Stabbing footage aired without warning violated code: CBSC

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) says CTV Toronto violated several codes when it aired cell phone footage of a stabbing without warning to viewers.

The CBSC decision comes following viewer complaints about a report broadcast Sept. 12, 2019 on CTV News at 6.  The story in question involved a Kingston, ON man, who had stabbed several victims earlier in the day, one fatally. The perpetrator also died after stabbing himself in the neck.

Filmed from a distance across the street, the footage aired did not clearly show the faces of two individuals involved in a struggle. Two people were seen falling to the ground and then one clearly making two stabbing motions into the side of the other.

The CBSC received five complaints about the broadcast, with a single viewer upset that the footage was aired without a warning.

The CBSC’s English-Language Panel concluded that the footage, as presented, of a real stabbing taking place was disturbing and jarring, and that CTV failed to provide proper context and set-up to the video, including a warning to viewers prior to airing the clip.  

CTV was found in breach of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Violence Code and the Radio Television Digital News Association of Canada’s (RTDNA) Code of Journalistic Ethics.

“The Panel considers that with the proper editing and context as well as the inclusion of a viewer advisory it would have been possible to include video footage of the incident. After all, this was a stabbing that occurred in broad daylight in Kingston, Ontario. Prior to airing the video, the broadcaster should have considered the graphicness of the segment and whether this was necessary or relevant to the story; in other words, the broadcaster needed to exercise the restraint and sensitivity required under the RTDNA Code of Journalistic Ethics,” reads the CBSC decision.

The Panel also noted that CTV recognized that “Both the airing of the video and the omission of a warning were human errors which we take extremely seriously” and that the broadcast constituted a “serious error in judgment.”


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