Newscast Clip Of Police Shooting Was Gratuitous, According To Broadcast Council (disponible en anglais seulement)

Ottawa, March 13, 1997 -- The Ontario Regional Council of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a clip of police shooting and killing a U.S. woman, aired by CTV.

The final story of a Canada AM newscast was a 22-second news item, which contained a video segment of a woman being shot and killed by California police following a high-speed chase. Several seconds into the news report, CTV’s news reader warned the audience of the graphic nature of the segment. A Canada AM viewer complained that the use of the video segment was excessively violent, extremely disturbing, and ultimately, used only for its sensational nature, particularly since the news item had been reported in no other major news medium. CTV agreed with the viewer that in broadcasting the clip, CTV had acted contrary to its own journalistic standards and proposed to review the policy with all its news editors. CTV pointed out, however, that it had aired a warning that would have allowed parents to prevent their children from being exposed to the news item. The viewer, unsatisfied with this response, asked the CBSC’s Ontario Regional Council to review the matter.

In its decision (attached), the Regional Council reviewed the provisions of the industry’s Code on Television Violence. The Code requires broadcasters to use appropriate editorial judgement in airing pictorial representations of violence in news programs, and use caution in selecting video that depicts violence. The Regional Council decided that CTV’s airing of the video clip was a totally unnecessary “pictorial representation of violence” that had sensationalized the news. In the Council’s view, there was no context to the clip, no introduction and no follow-up by the news reader. As the Council indicated, “there was no fundamental relevance of this American story to Canadian viewers, nor was there any attempt to establish such a link....furthermore, except for the moment of the shooting, no story was even told.” The Council believed that “the airing of the news item simply turned on the availability of the video component.” It also did not believe that the use of the advisory mitigated the effect of the video segment. The advisory was not placed at the start of the story and thus, scarcely gave any viewers time to respond before the violent clip was actually broadcast. Consequently, the Regional Council decided that CTV breached the industry’s Voluntary Code Regarding Violence in Television Programming and the Radio Television News Directors Association’s Code of (Journalistic) Ethics. CTV must announce the decision during prime time and provide proof of the announcement to the CBSC in the next 30 days.

Nearly 400 private sector radio and television stations from across Canada are members of the CBSC. The Council also administers industry codes on ethics and gender portrayal.

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This and previous decisions are posted on the CBSC’s Web site at www.cbsc.ca.