Broadcast Standards Council Finds No Breach of Codes But Reiterates Caution against Linking Sex with Crimes in the News

Ottawa, August 19, 1998 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the reporting of the charges laid against Graham James, a junior hockey coach, by CKND-TV (Winnipeg) during its 6:00 p.m. Newsline broadcast. A viewer complained of the accuracy of the report and of the use of phrases such as “sex crimes” or “sex charges” in the report.

The Prairie Regional Council considered this complaint under the Codes of Ethics of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) and of the Radio and Television News Directors Association (RTNDA). In its view,

The nature of the reporting, in addition to its approach to the crimes in question, was, in the view of the Council, somewhere between sober and horrified at the betrayal of the young people by the coach, who is, as stated in the newscast, “often the most influential person in a young athlete’s life.” To the extent that the story was sensational, it could be said to have resulted from the story itself and not from the reporting of it. It was, in the view of the Council, “full, fair and proper”. There is no question of any breach of the Codes.

The Council, however, reiterated its concerns regarding the use of catch-phrases to describe sexual assaults of any kind.

The Council members agree ... that there may be a tendency in the media to readily use the word “sex” adjectivally in relation to the reporting of crimes whose nature is not essentially sexual, but which rather involve an abuse of power. The issue for the Council is not a grammatical one; it relates rather to a willingness, even if generally unintentional, to link “sex”, a generally permissible social activity, with physical crimes extending from assault through murder, which are not. The Council considers that broadcasters should be more cautious in their linking of the two.

Canada’s private broadcasters have created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, gender portrayal and television violence by which they expect their members will abide. They also created the CBSC, which is the self-regulatory body with the responsibility of administering those Codes, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic practices created by the Radio Television News Directors Association Canada (RTNDA). More than 430 radio and television stations and specialty services from across Canada are members of the Council.

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