The Failure to Retain Logger Tapes Is a Serious Breach of Broadcast Standards

Ottawa, August 31, 2001 -- The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning CKX-FM (Winnipeg)’s broadcast of certain jokes about sufferers of psychiatric disabilities during its morning show. According to a listener these comments were “highly offensive”. The Prairie Regional Panel considered the complaint under the CBSC’s General Principles with respect to the retention of logger tapes as well as the human rights provision of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics. Since the broadcaster failed to provide the CBSC with the requested logger tapes of the program, the Panel did not have the opportunity to fully consider the substantive nature of the complaint. The Panel found this particularly regrettable since the retention of logger tapes is a requirement under both the CBSC’s terms of membership and the corresponding requirements of the CRTC.

While the broadcaster provided no explanation for the loss of the tapes, it did provide an excerpt from “The Bull Sheet” from which the announcer’s comments were drawn. This was, however well intentioned, inadequate since the Panel found that these notes were missing the essential dialogue and context that would have enabled the Panel to determine whether the host’s comments did or did not breach the broadcaster Codes. Consequently, the Panel concluded that “it is perfectly clear in this case that by failing to provide the logger tapes the broadcaster is in breach of its undertakings as a member of the CBSC.” The Panel explained that

its expectation is one of result, not of best efforts. Barring a natural catastrophe of the nature of a fire, broadcasters must retain and provide the tapes which are the essence of the self-regulatory, and regulatory, investigations. The failure to comply constitutes a breach of one of the broadcaster’s fundamental obligations as a member of the CBSC.

Although the Panel did not have the required evidence to thoroughly investigate the substantive nature of the complaint, it found itself “in a situation in which it appears unfair to the complainant to simply decide that it can make no decision.” The Panel therefore assumed, on the basis of the complainant’s concerns, that the announcer comments constituted a breach of the human rights provision of the CAB Code of Ethics that no abusively or unduly discriminatory comments be made regarding persons identifiable on the basis of their mental disability. In that respect, the Panel concluded that:

If, on the face of the complaint, it does appear that the complainant’s concerns could reasonably result in a finding of breach on the substantive issue, in addition to the obvious breach of broadcaster standards by reason of the failure to retain the tapes themselves, the Panel will find against the broadcaster on these grounds as well. While not on all levels a satisfactory resolution of the problem of lost logger tapes, it seems unreasonable to deny the complainant’s allegations by the unilateral mishandling of the material which the broadcaster is obliged to retain and which, ironically, might work to its own advantage in defending its broadcasting choices.

Canada’s private broadcasters have themselves created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, gender portrayal and television violence 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 practices first created by the Radio Television News Directors Association of Canada (RTNDA) in 1970. More than 470 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 For more information, please contact the National Chair of the CBSC, Ron Cohen, at (###) ###-####.