Filming Of Vigil Doesn’t Infringe Privacy, Says Broadcast Standards Council (disponible en anglais seulement)

Ottawa, June 12, 1997 -- The Ontario Regional Council of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) released its decision today concerning a newscast aired on Ottawa’s CJOH-TV.

CJOH-TV filmed and reported on a vigil held in December 1994, in an Ottawa park. The vigil was held in commemoration of the victims of the massacre at the Université de Montréal. A CJOH-TV viewer who had attended the vigil wrote to the CBSC of her concern that the news crew had invaded a private moment of grief shared by the women attending the vigil. She stated that the news team had ignored the request not to film the final few moments of the vigil. Though she had contacted the station and spoken with the news anchor, she was dissatisfied with his response that the vigil was of interest to the public and had taken place in a public park, and was therefore legitimately filmed and reported on by the station. CJOH-TV replied to the written complaint by reiterating the news anchor’s points and by adding that the report was accurate and comprehensive, without sensationalizing or intruding. The viewer was unsatisfied with this response and asked the CBSC’s Ontario Regional Council to consider the matter.

In its decision (attached), the Council noted that the organizers of the vigil had invited news crews to cover the event. Moreover, by holding it in a public place, its organizers appeared to have wanted it to attract some attention. Thus, in the Council’s view, the event was newsworthy. As the Council put it, “the one wish that did not come true was that the coverage would end at the moment that the organizers, the complainant and no doubt others would have wished that it would end. Freedom of the press is not a tap that can be turned off at the whim of the news maker .... When a story is in the public interest, the press will legitimately expect to be able to report on it.” Further, the CJOH-TV coverage was extensive and sympathetic, and the news crew had merely taken up the invitation from the organizers. The Council therefore decided that CJOH-TV breached neither the industry’s Code of Ethics nor the Code of (Journalistic) Ethics.

In addition to administering codes of ethics, the CBSC administers broadcasting industry codes on gender portrayal and television violence.

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All CBSC decisions, Codes and related documentation are available on the World Wide Web at www.cbsc.ca. For more information, please contact the National Chair of the CBSC, Ron Cohen, at (###) ###-####.