Broadcasters Must Disclose Shared Ownership when Reporting on Related Media and Ensure News Reports Don’t Seem Like Ads, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, November 18, 2020 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a report on CTV Toronto’s (CFTO-DT) newscast CTV News at 6 about Crave reality show Canada’s Drag Race. The CBSC concluded that CTV should have revealed that both it and Crave are owned by Bell Media. CTV should also have avoided language that made the report seem like a promotional spot for Crave. The CBSC found breaches of the Radio Television Digital News Association of Canada’s (RTDNA) Code of Journalistic Ethics.

Canada’s Drag Race was a reality competition show that sought to crown Canada’s best drag queen. It was available exclusively on the online video-streaming service called Crave, which, like CTV, is owned by Bell Media. The report aired on July 4, 2020 during the 6:00 pm newscast. The anchors introduced the report with the statement, “If you missed the debut on Thursday, the first episode of Canada’s Drag Race is now available on Crave”. The report itself profiled a Canada’s Drag Race contestant from Kitchener, Ontario.

A viewer complained that this news report was effectively an advertisement for Crave and that broadcasters should not be allowed to use their newscasts for this type of self-promotion. CTV pointed out that its entertainment news segments cover programs from all producers and distributors, not just ones related to its parent company. It also stated that Bell Media management had no influence on the news stories it covers.

The CBSC’s English-Language Panel examined the complaint under the RTDNA Code of Journalistic Ethics and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Code of Ethics. The Panel accepted that there had been no interference from owners or management into the editorial decisions of the news team. It did find that CTV should have disclosed its relationship to Crave so as to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest as required by Article 4.0 (Integrity) of the RTDNA Code and that CTV should have ensured that the phrasing of the report’s introduction distinguished news content from advertising as required by Article 2.2 (Fairness) of the code.

The CBSC was created in 1990 by Canada’s private broadcasters to administer the codes of standards that they established for their industry. The CBSC currently administers 5 codes which deal with ethics, equitable portrayal, violence, news and journalistic independence. Around 800 radio stations, satellite radio services, conventional and discretionary television services across Canada participate in the Council.

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All CBSC decisions, codes, and related information are available on the CBSC’s website at www.cbsc.ca.