Ottawa, February 11, 1997 -- The B.C. Regional Council of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a newscast aired on Victoria's CHEK-TV.
CHEK-TV's evening newscast included an item on the non-renewal of the B.C. (NDP) government's contract with NOW Communications. The report mentioned the contention by a Liberal MLA that the firm had been paid $3,500 to write and print a letter to the Premier. A CHEK-TV viewer complained to the CBSC that the news item had been biased, since the station made no mention of the previous government's contracting practices or those of Liberal governments in other provinces. The station's News Director replied that the item in question had included copy on the cancellation of the Premier's contract with NOW Communications, and his denial that the action had anything to do with possible political links; it was followed by a short clip of a Liberal MLA outlining the amount of money paid to NOW. In the station's view, the item was not biased. The viewer was unsatisfied with this response and asked that the CBSC refer the matter to its B.C. Regional Council for adjudication.
Council members viewed a tape of the segment and reviewed the complaint under the industry's Code of Ethics, which requires broadcasters to report the news with accuracy, without bias, in a full, fair and proper manner. The Regional Council examined the question of whether the reporting of the Liberal MLA's allegation was objective and fair. In its decision (attached), the B.C. Council affirmed that the report was, indeed, unbiased. In the Council's words, "the complainant's issue here seems ... that the station did not go far enough in providing the balance to the Liberal allegation by providing an historical context for any issue of pork barrel politics. That, though, is a part of the political cut-and-thrust and is thus the job of the Liberals' political opponents, not the news reporting bodies, electronic or print. The absence of such context to a report does not mean an absence of balance in it." Thus, Council decided that CHEK-TV did not breach the code.
The B.C. Regional Council is composed equally of representatives of the public and of the broadcasting industry. Some 400 private sector radio and television stations from across Canada are members of the Council. In addition to administering the industry's code of ethics , the CBSC administers the Voluntary Code Regarding Violence on Television, the Sex-Role Portrayal Code, and the RTNDA Code of (Journalistic) Ethics.
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