Most journalists work in their profession for noble reasons. Most of them intend to do the right thing. But sometimes – just like some police officers – they become jaded and numb to what they see on a regular basis. Media outlets are uniquely positioned in terms of their ability to inform millions of people. A gratuitous and insensitive decision by a journalist can lead to more grief and trauma, and foster a more cynical society.
The following has been submitted to the Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council in relation to a CHEK News segment that was broadcast on September 11, 2017:
Dear Sir or Ma’am,
I am writing to express my concern and disappointment regarding the decision by CHEK News to broadcast security camera footage of a fatal motorcycle collision.
The news clip even included a close up / enhanced replay showing [graphic description of collision removed].
The clip was broadcast on the 5pm news. No viewer advisory was shown before the clip. The clip currently remains on the CHEK News web site: [link removed]
Following the CHEK News broadcast, the police department investigating the collision took the rare and unusual step of publicly criticizing CHEK News by posting the following message on Twitter:
@Saanich Police: “Can’t believe you obtained the video & then aired the death of someone on your newscast. Insensitive to the #yyj family, friends & coworkers”
I wish to echo the concerns expressed by the Saanich Police Department. It is one thing to show the aftermath of a collision, it is another matter entirely to broadcast the serious injury or death of a motorcyclist on the air.
I note that in a decision released earlier this year, the Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council determined that a violent sci-fi show should be broadcast at 9pm instead of 8pm. The CBSC also determined that the show required viewer advisories. I would respectfully suggest that the same criteria – at a minimum – should apply to a community television station that wishes to broadcast the death of a real person who lived in that very same community.
I believe that CHEK News violated the following provisions of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Violence Code (1993):
6.1 Broadcasters shall use appropriate editorial judgment in the reporting of, and the pictorial representation of violence, aggression or destruction within their news and public affairs programming.
6.2 Caution shall be used in the selection of, and repetition of, video which depicts violence.
6.3 Broadcasters shall advise viewers in advance of showing scenes of extra-ordinary violence, or graphic reporting on delicate subject matter such as sexual assault or court action related to sexual crimes, particularly during afternoon or early evening newscasts and updates when children could be viewing.
Please note that I am submitting this complaint as a concerned citizen. These are my own personal views and they do not represent the official views of any organization or employer.