Ottawa, September 15, 2021 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released two decisions relating to news broadcasts. The first is about a news report about a stabbing incident in North Vancouver aired during CTV Vancouver’s (CIVT-DT) CTV News at Six on March 27, 2021. The CBSC English-Language Panel concluded that the report should have been preceded by a warning to viewers about the upcoming scenes as required by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Violence Code. The second is about a headline repeated in the ticker of the 24-hour news channel CP24 on March 31, 2021. The headline inaccurately informed viewers that COVID restrictions were going to be loosened when in fact they were going to be tightened. The Panel found a breach of the CAB Code of Ethics and the Radio Television Digital News Association of Canada’s (RTDNA) Code of Journalistic Ethics.
The CBSC received both complaints in March. The CTV Vancouver broadcast provided information about an incident that had occurred earlier that day where a man had allegedly stabbed multiple people at a pedestrian mall in North Vancouver. The report included scenes of paramedics attending to injured people and cell phone footage of the suspect stabbing himself in an intersection before being arrested by police. A viewer felt that it was inappropriate to show footage of the victims. CTV pointed out that all the victims shown were surviving adults and it had blurred out the victims’ faces to demonstrate sensitivity. A majority of the CBSC Panel concluded, with one member abstaining, that it was acceptable to show these images and unanimously concluded that the station should have provided an express warning in advance of the disturbing images in accordance with Article 6.3 of the CAB Violence Code.
The CP24 broadcast included a headline in its ticker relating to the Province of Ontario’s approach to the COVID-19 pandemic. It repeatedly showed the headline “Premier Ford says an announcement coming tomorrow about plan to loosen restrictions in Grey zones”. Another repeated headline read “Premier Ford tells residents to ‘stay tuned’ for an announcement tomorrow on tougher restrictions” and the actual news reports aired during this time informed viewers that Ontario Premier Doug Ford had hinted at stricter restrictions coming soon considering increased COVID case counts. CP24 acknowledged the error, but pointed out that the other content aired at the same time provided the correct information. Despite that fact, the CBSC Panel concluded that the inaccuracy breached the News clause of the CAB Code of Ethics and the Accuracy clause of the RTDNA Code of Journalistic Ethics because the wrong headline was broadcast repeatedly and, given CP24’s format, the written information is just as important as the oral, so CP24 should be ensuring that its tickers and banners are accurate.
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. For more information, please visit www.cbsc.ca.