder in Breach of Broadcast Codes, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, August 16, 2002 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a news report about a man who murdered his family in Mainland China. The report, broadcast on Talentvision TV on December 16, 2001, consisted principally of a news segment provided by Chinese Central Television (CCTV). It claimed that the man had committed the murders because he became insane as a result of practising Falun Gong. The report also repeatedly showed scenes of the blood-soaked apartment where the murders had taken place. Complaints from the Falun Dafa Association of Canada and other individuals were sent to the CBSC on the basis that the report misrepresented the spiritual practice of Falun Gong.

The CBSC National Specialty Services Panel viewed a tape of the news report and addressed the issues raised by the complainants. The latter expressed concern about any CCTV news items being rebroadcast in Canada since CCTV is run by the Chinese government which is alleged to be persecuting Falun Gong practitioners in that country. The Panel expressed no view on the Chinese government's position towards Falun Gong and made it clear that its decision related solely to Talentvision's broadcast. The Panel agreed with Talentvision that “being state-owned does not disqualify CCTV from being a legitimate news source” and that a broadcaster should not “exclude a story, news item or program on the sole basis of its origin.” Nonetheless, the Panel did find, for other reasons, that this particular news story was in breach of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' (CAB) Code of Ethics and Violence Code, and the Radio-Television News Directors Association of Canada (RTNDA) Code of (Journalistic) Ethics.

The news report aeerted that there was a clear link between the accused's violent actions and his relationship to Falun Gong. It also referred to Falun Gong as an “evil cult”. The Panel found this characterization to be unfair and improper, contrary to articles in both the above-mentioned Codes of Ethics. It stated that there was not

any justification to identify him and his criminal act so constantly as Falun Gong-related. It must also be admitted that it would be most unusual, in a North American judicial environment, to have an accused making such confessions in a television interview as Fu Yi-bin made on this news segment. Had there even been such a causal relationship between the accused and Falun Gong, it would not have been reported in such a manner. The language [used in the report … was] nothing more or less than a biased attack on Falun Gong.

The Panel also found a violation of the CAB Violence Code with respect to the repeated clips of the gruesome murder scene:

In the case at hand, there are no fewer than four separate video clips of the blood-soaked apartment. In the view of the Panel, the point about the particularly gruesome nature of the family murders was achieved by the use of the clip once; the additional airings were excessive and constituted inappropriate repetition of violent footage in a news report […].

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 500 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