Quick Correction of Small Inaccurary in a News Report Leads To a Finding of No Breach by Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, August 31, 1998 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a news report which was broadcast by CITY-TV as part of its CityPulse News. The report concerned a drug bust in the West End of Toronto which was originally reported by CITY-TV as having occurred in the Parkdale neighbourhood. A viewer complained of this inaccuracy, stating that her neighbourhood was being unfairly singled out by CITY-TV.

The Ontario Regional Council considered the complaint under the Codes of Ethics of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) and the Radio Television News Directors Association (RTNDA). The Council found that the generalized statement that the drug bust had occurred in Parkdale, as opposed to the West End of Toronto, was made inadvertently and that the inaccuracy was not so significant as to constitute a breach of the Codes.

In the Council’s view, absolute perfection is a goal to strive for, but not one which can or should, at all times, be enforced. Just as the law does not generally deal with trifles, honest broadcast errors, particularly those which are rapidly put right, cannot reasonably be the object of CBSC sanction. After all, the pace of broadcasting, particularly news broadcasting, in the electronic age is such that inadvertent errors can be expected to occur from time to time. The issue for the public and the CBSC must, in general, surely be what the broadcaster does with such an error when made aware of it.

The Council noted that the broadcaster revised its news report by removing any reference to Parkdale in the very next newscast. In its view, this was sufficient to meet the requirement of the RTNDA Code of (Journalistic) Ethics that errors be “publicly corrected”.

Canada’s private broadcasters have created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, gender portrayal and television violence by which they expect their members will abide. They also created the CBSC, which is the self-regulatory body with the responsibility of administering those Codes, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic practices created by the Radio Television News Directors Association Canada (RTNDA). More than 430 radio and 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 World Wide Web at www.cbsc.ca. For more information, please contact the National Chair of the CBSC, Ron Cohen, at (###) ###-####.