Irrelevant Information Provided Unecessarily In Reporting On Youth’s Death

Ottawa, October 20, 1997 -- The Atlantic Regional Council of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) ruled today that CKEN-AM breached an industry code of ethics by referring to irrelevant background information.

During its newscast, the broadcaster reported on the death of a young woman in a traffic accident, also providing information on a previous fatal motor vehicle accident in which the deceased had been the driver. The deceased's family wrote to protest this "malicious and unforgivable act" which, in their view, smeared and humiliated the name of the deceased.

The broadcaster stated that it regretted causing any grief but that it had had no malicious intent and was simply reporting on the facts. In its deliberations, the Atlantic Regional Council weighed the dignity and privacy of the victim and her family against the need to disclose details of the previous accident which had not been reported in the media and was not publicly known. The Council accepted that the reporting was accurate, without exaggeration and without malice; however, "broadcasters also have an obligation, when they wish to include other material than the straight facts of the story they are reporting, to restrict their presentation of such material to issues of 'relevant background information.’”

This report breached the news and public affairs provisions of the Radio and Television News Directors Association Code of Ethics by "presenting irrelevant background information that had the effect of unnecessarily harming the feelings, if not also the reputation, of the deceased and her family." The broadcaster is required to announce the results of this decision in the form prescribed within the text of the attached decision.

The CBSC Atlantic Regional Council is composed of members of the public and broadcasters. The Chair, Paul H. Schurman, represents broadcasters. The Vice-Chair, a public representative, is Zoe Rideout. Carolyn Thomas and Roger Augustine represent the public, while Kaye MacAulay and Carol McDade are broadcasters. CBSC National Chair Ron Cohen participated in the decision on an ad hoc basis in the absence of Roger Augustine.

In addition to administering the CAB Code of Ethics, the CBSC administers broadcasting industry codes on violence, gender portrayal and journalistic ethics. Some 400 private sector radio and television stations and specialty services from across Canada are members of the CBSC. This and all other decisions of the CBSC, the Codes and considerably more related information are available on the World Wide Web at

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