Improper Editing of Premier Bouchard’s Statement Constitutes Breach of Journalistic Ethics, Says Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, August 31, 1998 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning CIII-TV (Global TV)’s August 8, 1997 newscast which contained a report on the Premiers’ Conference held in St. Andrews, New Brunswick. A viewer complained that a statement made by Premier Lucien Bouchard was improperly edited resulting in its being taken out of context. In the report in question Mr. Bouchard was quoted as saying simply that the projected national unity conference of the Premiers in Calgary was “doomed before it begins” whereas the complainant noted that the Premier’s full sentence was “If you enter into this new process, which is not substantial process, new process, with the idea that 65 per cent of Quebecers are federalists, well it’s doomed before it begins.”

The Ontario Regional Council considered the complaint under the Codes of Ethics of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) and the Radio Television News Directors Association (RTNDA).

The Council found that the broadcaster had breached the provisions of these Codes which require accuracy in the presentation of the news and provide that broadcasters shall “ensure that news broadcasts are not editorial” and “will in no way distort the news”. The Council noted that “the fundamental purpose of news dissemination in a democracy is to enable people to know what is happening, and to understand events so that they may form their own conclusions.” The Council concluded that

By removing the first part of the Premier’s sentence “If you enter into this new process, which is not substantial process, new process, with the idea that 65 per cent of Quebecers are federalists,” Global has not told the audience what was in fact happening. By leaving only “it’s doomed before it begins,” Global has usurped the audience’s democratic entitlement to reach its own conclusions. Its editing, not merely of an interview, but of a single sentence, has had the effect of distorting the meaning of the Premier’s statement as well as breaching the requirement to provide a “full, fair and proper presentation of [the] news.” In effect, Global took a statement Premier Bouchard had made for one purpose, namely, to comment on the view that 65% of Quebecers had voted for federalist parties in the last election, and used it for another, namely, to conclude that any proposed Premiers’ conference on national unity would be doomed to failure.

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 . For more information, please contact the National Chair of the CBSC, Ron Cohen, at (###) ###-#### or by e-mail.