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 the interviewee of the subject of the interview. 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.
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choose to rebroadcast an interview in whole or in part, post it online or make it accessible in website archives, or not be published at all.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, in our programming or in our online content. Nor do we pay people for eye witness 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. An exceptional request to pay an interviewee in such a context is referred to the Director. If such a request is granted as an exceptional case and the interview is broadcast or posted online, we inform the audience of the conditions under which it was obtained.
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 of public interest.
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, in person or by telephone, and record his or her statements without obtaining consent. A decision to confront a person who has refused an interview will be discussed in advance with senior editorial management. We will 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 values 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.
Recording of conversation or pre-interview with a source
We often record our conversations with information sources or potential guests for note-taking purposes. This is common practice and is generally done openly. It may also be done without the interviewee’s knowledge, on condition that:
• disclosure that the conversation is being recorded could interrupt or imperil the conversation; and
• the recording could contain useful evidence.
Whether made with or without the source’s knowledge, recordings of conversations or pre-interviews are generally not published. We are aware that publication of this type of material could undermine a source’s confidence in journalists. It could also have legal or regulatory consequences.
We accordingly take care to explore all alternatives to publication of this type of material, in keeping with our journalistic values, and will refer to senior editorial management. We will publish it only in cases when it is in the public interest and publication is the best way to ensure the accuracy, fairness and balance of our report.
Any proposal to broadcast a recording made without the knowledge of the interviewee is referred to the Director.