Ottawa, November 27, 2019 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a news report about a stabbing incident broadcast on CTV Toronto (CFTO-DT) on September 12, 2019. The CBSC concluded that the broadcast of cellphone footage of the incident taking place, as presented, and particularly in the absence of any prior warning to viewers, constituted breaches of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Violence Code and the Radio Television Digital News Association of Canada’s (RTDNA) Code of Journalistic Ethics.
The story was broadcast during the CTV News at 6 newscast. The anchor explained that a man in Kingston, Ontario had stabbed several victims earlier that day, resulting in the death of one victim. The perpetrator himself had also died after stabbing himself in the neck. The video footage that accompanied the story appeared to have been filmed with a cellphone. The incident was filmed from a distance across the street and the faces of the two individuals in the video were not fully visible. The video did, however, show two men struggling, falling to the ground and then one clearly making two stabbing motion into the side of the other. A police officer then pursued the suspect.
The CBSC received five complaints about this broadcast, but only one complainant requested that the CBSC rule on the matter. The viewer was upset that CTV had shown footage of a person being stabbed to death and that there was no warning. The CBSC’s English-Language Panel examined the complaint under Article 6 of the CAB Violence Code relating to news and Article 5.2 of the RTDNA Code of Journalistic Ethics relating to the use of violent images and descriptions. The codes require broadcasters to show appropriate editorial judgment, and use caution, sensitivity and restraint when showing scenes of violence in news. The Violence Code also requires a warning in advance of graphic reporting.
The Panel concluded that the footage, as presented, of a real stabbing taking place was disturbing and jarring. CTV failed to provide proper context and set-up to the video, and failed to provide a warning to viewers before airing the clip. This constitutes breaches of Article 6.0 of the CAB Violence Code and Article 5.2 of the RTDNA Code of Journalistic Ethics.
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. For more information, please contact CBSC Chair, Sylvie Courtemanche, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 613-233-4607.