“Animal Cruelty” Story Not A Breach Of Code Of Ethics (disponible en anglais seulement)

Ottawa, March 25, 1997 -- The Ontario Regional Council of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) released its decision today concerning a news story produced by Toronto’s CITY-TV.

In June, 1996, CITY-TV reported on the case of a Toronto-area couple who had been charged by police with unnecessary cruelty to animals, fraud, and other offences after a police raid revealed that the couple had some 70 cats and dogs living in their home. The couple in question filed a complaint in which they alleged that CITY-TV’s report had been biased, as only representatives of the Toronto Humane Society had been interviewed for their comments, while the couple itself had not been given the opportunity to present its side of the story. CITY-TV, in response, argued that its report had not been misleading and that the complainants had not been interviewed directly because they had not been available for an interview at the time of the preparation of the story. CITY-TV added that it would continue to follow the story through the courts and, in the course of this coverage, the complainants would be given the opportunity to speak to the station’s news crews. The complainants, unsatisfied with this response, modified their complaint and requested that the CBSC’s Ontario Regional Council review the matter.

The Regional Council, after viewing a tape of the newscast and considering the correspondence, decided that CITY-TV had done nothing improper or out of the ordinary in its presentation of the story. CITY-TV had reported on the arrest but, in the Council’s view, the station was not required to present all sides of the case, which could be done by the defendants at the trial. As the Council stated, “if there is any counterpoint to the arrest itself, it is provided by the rules of the criminal justice system.” Where there is a factual and inherently non-controversial news event (such as an arrest), the station is not obligated to present the various points of view; it is merely required to provide information in accurate, comprehensive and balanced manner, which CITY-TV had done. Thus, the Council decided that CITY-TV did not breach either the industry’s Code of Ethics or its Code of (Journalistic) Ethics.

The Ontario Regional Council includes representatives of the broadcasting industry and the general public. The Chair, representing broadcasters, is Al MacKay. The Vice-Chair, a public member, is Robert Stanbury; while the other public members are Taanta Gupta and Meg Hogarth. The other broadcasting industry representatives are Madeline Ziniak and Paul Fockler.

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This and other recent decisions of the CBSC are available via the World Wide Web at www.cbsc.ca.