Comments Made by CJCB-AM Talkshow Host Held Fair and Responsible by Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, June 5, 1998 -- The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning comments made by the host of Talkback, an open line program broadcast by CJCB-AM weekdays between 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.

On the show of October 1, 1996, a caller outlined her problems with the Children’s Aid Society and Home Care Nova Scotia and recounted a meeting with her social worker which she had attended with her Regional Councillor. At this meeting, the social worker refused to discuss the details of her child’s case in the presence of the Councillor, despite having been given oral authority to do so by the mother. The host’s response to this was to explain that the law in Nova Scotia did not allow the social worker to release confidential information, even with the parent’s permission. A listener and frequent caller to the program called in to offer his opinion and assistance on the subject raised by the caller. The host chose, however, not to allow the frequent caller to provide information as to the identity of his organization to the audience. The listener subsequently filed a complaint against the station alleging that the host had made “false statements” concerning Nova Scotian family law and had thereby “misinformed the listening public as to what their rights are.”

The Atlantic Regional Council found that the broadcaster had not breached the provisions of the Code of Ethics. In the Council’s view, the issue is not whether the host was absolutely correct in his interpretation of the law, so long as he had been fair and responsible in expressing his opinion. The Council noted that “it is not his responsibility to be a lawyer and he did not represent himself as such”.

As to the entitlement of the broadcaster to deny access to the complainant to provide his phone number and the identity of his organization to listeners, the Council also found that the host’s decision was absolutely fair and proper. The Council noted that the broadcaster’s first responsibility is to its audience and not to an individual who wishes to be heard. The Council stated that “while balance and the presentation of a diversity of views fall squarely within the basket of broadcaster responsibilities, the inclusion of a particular voice does not.”

The CBSC is the self-regulatory body created by private broadcasters to respond to complaints and administer industry standards on ethics, journalistic practices, gender portrayal and television violence. Nearly 400 radio and television stations and specialty services from across Canada are members of the Council.

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