CBSC rules news reports accurate and fair

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has released its decision on
two news reports aired on CTV British Columbia in May, 2009, one about
seal fur and the other about an oil spill. “The CBSC concluded that neither report contained any inaccurate, unfair
or biased information,” Broadcaster Magazine reports.

Broadcaster Magazine reports on the first newscast:

“The “Seal Fur Uniforms” report informed viewers that a motion had passed in the House of Commons to have seal fur included in Olympic uniforms as a reaction to the European Union’s decision to impose a ban on the importation of Canadian seal products.  A viewer complained that the report was inaccurate because the motion had actually referred to Olympic clothing, not athletes’ uniforms and it was only about studying the possibility of doing so.  He suggested that the wording of the report was politicized because manufacturing anything with seal fur is a controversial issue.”

The CRTC concluded:

“that the complainant has engaged in hair-splitting.  In the view of the Panel, what matters far more to audiences is the forest rather than the trees.  On that larger level, the Panel does not find the report inaccurate, misleading or even deceptive in any material sense.  […]  It begins with the notion that the motion is a motion, not a statute, in other words, the enunciation of a principle or a direction rather than the legislative fruits of a declaration of policy.  There is a chasm of difference between the two. […] The Panel acknowledges that the term “seal fur” was not a part of the motion.  It is undeniable that what was stated in the French version was “produits dérivés du loup-marin” and in the English “seal products”.  That said, the Panel is utterly unable to fathom what products derived from seals (to use the full original expression) could logically or reasonably be understood as possibly incorporated in clothing (or uniforms) other than the skin or fur.  Surely, the complainant was not trying to suggest that it could have been any of the other products of the harvesting of seals, namely, seal meat, seal blubber, seal oil (derived from the blubber), the pharmaceutical product omega-3 fatty acids, or seal organs.  It is so patently evident that what was intended in the motion was seal skin or fur that there is no need to take this argument any further”

Broadcaster reports on the second news cast:

“The “Oil Spill” report stated that an oil holding tank owned by energy company Kinder Morgan had experienced a spill that day and that this was the second spill involving the company in less than two years.  The report also included a comment from a local resident who argued that the tank should not be located so close to a residential area.  The same viewer complained that this report also contained inaccurate and biased information.  He alleged that the report had stated that Kinder Morgan had caused the first oil spill when, he explained, there were other companies and factors involved.  He also thought the inclusion of the resident’s comment was biased because the oil tank had actually occupied that location prior to the construction of the residential homes.”

Broadcaster quotes the CRTC ruling:

“With respect to the “Oil Spill” report, the Panel noted that the anchor had not used the word “caused”, but rather identified the second spill as “involving” Kinder Morgan, which was accurate.  As the Panel stated, there was not “the least attribution of fault in either the intro or the extro.  In the intro, there was a dispassionate factual observation that there had been a major oil spill involving energy giant Kinder Morgan.  The piece was not in the least focussed on any issue of fault.”  The Panel also had no problem with the inclusion of the resident’s viewpoint because it was simply a “cursory interview reflecting local residents’ concerns” regardless of the fact that the oil tank had existed first.”