Broadcaster’s Decision re Programming Matters No tin Breach of Codes Says Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, April 11, 2001 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the CFYI-AM (North York) decision to cancel the radio show The Touch of Health.

On that program, the radio talk show host answered questions and gave advice concerning alternative health matters. She complained tot the CBSC that the “action against the show and it being taken off the air is a direct social and political assault against the natural / alternative health.” In her view, “[w]ith the inevitable loss of The Touch of Health radio show, there will be a loss of ‘balanced’ broadcasting in this sector.” The broadcaster defended its position, arguing that

the rationale for this is two-fold: first is the concern over legal liability with respect to giving medical advice. The second reason is our desire to improve the quality of our weekend programming in order to generate increased ratings and revenue.

On the issue of programming balance, the Ontario Regional Panel found the station’s decision to be correct.

While The Touch of Health was being broadcast by CFYI, balance was maintained between programs that provided traditional health information and those that provided alternative health information. Since CFYI’s decision to cancel the program in question, the Panel relies on the broadcaster’s statement that “[CFYI] has removed all medical (traditional and non-traditional) programs from [its] week-end programming.”

On the issue of programming choices, the Panel made it clear that “such decisions are primordially the responsibility of the broadcaster.”

They reflect a mix of commercial, creative and societal values and concerns, supplemented by a measure of programming instinct. They constitute the formula which is the basis of every broadcaster’s carving of its niche in the marketplace. They are a part of every broadcaster’s determination of those factors which will differentiate its programming from those of other licensees in order that it will be able to attract its own audience. Broadcasters are, needless to say, also entitled to make judgments as to the quality of their programming choices by the marketplace. It is hardly for the CBSC to supplant that quintessential broadcaster judgment unless the circumstances and apparent rationale for the broadcaster’s decision are clearly so dire and egregious that CBSC interventions is, by any reasonable assessment, called for.

In this case, they found no reason to question the decision.

Canada’s private broadcasters have created industry standards in the form of Codes dealing with gender portrayal, violence and ethical issues such as human rights by which they expect the members of their profession will abide. They have also established the CBSC, the self-regulatory body responsible for the administration of those professional Codes, as well as the Radio and Television News Directors Code dealing with journalistic practices. More than 460 Canadian radio and television stations and specialty services are members of the Council.

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All CBSC Codes, decisions, Annual Reports, relevant documents, members, links to members’ and other web sites, and useful information relating to the Council are available at www.cbsc.ca. For more information, contact Ron Cohen, the National Chair, at (###) ###-####.