Incidental Appearance of Person in News Report Does Not Breach Privacy, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, September 14, 2016 - The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a news report broadcast on CTV Toronto (CFTO-DT) on December 16, 2015 during CTV News at Six.  The CBSC concluded that the brief appearance of a company’s employee in footage filmed at the company offices did not violate the privacy provision of the Radio Television Digital News Association of Canada’s Code of Ethics.

The CTV report was about the difficulties finding housing in Toronto experienced by Syrian refugees. CTV investigated claims that some property managers were asking for a year’s worth of rent payments and employment records, which the refugees did not have.  A CTV reporter and cameraperson visited the offices of a property management company and a few people who worked there appeared momentarily on screen.  One of those employees complained to the CBSC that she had not been informed that she was being filmed and objected to the use of her image without her consent.

In its response to the complaint, CTV pointed out that the reporter had clearly identified himself and the camera was visible. The station also pointed out that the woman was not identified in the segment and only appeared for seven seconds, three of which had her obscured by the reporter standing in front of her.  The complainant argued that the amount of time she was shown on screen did not lessen the broadcast’s impact on her.

The CBSC’s English-Language Panel examined the complaint under Article 4 of the 2011 version of the RTDNA Code of Ethics.  That Article states that newsgathering shall not infringe privacy unless it is in the public interest and clandestine newsgathering should only be used when necessary.

The Panel first concluded that no clandestine techniques had been used because the camera was clearly visible and there is no obligation to announce specifically that the camera is recording. Second, it concluded that the broadcast did not infringe the employee’s privacy because she was not named or otherwise identified, her voice was not audible, and the footage was taken in a location accessible to the public.  The story was in the public interest.  The station was not required to obtain her consent to film her or air the footage in such circumstances.  It, therefore, did not violate the RTDNA Code of 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 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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All CBSC decisions, Codes, links to members’ and other web sites, and related information are available on the CBSC’s website at . For more information, please contact the CBSC National Chair, Andrée Noël, at or CBSC Executive Director, John MacNab, at or by telephone at (613) 233-4607.