Consumer Information: Principles
Consumer information programs are intended to help consumers make informed choices of goods and services or to show how to solve certain problems. This is consistent with the mandate to inform citizens so that they may make decisions on public issues.
The conclusions set out in this kind of reporting are based on thorough research and not on personal opinion. Research for such programming will be meticulous and will be carried out as much as possible in consultation with competent organizations and specialist
Journalists exploring a subject are often confronted with facts or interpretations that require confirmation by more formal research – laboratory testing, surveys, focus-group interviewing, etc. This type of study should be carried out in accordance with basic rules of research or with the support of credible, independent institutions or experts. Any proposal to test products and services will be submitted for approval to the Director.
In the case of research by polling and focus groups, the protocols will be developed in consultation with the CBC Research Department and are submitted for approval to the Director.
Our programs sometimes use specialized experts and/or laboratories to test products and services. Before publishing results, we consult with the Director to consider whether additional verification or testing is appropriate. We will strive to present to the public an overview of the methodology used, as well as the name of the laboratory and/or experts involved
Clandestine Methods: Principles
In journalism, clandestine methods include: recording a scene or statements with hidden technical devices; conducting an interview without first identifying oneself as a journalist; asking someone else to gather information on our behalf using any of these methods; and using concealment techniques when we gather digital information.
Since we are aware that unwarranted use of clandestine methods could impair the credibility of our reporting, we will ascertain beforehand that the method chosen clearly serves the public interest and is lawful. We will consult appropriate editorial management on the method we propose to use and its purpose; as well, whether material will be gathered mainly for research on the subject or for publication in our report.
Hidden Cameras and Microphones: Justification for Recording
We will hide our recording equipment only in circumstances where we believe it would be difficult or impossible to gather the information by acting more openly. We will consult with the Managing Editor before undertaking clandestine recordings.
We may choose to conceal our recording equipment in a public place – anywhere the public has unrestricted access – to record behavior that is a matter of public interest and that the presence of the camera might alter.
We may also choose to do so where a hostile crowd or individuals threaten the safety of journalists so that our ability to do our work would be hindered.
Before bringing hidden recording equipment into private spaces, to which access is restricted, we will ensure the following:
- We have credible information indicating the likelihood of illegal or antisocial activity or an abuse of trust, or indicating that such activity likely exists within the sector of society or industry being investigated;
- We are confident that an open attempt to gather the information sought would fail; and,
- The information sought would be useful evidence for a demonstration of illegal or antisocial activity or abuse of trust.
We will consult with the Managing Editor to confirm our assessment of the situation, and will take care to comply with legal restrictions before undertaking clandestine recordings in private places.
Hidden Cameras and Microphones: Justification of Publication of Material Gathered
Clandestinely recorded material will be carefully evaluated. Any proposed broadcast or online posting of a clandestine recording must be approved by the Director.
The following are examples where clandestine recording and publication of material could be warranted:
Material recorded in a public place:
Material gathered in a public place to illustrate behaviour, attitudes or reactions that would otherwise be impossible to document. We will ensure that the editing of the material results in a faithful representation of the reality being reported.
We will also take into account certain concepts specific to Quebec civil law, such as the right to one’s likeness, and ensure, in consultation with the Law Department when in doubt, that we properly understand the scope of these concepts and how they apply in specific cases.
Material illustrating an illegal or antisocial activity or an abuse of trust:
If selected excerpts of the material gathered reveal illegal or antisocial activity or an abuse of trust, we will attempt to confront the person exposed in the clandestine recording and will take his or her reaction into account in our report.
Clandestine recording by a third party:
Sometimes a person outside CBC provides a recording made without the knowledge of one or more of the persons recorded. We first and foremost seek to verify that the recording was made lawfully. We will also seek to verify its authenticity.
We will ensure that the editing of the material results in a faithful representation of the reality being reported on.
If the recording reveals illegal or antisocial activity or an abuse of trust or contains information of public interest, its publication in whole or in part may be warranted, provided we have attempted to confront the persons recorded and have taken their reactions into account in our report. Publication of a clandestine recording provided by a third party requires Director approval.
Concealment of Identity as a Journalist
We generally practice our reporting openly. However, there are times, while investigating a matter of public interest, a reporter will conceal his or her occupation and true purpose and pose as an ordinary citizen. We will consult with the Director before doing so. Our overriding priority will be sound public service journalism. Whatever the means used to contact a source without identifying oneself as a journalist (in person, by telephone, by email, through social networks), we will attempt to confront the source and take his or her reaction into account in our report.
