Misleading Promos in Violation of Broadcast Code

Misleading Promos in Violation of Broadcast Code,
Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, July 16, 2008 - The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning promotional liners broadcast on CILQ-FM (Q107, Toronto) in early 2007.  The promos advertised that, on Q107, “You’re never more than two minutes away from great classic rock”.  There were, however, times of the day when there was considerably more than two minutes between songs.  The CBSC’s Ontario Regional Panel concluded that the promos were misleading, contrary to Clause 12 of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics.

A listener complained to the CBSC that Q107 did not deliver on the promise contained in its promotional liners, which promised, “You’re never more than two minutes away from great classic rock.”  He provided a block of time from one particular day as an example which demonstrated that there are sometimes considerably more than two minutes between songs, particularly during the morning show.  Q107 explained that the “two minutes away” did not apply during the morning show, so it did not air the promo during that program.  The complainant argued that the use of the word “never” in the promo implied that that would be the case throughout the day.

The Ontario Regional Panel examined the complaint under Clause 12 of the CAB Code of Ethics which requires that “particular care shall be taken to ensure that [promotions] are not misleading [...] and [...] promises made are what they are represented to be.”  The Panel disagreed with the complainant’s interpretation of the words “two minutes away”, but nevertheless concluded that the promos violated the Code.  The Panel made the following observations:

The two minutes can, after all, run in either direction.  In other words, one could still, quite legitimately, be four minutes away and still be within two minutes from the song that just ended and, upon the expiry of that two minutes, be within two minutes of the song about to begin.  [...]  The broadcaster created a greater problem for itself, though, by not qualifying or restricting other words in the promo.  By saying, and reiterating, never, without excluding the very large block of time between 5:00am-9:00am, it appears to the Panel that it was purposefully luring listeners by the promise of frequent music.

The Panel also noted that the station modified the promo after receiving the complaint.

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 685 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