Broadcaster Not Unfairly Stigmatizing Neighbourhood By Contextualizing News Story Says Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, August 31, 1998 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a news report on tenant relocation by a landlord which was broadcast by CITY-TV as part of its CityPulse News. A viewer complained that the report stated that the building in question was located in the Parkdale area while in her view the civic address (also provided in the report) did not support this assertion. The viewer also stated that “it is not necessary to mention a particular community in relation to negative issues...especially so when the issue is not germane to that neighbourhood.”

The Ontario Regional Council considered the complaint under the Codes of Ethics of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) and the Radio Television News Directors Association (RTNDA). The Council stated on the issue of stigmatization by the media that “a broadcaster is entitled to make the determination of whether viewers would be likely to have an interest in having news items contextualized in a manner which is objective”.

On the issue of the accuracy of the report, the Council considered that the point was essentially moot, noting that the complainant herself had conceded that “the question of boundaries is ... academic”. The Council, however, added that

... the Council believes that it should point out ... that “ anyone viewing the first newscast objectively would not have arrived at the same conclusion regarding the stigmatization of Parkdale.” The issue here is the action of the landlord and the practice of tenant-shuffling. Few, if any, would know or even care whether 46 The Queensway is civically located in Parkdale or High Park. If a broadcaster inadvertently recounted a news story about Basque terrorists and carelessly reported that Barcelona was in Italy, could this possibly be a reason for any sanction in terms of the broadcaster Codes? Surely not. Barcelona is where it is, just as 46 The Queensway is. At worst, placing either location elsewhere could be embarrassing for the broadcaster, but certainly not an offence under any Code.

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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All CBSC decisions, Codes, links to members’ and other web sites, and related information are available on the World Wide Web at For more information, please contact the National Chair of the CBSC, Ron Cohen, at (###) ###-####.