When the investigation bears on illegal or antisocial behaviour or abuse of trust and the gathering of information of public interest, the journalist may need to infiltrate an organization to get first-hand information. We take into account possible safety issues for the journalist involved.
Before resorting to infiltration we will ensure that the following conditions are met:
- We have a credible source that gives us reason to believe a subject of our reporting is behaving illegally or antisocially or abusing a trust;
- An open approach would have little chance of obtaining the information sought or of confirming the behaviour we seek to report;
- Infiltration allows us to gather the best evidence of the behaviour in question.
Any plan to infiltrate will be submitted to the Director for prior approval.
Intercepting Conference Calls
We respect the privacy of individuals, groups and organizations when they conduct conversations via conference calls.
As a rule, we do not attempt to hack in, or listen in without being openly invited to participate in a conference call. However, if a participant on the call offers to share the information after the fact, the principles for our treatment of sources would guide our use of the material.
We may consider listening in or recording without the knowledge of all the participants, if all the following conditions have been met:
- We have been given access to the conference call with the consent of at least one participant to the call;
- We have credible information indicating the likelihood of illegal or antisocial activity or an abuse of trust;
- We are confident that an open attempt to gather the information sought would fail;
- The information sought would be useful evidence for a demonstration of illegal or antisocial activity or abuse of trust;
- We have sought prior authorization from the Director.
If the conference call was recorded, the use of the recording on air or online is subject to the conditions set in Hidden Cameras and Microphones – Justification of Publication of Material Gathered.
Responsibility and Accountability Related to Interviews
CBC takes responsibility for the consequences of its decision to publish a person’s statements in the context it chooses. When we present a person’s statements in support of our reporting of facts, we ensure that the statements have been diligently checked. In the case of comments made by a person expressing an honest opinion, we ensure that the opinion is grounded in facts bearing on a matter of public interest.
The interviewee also takes responsibility for his or her statement. As a general rule, we offer the interviewee no immunity or protection from the consequences of publication of the statements we gather.
Identification of Interviewees
We are open and straightforward when we present interviewees and their statements. We make every effort to disclose the identity of interviewees and to give the context and explanations necessary for the audience to judge the relevance and credibility of their statements. In exceptional cases and for serious cause, we may decide to withhold such information in whole or in part. In such cases we explain the situation to the audience without disclosing the information that must be kept secret.
Conduct and Use of Interviews
We inform proposed interviewees of the subject of the interview. As a general rule, if the person is scheduled to give an interview for broadcast, we do not provide in advance the questions they will be asked. That could give a false impression of spontaneity in the interviewee’s responses and unduly limit the interviewer’s ability to react to interviewee statements with supplementary questions. However, if the only way to gather information is via emails or social media, this context should be disclosed when the content is used.
We advise the interviewee of how we plan to use the interview. When an interview is recorded, it may be edited before publication for length or to select the relevant passages. At our discretion, we may choose to rebroadcast an interview in whole or in part, post it online or make it accessible in website archives, or not be published at all.
Whatever the context in which we choose to use the content of the interview, we will respect the meaning of an interviewee’s statements. We try to avoid situations where prior restraint would be agreed to or imposed.
If, for serious cause, we do agree to restrict the use that may be made of an interview, we take the necessary measures to comply with this commitment. It may be necessary to explain to the audience that such restrictions have been agreed to, so the public can assess the credibility of the interviewee’s statements.
Remuneration of Interviewees
We do not pay people for interviews used in our reporting. Nor do we pay people for eyewitness accounts or answering our questions about events in which they participated. That would compromise the credibility of our reporting. It may be acceptable to reimburse certain legitimate expenses incurred by the interviewee in order to be available for the interview. If substantial expenses are involved, the proposal is referred to the Director.
Payment of fees at recognized rates to experts or commentators is current practice and acceptable where the person comments on news or current affairs and adds context to our content without being an actor in the event or issue. In this context the payment of fees need not be reported on air.
We may also be required to pay royalties for the broadcast or reproduction of copyrighted work such as photos, video recordings, audio recordings, drawings or other material that may be relevant to an interviewee’s statements. This does not constitute payment to a source.
We do not pay politicians, their representatives or other holders of public office for participating in our broadcasts, news bulletins, reporting or online content. In addition, the law governing federal MPs and senators prohibits them from receiving any payment whatever from CBC, including reimbursements of expenses, fees or royalties), because of its status as a federal Crown corporation.
