CBC/Radio-Canada president and CEO Catherine Tait says the public broadcaster had no choice but launch legal action against the federal Conservative Party over its use of CBC/Radio-Canada materials in partisan advertising. (iStock)

CBC defends decision to sue Conservative Party over election ads

Journalistic independence is such an important principle that Canada’s public broadcaster had no choice but to launch legal action against the Conservative Party for using excerpts of its on air reports and programs in partisan advertising, says the head of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

“All public broadcasters depend on public trust,” CBC/Radio-Canada president and CEO Catherine Tait said in a statement released Wednesday. “They can’t exist without it. People must have confidence that the public broadcaster and its journalists are impartial; that they exist to serve the public and not the government or any political party.”

That’s the reason why CBC/Radio-Canada, like other media organizations, does not allow any political party to take excerpts of its journalism and use them out of context, in partisan advertising, Tait said.

“Using our content, and footage of our journalists out of context, risks creating the impression that CBC/Radio-Canada supports the messages in the advertising,” Tait said. “Even worse, it leverages our reputation for trust and impartiality in order to give legitimacy to a partisan position.”

A matter of public trust

Such partisan use of CBC/Radio-Canada materials can undermine the public’s trust and is particularly dangerous in a digital environment where news organizations are increasingly attacked by actors who want to weaken support for credible, trusted news, she added.

“CBC/Radio-Canada does not take sides in election campaigns,” Tait said. “But if we allow our material to be used for partisan purposes, then we risk appearing to have done precisely that.”

She said the public broadcaster made clear to all political parties at the start of the current election campaign that it will not tolerate the use of CBC/Radio-Canada content in partisan ads and it would take action against any party if that happened.

However, on Oct. 4, the Conservative Party published a video on its website, Facebook page and YouTube page. The video contained excerpts from an “At Issue” segment from CBC’s The National; a comment from a CBC journalist on Power and Politics and commentary from The National.

It also contained two excerpts from a CBC Politics broadcast of a town hall event, which were edited to appear as if they were a single segment.

“This was a ‘mashup’ of our journalistic content to serve a partisan purpose,” Tait said, adding that the excerpts were taken out of context.

A partisan tactic

On Oct. 7 and 8, the Conservative Party published a series of tweets on its English and French Twitter accounts including video excerpts from the English-language Federal Leaders’ Debate, one of them with the CBC News Network logo, and the Party’s own commentary.

This misuse of CBC/Radio-Canada content risked distorting the public broadcaster’s impartial role in the political process, Tait argued.

On Oct. 7 and 8, CBC/Radio-Canada wrote to the Conservative Party requesting that they stop using CBC/Radio-Canada material in their political advertising and partisan messages, Tait said.

The Conservative Party did not comply and it was only after CBC/Radio-Canada threatened to seek a court injunction to stop their continued use, that they removed the ads and tweets on Oct. 10, Tait said.

“This tactic of publishing material without permission, for several days, and then complying with the rules only when faced with Court action, also serves a partisan interest,” she said.

During the 2015 election campaign, several parties used CBC/Radio-Canada content in partisan advertising.

Not ‘fair dealing’

Tait also defended including the names of The National co-host Rosemary Barton and parliamentary bureau reporter John Paul Tasker as applicants in the filing, along with the corporation in the legal action against the Conservative Party.

Critics of that move by the CBC management say it damaged the perception of impartiality of these journalists, especially since Barton was one of the moderators of the English-language leaders’ debate.

“We do not agree, and in the interest of clarity, we are removing their names from the court application,” Tait said. “It is CBC/Radio-Canada that is taking this action in order to protect the independence of our journalists. We have absolute confidence in their ability to report fairly and to hold politicians – all politicians – to account on behalf of Canadians.”

Critics of CBC’s legal action also argue that under the “fair dealing” exemption contained in Canada’s Copyright Act, parties should be able to use journalistic material created by the public broadcaster, which is financed by the taxpayers’ money, for partisan ads.

Tait said the use of CBC/Radio-Canada materials for partisan ads does not fit the definition of “fair dealing” and it meets none of the exemptions permitted under the Act.

“No organization wants to take any political party to court,” she said. “We have made every effort to avoid having to take this action. But the likelihood of a repeat of this tactic even during the current campaign, and the damage it can do to the confidence Canadians have in our journalism, requires that we respond.”

Categories: Politics
Tags: , , ,

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

@*@ Comments

Leave a Reply

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet Netiquette guidelines.

When you express your personal opinion in an online forum, you must be as courteous as if you were speaking with someone face-to-face. Insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. To disagree with an opinion, an idea or an event is one thing, but to show disrespect for other people is quite another. Great minds don’t always think alike—and that’s precisely what makes online dialogue so interesting and valuable.

Netiquette is the set of rules of conduct governing how you should behave when communicating via the Internet. Before you post a message to a blog or forum, it’s important to read and understand these rules. Otherwise, you may be banned from posting.

  1. RCInet.ca’s online forums are not anonymous. Users must register, and give their full name and place of residence, which are displayed alongside each of their comments. RCInet.ca reserves the right not to publish comments if there is any doubt as to the identity of their author.
  2. Assuming the identity of another person with intent to mislead or cause harm is a serious infraction that may result in the offender being banned.
  3. RCInet.ca’s online forums are open to everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  4. Comments that are defamatory, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist, or that disparage an ethnic origin, religious affiliation or age group will not be published.
  5. In online speak, writing in ALL CAPS is considered yelling, and may be interpreted as aggressive behaviour, which is unpleasant for the people reading. Any message containing one or more words in all caps (except for initialisms and acronyms) will be rejected, as will any message containing one or more words in bold, italic or underlined characters.
  6. Use of vulgar, obscene or objectionable language is prohibited. Forums are public places and your comments could offend some users. People who use inappropriate language will be banned.
  7. Mutual respect is essential among users. Insulting, threatening or harassing another user is prohibited. You can express your disagreement with an idea without attacking anyone.
  8. Exchanging arguments and opposing views is a key component of healthy debate, but it should not turn into a dialogue or private discussion between two users who address each other without regard for the other participants. Messages of this type will not be posted.
  9. Radio Canada International publishes contents in five languages. The language used in the forums has to be the same as the contents we publish or in one of the two official languages, English or French. The usage of other languages, with the exception of some words, is forbidden. Messages that are off-topic will not be published.
  10. Making repetitive posts disrupts the flow of discussions and will not be tolerated.
  11. Adding images or any other type of file to comments is forbidden. Including hyperlinks to other websites is allowed, as long as they comply with netiquette. Radio Canada International  is in no way responsible for the content of such sites, however.
  12. Copying and pasting text written by someone else, even if you credit the author, is unacceptable if that text makes up the majority of your comment.
  13. Posting any type of advertising or call to action, in any form, to Radio Canada International  forums is prohibited.
  14. All comments and other types of content are moderated before publication. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to refuse any comment for publication.
  15. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to close a forum at any time, without notice.
  16. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to amend this code of conduct (netiquette) at any time, without notice.
  17. By participating in its online forums, you allow Radio Canada International to publish your comments on the web for an indefinite time. This also implies that these messages will be indexed by Internet search engines.
  18. Radio Canada International has no obligation to remove your messages from the web if one day you request it. We invite you to carefully consider your comments and the consequences of their posting.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *