Misidentification of Video Clips in Information Programming Violates Code, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, January 28, 2009 - The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released two decisions (Link 1, Link 2) concerning the misidentification of a video clip broadcast during information programming.  CTV Newsnet, on an episode of its public affairs program Mike Duffy Live on March 24, 2008, left the impression that it was Chinese police suppressing Tibetan protestors in the video clip when in fact it was Nepalese police.  In dealing with substantially the same issue in a news report broadcast on March 29, Global Ontario (CIII-TV) actually labelled the video clip as Tibet, not Nepal.  In both cases, the CBSC found a violation of the accuracy provisions of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics and the Radio Television News Directors Association of Canada (RTNDA – The Association of Electronic Journalists) Code of (Journalistic) Ethics.  Global Ontario, however, aired a correction to its report, so it was not required to announce the CBSC’s decision.

In the lead-up to the Summer Olympics 2008 in Beijing China, there was much public discussion about China’s human rights record, particularly in relation to that country’s treatment of Tibet and that region’s people.  China’s Ambassador to Canada, Lu Shumin, appeared on the March 24th episode of Mike Duffy Live to discuss the controversy.  During the interview, Newsnet showed a video clip of protestors wearing “Free Tibet” bandanas being dragged and pushed into a truck by police.  While the location of the protest was not identified, the context left the distinct impression that it was Chinese police featured in the clip.

A similar video clip was aired during Global Ontario’s March 29 News Final broadcast.  In that case, the caption on the clip identified the location as Tibet.  One viewer complained about both broadcasts, indicating that the clip was actually footage from Nepal featuring Nepalese police.

The CTV Newsnet broadcast was examined by the CBSC’s National Specialty Services Panel, while the Global Ontario broadcast was examined by the Ontario Regional Panel.  Both Panels found violations of Clause 5 (News) of the CAB Code of Ethics and Article 1 (Accuracy) of the RTNDA Code of (Journalistic) Ethics.  The Panels stated:  “Accuracy was essential.  It was not provided.  As a result, there was a disservice to [...] the Canadian audience [...]” because “[t]he accurate juxtaposition of visuals and words in the television context are key to disseminating news [...].”

In the case of Global Ontario, the CBSC did not require the station to announce the CBSC’s decision (as it customarily does) because Global Ontario had aired a correction to its story two days after the original broadcast.

Canada’s private broadcasters have themselves created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, equitable portrayal, television violence and journalistic independence by which they expect the members of their profession will abide.  In 1990, they also created the CBSC, which is the self-regulatory body with the responsibility of administering those professional broadcast Codes, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic ethics created by the RTNDA – Association of Electronic Journalists in 1970.  More than 690 radio stations, satellite radio services, 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 CBSC's website at www.cbsc.ca. For more information, please contact the CBSC National Chair, Mme Andrée Noël CBSC Executive Director, John MacNab