Ottawa, February 7, 1997 -- The B.C. Regional Council of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a newscast aired on CHBC-TV in Kelowna.
The newscast concerned a couple who had purchased a home, only to find later it had a dry well. The couple filed a lawsuit against the previous owner of the home, but had no success in collecting the amount of their judgement. CHBC-TV's news reporters visited the previous owner (the defendant) at his home and attempted to interview him; however, he refused a formal interview at the time and indicated to reporters, taping the scene, that he would speak with them the next day. The report broadcast by the station described the events, showed the clip with the dialogue between the defendant and the reporter, and discussed the general issue of the difficulties plaintiffs encounter when trying to collect their court awards.
The defendant wrote to the CBSC to express his concern that the news crew entered his private property, unannounced and uninvited, and broadcast images of his family and home. CHBC-TV replied that reporting on the story was in the public interest and, while the station's news crew would enter private property to conduct interviews, it would leave if requested, which it did in this case. The viewer, unsatisfied with this response, asked that the CBSC refer the matter to its B.C. Regional Council for adjudication.
Council members viewed a tape of the segment and reviewed the complaint under the Radio Television News Directors Association Code of Ethics, which requires broadcasters to respect the dignity and privacy of people with whom they deal, and to recognize their right and responsibility to provide informed analysis on public events. In its decision (attached), the B.C. Council affirmed that the report was, indeed, in the public interest. In the Council's words, "no story is, after all, told in a vacuum, unrelated to real people and real events." Moreover, the Council added that the interview itself had not been conducted in a clandestine or misleading way. According to the Council, "in this CHBC-TV case, the complainant/defendant was a willing, if not blasé, participant. That willingness to be interviewed on the following day was declared, both at the time of the kitchen window interview as used in the clip and in the subsequent letter of complaint...." Thus, Council decided that CHBC-TV did not breach the code.
Nearly 400 private sector radio and television stations from across Canada are members of the Council. In addition to administering industry codes on journalistic ethics, the CBSC administers the Voluntary Code Regarding Violence on Television, the Sex-Role Portrayal Code, and the Code of Ethics.
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