Broadcasting the Contents of Personal Letters Was in Public Interest, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, January 23, 2018 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a news report about a Mississauga house explosion broadcast on City Toronto (CITY-DT).  A viewer was concerned that the report had violated the privacy of the home’s residents, but the CBSC concluded that City did not breach the privacy article of the Radio Television Digital News Association of Canada’s (RTDNA) Code of Journalistic Ethics.

The report provided an update on a situation that had occurred in June 2016 when a Mississauga house had exploded.  Authorities announced that their investigation had ruled the cause of the explosion to be a natural gas leak, purposely set by the two residents to commit a double suicide.  The couple had died in the explosion.  Numerous surrounding properties had been damaged and families displaced.  The report mentioned, and showed on screen, handwritten letters that had been strewn around the neighbourhood in the blast.  The letters apparently had been written by the residents; the messages described their health and financial problems, and pleaded for help from God.

A viewer was concerned that showing the letters violated the couple’s privacy.  The broadcaster argued that there was an overriding public interest because they provided insight into the motivations for causing the explosion.

The CBSC’s English-Language Panel examined the complaint under the RTDNA Code of Journalistic Ethics which prohibits infringement of privacy unless there is an overriding public interest.  The Panel agreed with the station, finding that the display of the letters was newsworthy and in the public interest because an entire neighbourhood had been affected and the letters shed some light on the reasons for the intentional explosion.

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 .  For more information, please contact the CBSC Chair, Sylvie Courtemanche, at or by telephone at 613-233-4607.