Critical Reports Regarding Discount Travel Business Considered Fair by Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, July 30, 1998 -- The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning reports about a discount travel business which were included in CFCN-TV (Calgary)’s newscasts as part of a segment called “Consumer Watch”. Variations of the report warning Calgarians about a company operating in Calgary were broadcast on five separate occasions. The President of the company in question complained that these news reports broadcast “inaccurate information” and that the broadcaster did not afford the company any opportunity to reply to the allegations made in the report.

The Prairie Regional Council considered this complaint under the Codes of Ethics of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) and the Radio Television News Directors Association (RTNDA). In its view, the broadcasts did not violate either Code. The Council noted that the complainant’s contention that the company was not afforded an opportunity to respond was directly contradicted by the material aired in which the reporter, at one point, recounts the reaction of representatives of the company in B.C. and, at another point, representatives of the complainant’s company are seen closing the door in the face of the reporter, refusing to answer his questions.

In assessing the overall fairness and balance of the report, the Council stated

It appears to the Council that the complainant, in alleging that the story should have included “the other side of the issues”, considers that the fairness and balance requirement for news reports means that negative comments about a company must be balanced by positive comments. The Council disagrees. Were the complainant’s view correct, there could never be a negative or critical news report. At the end of the day, it is the reporting of the newsworthy event which must be evaluated for its objectivity and fairness and not the overall effect of the news report on the person or company who is its subject.

Canada’s private broadcasters have created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, gender portrayal and television violence by which they expect their members will abide. They also created the CBSC, which is the self-regulatory body with the responsibility of administering those Codes, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic practices created by the Radio Television News Directors Association Canada (RTNDA). More than 430 radio and television stations and specialty services from across Canada are members of the Council.

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All CBSC decisions, Codes, links to members’ and other web sites, and related information are available on the World Wide Web at www.cbsc.ca. For more information, please contact the National Chair of the CBSC, Ron Cohen, at (###) ###-#### .