On-Air Identification of Politician Filing a Broadcast Complaint Did Not Violate Code, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, August 12, 2008 - The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a segment on CHMP-FM (98.5 FM, Montreal)’s morning show Puisqu’il faut se lever. The CBSC’s Quebec Regional Panel found that the station had not violated the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics by identifying an individual politician who had complained about a television host.

Puisqu’il faut se lever, hosted by Paul Arcand, is broadcast every weekday. On the December 19, 2006 episode, Arcand interviewed Stéphane Gendron, the mayor of Huntingdon, who had just been dismissed as a co-host on TQS’s public affairs program L’avocat et le diable, due, he said, to a number of complaints TQS had received about him. Arcand questioned Gendron about how he felt about his firing from TQS and his future plans. In the context of that discussion, Gendron mentioned that the complaints against him had come from “ethnic groups”, the Quebec Bar Association and two individual politicians whom he named.

One of those politicians complained that CHMP-FM should not have allowed Gendron to identify him on-air because he had not intended his complaint against TQS to be a public matter. Although broadcasters are not usually allowed to name or to provide other identifying information about complainants on-air, the Quebec Regional Panel considered that the station had not violated the Code on this occasion for several reasons. First, there was not an iota of aggression or vindictiveness in Mr. Gendron’s tone regarding the six complaints made to the CBSC. The political figures “appear to have been referred to by name solely because they would have been better known to the public, the Panel assumes.” Second, “[t]he Panel also puts considerable weight on the fact that the complainant [...] was a public figure acting as such. Not only was the complaint filed in the CHMP case sent to the CBSC on Assemblée nationale letterhead, but the original complaint [...] regarding an episode of L’avocat et le diable on TQS was also.” Third, “the complaint was initially sent to the CRTC [whose own practice is] to file the actual complaint received on the broadcaster’s public file.” The Panel concluded that the broadcast did not violate the complainant’s privacy and thus did not violate the broadcast Code.

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.