Ottawa, November 2, 2016 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning Arthur le midi broadcast on CHOI-FM (Radio X, Quebec City). The CBSC concluded that segments of the program aired in February 2016 included inaccurate and misleading information about animals owned by the Anglican Church of Québec. It also found that a CHOI-FM journalist had inappropriately used clandestine techniques to gather information for the story.
Arthur le midi was a talk show hosted by André Arthur. On February 19, he and a co-host, Alexandre Leblond, discussed the fact that the Anglican Church of Québec keeps a goat and a donkey at one of its properties. They alleged that the animals were mistreated: they lived outside all year round with no shelter even in very cold weather, and ate unhealthy human food and styrofoam cups. Arthur questioned why the Société protectrice des animaux (SPA – Humane Society) had not intervened. He returned to the subject on his program of February 23 when he read from a letter from the SPA that explained that jurisdiction for farm animals actually lies with the ministère de l’Agriculture, pêcheries et alimentation (MAPAQ – Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food). Arthur argued that this letter simply demonstrated the SPA’s ineffectiveness.
The CBSC received a complaint from an Anglican Church representative who wrote that Arthur’s claims were entirely false: the animals did have a stable, received nutritious food and were generally well cared-for. The Church had recent inspection reports from MAPAQ to support these claims, which it had given to CHOI’s Assistant Program Director immediately following the February 19 broadcast. The Church also mentioned that Alexandre Leblond had presented himself under an assumed name and as a CÉGEP student, not as a journalist, when he visited the Church in person.
The station argued that it had offered the Church the opportunity to appear on Arthur’s program to discuss the matter, but they had refused. It also stated that Arthur was entitled to express his opinion on animal welfare.
The CBSC’s French-Language Panel examined the complaint under clause 6 of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics which requires full, fair and proper presentation of all news, opinion, and comment, as well as article 4 of the Radio Television Digital News Association of Canada’s (RTDNA) Code of Ethics relating to clandestine newsgathering. The RTDNA Code states that such techniques should only be used when necessary. The Panel found a breach of both provisions, pointing out that there was clear evidence from MAPAQ that the animals were not mistreated and that obtaining accurate information about this situation did not require Leblond to lie about his identity. The CBSC also noted that CHOI-FM has since removed Arthur le midi from its schedule.
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 7 codes which deal with ethics, equitable portrayal, violence, news and journalistic independence. Around 800 radio stations, satellite radio services, television stations and specialty and pay television services across Canada participate in the Council.
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