The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council today released its decision concerning a news report about animal abuse aired on CHEK News at Five on July 19, 2010. The lead story on that newscast dealt with the death of a family of raccoons in Esquimalt, British Columbia. It was reported that an individual in the neighbourhood had killed a mother and a baby raccoon by beating them with a hockey stick, and that the SPCA was investigating the incident. The report named the husband, who had allegedly beaten the animals, and his wife, who had not herself been connected to the incident, and provided their civic address.
As to the second issue, the invasion of privacy, the Panel readily acknowledged the passing of the first of the two tests essential to any justification of a journalistic invasion of the privacy of individuals, namely, the public interest in the story about the killing of the raccoons; however, the Panel considered that the broadcaster failed the second test, namely, the reasonableness of the infringement. In finding a breach of Article 4 of the RTNDA Code of (Journalistic) Ethics, the Panel concluded that
the naming of the husband, who, it was claimed, had killed the animals, and the wife, who had no connection whatsoever to the events constituted a breach of their privacy. Had the police laid charges or judicial proceedings been begun, that conclusion may well have been different (with respect to the naming of the husband). In the absence of either, the identification of the individuals infringed their right to privacy. The fact that their names were removed from later broadcasts of the story does not alleviate the broadcaster of responsibility for the stories it ran with their names included.
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