Statements Recorded Outside a Formal Interview
In the period leading up to or following an interview proper, an interviewee may make statements that are recorded and that may be pertinent to report. In such cases we inform the interviewee of our intention to make public the statements he or she made outside the formal interview and we take into account the explanations or context the interviewee may provide to us. If the interviewee objects to publication of this part of the recording, we carefully weigh the public interest of reporting the statements anyway, with consideration for the interviewee’s arguments and the effect of such a decision on the perception of the public and of potential CBC interviewees. The decision should be discussed with the Managing Editor. If we publish statements made outside a formal interview, we explain to the audience the conditions under which they were recorded.
It may happen in connection with a live broadcast that statements are picked up and broadcast without the interviewee’s being aware that he or she is on the air. Depending on the nature of the statements broadcast, it may be appropriate to give the interviewee an opportunity to clarify his or her thought or explain such statements, especially if they could cause prejudice.
Interviews Without Consent
We generally respect a person’s refusal to be interviewed. However, in the public interest we may choose to disregard the refusal, especially in investigative reporting or when a person plays a key role in an event.
In such cases, we first try to persuade the person to be interviewed. If he or she continues to refuse and we consider it essential to record his or her reaction to our questions, we may confront the person, identify ourselves as CBC journalists, and record for broadcast his or her statements without obtaining consent.
A decision to confront a person who has refused an interview will be discussed in advance with the Managing Editor, as will a decision whether to conceal the camera in such an instance. If the camera is concealed, we ask the Director before broadcasting.
We resort to this form of interview in the public interest, not simply for stylistic effect.
When we suspect a person of criminal activity or of obvious abuse, contacting this person to arrange an interview may cause that person to flee. We may then consider it necessary to confront and record this person without prior contact. This exceptional procedure requires prior authorization by the Director.
In the case of statements made by telephone, regulatory provisions may restrict the conditions under which they may be published. We will ascertain the specific application of these restrictions and consult editorial management before putting them on air.
Informing the Audience of a Refusal to be Interviewed
When a person considered necessary to a story refuses to be interviewed or provide comment, in fairness to all parties, we advise the audience of the refusal. When appropriate, we also provide the reasons given.
Editing of an Interview
Questions and answers can be excerpted from a complete interview for use in a report, intercut with narration, news footage or excerpts from other interviews. Similarly, a longer interview often needs editing to cut unnecessary passages or to fit program timing.
Whatever editing we do, we present what the interviewee said fairly and without distortion.
Request for Non-Publication
To preserve our independence, we do not grant veto power to the people we interview.
We may publish any material gathered, provided it complies with our journalistic principles and standards.
However, we undertake to seriously consider a request for non-publication. We may decide not to publish the material gathered, for instance where:
1. A person’s personal safety or job security is threatened.
2. The information gathered is no longer accurate or relevant.
Requests for non-publication are referred to the Managing Editor.
A person may consider that he or she has been wronged by one of our reports and request that we publish his or her reply.
Canadian law does not grant right of reply and CBC reserves full editorial authority over the content of all its platforms.
However, if the complaint raises new facts and that we believe these facts would impact the accuracy, fairness or balance of the main points of view featured in our report, we will ensure that this information is brought to the attention of our audiences.
Censorship and Hindrance of Freedom of the Press
We advise our audience if we are required to submit an interview to a government, judicial or military authority for clearance, whether or not the material was censored.
We will do the same if our work is hindered or controlled in whole or in part by an exercise of authority or by threats, violence or intimidation affecting the quality of the information we are able to communicate.
Children and Youth: Interviews
The participation of children (15 and younger) and youth (16 or 17) in our programs and content entails special challenges. Children and youth do not necessarily have the experience to weigh the consequences of publication of their statements. They nevertheless enjoy freedom of expression and the right to information. Their realities and concerns cannot be fully reflected without being heard in our reporting.
Parents or those exercising parental authority are often the guardians of this balance and we generally respect their judgment in this regard. However, in some cases a parent can abuse his or her authority and fail to act in the best interest of the child or youth. There are also other circumstances where it may be appropriate to allow youths to exercise their good judgment about granting an interview or otherwise participating in our programming or content, for instance when no foreseeable inconvenience or detrimental consequences for them or their family could ensue.
We carefully assess the impacts according to the specifics of each situation. We respect the will of the child or youth and we put his or her interests foremost.