Conflicts of Interest

  • Introduction

    As the public broadcaster, our reputation is the foundation of our credibility. That reputation is dependent on the actions of each and every one of us. The public’s trust is ultimately shaped by our personal behaviour, in our work, and in our outside activities.

    CBC’s journalists are, first and foremost, expected to be independent and impartial. This means that our primary allegiance is to the public. Any conflict, real or perceived, between that allegiance and our personal or professional interests risks corroding the trust placed in us by Canadians.

    This means we strive to avoid actions that create an impression of partisanship or of advocacy for a cause. It means we consider carefully what organizations we associate with. It means that we are mindful of our public statements. And it means we recognize that our personal and business relationships have the potential to affect the perception of our work.

    To guide our actions, we refer to the code of conduct and the corporate policies on conflict of interest and on political activity, and comply with their requirements.

    Dealing with any real or perceived conflicts of interest requires transparency. We have a duty to disclose such situations to our supervisor and to strive to resolve any problems that may arise from them.

  • Outside Appearances and Projects

    Before a journalist writes or contributes to a book, or an outside production, editorial management must be consulted.

    When deciding whether to cover books or outside productions involving CBC employees, we base our choices on public interest, not personal relationships. Professional association with CBC should offer neither advantage nor disadvantage to the author.

    When an employee is asked to participate as a speaker, panelist or moderator for an outside group or professional association, prior approval is needed from management. Management makes those decisions based on established criteria and policies.

    Prior approval is also needed from management to serve on the Boards of Directors of voluntary and professional associations and organizations

    Outside appearances do not change our obligation to impartiality. We do not promote any particular point of view on matters of public debate.

  • Free Travel

    Accepting free travel to help in newsgathering, creation of content or for research puts us in a conflict of interest.

    We do sometimes face situations where there is a public interest to cover a story, and the only means to get there is through an outside organization or individual.

    Our practice in these situations is to ask for an accounting of costs and to reimburse them. These exceptional circumstances require the approval of the Director.

    If our travel costs are covered by an outside organization or individual that we could not reimburse, we mention that fact in our coverage.

  • Covering Ourselves

    Our standards do not change when the CBC (or a CBC Partner) becomes the story. Public interest guides our choices.

    Although there is a potential conflict of interest, normal techniques of newsgathering and decisions about the nature of coverage are the most useful way to ensure journalistic integrity.

    This means that there should be clear editorial separation between those people reporting on the stories and those whose priority it is to protect the interests of the Corporation, or its partner.

    This also means that reporters and editors involved in the coverage must remove themselves from insider briefings relevant to this story.

  • Covering a Story Involving Family Members

    Integrity is one of our journalistic principles. We refrain from any involvement with stories in which a member of our immediate family (including in-laws) has a strong stake. It is the responsibility of the employee to inform his/her supervisor of the potential conflict.

    In the rare instance that such a conflict is unavoidable, news managers and the employee will develop a protocol to protect the integrity of our journalism.

  • Gifts and Hospitality

    Journalists should avoid accepting gifts, which includes meals and drinks. There is some discretion allowed for snacks or meals provided as hospitality at news events.

    Tickets for the purpose of doing reviews or covering an event are not considered gifts and can be accepted.

    In some cases, attendance at events may be appropriate even if no coverage is planned, in order for a reporter to keep current.

    Journalists should consult their supervisor in advance before attending any such event.

    Awards for journalistic work may be accepted. Awards given by non-journalistic organizations may also be accepted, but only if approved by senior news management.

  • Personal Use of Social Media

    When we use social media, we should remember two of our principles: impartiality and integrity. We recognize there are specific challenges raised because social media create an intersection of personal and professional roles and identities.

    With that in mind, our journalists – including casual and temporary staff as well as interns – should consider the following:

    • In our social media activity, we are mindful of our professional association with CBC.
    • We maintain professional decorum and strive to do nothing that could bring CBC into disrepute.
    • We understand that what we say and do on social media can reflect on ourselves, our colleagues and on CBC as a whole.
    • In particular, the expression of personal opinions on controversial subjects, including politics, can undermine the credibility of CBC journalism and erode the trust of our audience. Therefore, we refrain from expressing such opinions in profiles or posts for any account which identifies or associates us with CBC/Radio-Canada. The question we should ask ourselves: if someone saw the content of this account, could they determine that we work at CBC?
    • We recognize that nothing we express on the Internet can be considered truly private. So we understand that comments on accounts we intend to be exclusively personal and private can damage our personal credibility, and that of CBC as a whole.
    • We consider perceptions created when we share, republish, link, or interact with other people’s content. We strive to avoid having such actions appear to be endorsements. When appropriate and possible, we provide context.
    • We understand that should our social media activity create a perception of bias, it would influence decisions editorial leaders make on who can cover certain stories.
  • Interaction with the Audience

    CBC endeavours to engage with Canadians, especially on digital platforms. We promote civil discourse. When that is not being observed, our employees may consult with their supervisor about discontinuing interactions with certain individuals. When possible, we do so without unduly restricting access to our journalism.

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