The National NewsMedia Council is pleased to bring you our latest newsletter. Please click here to read a copy of our February 2017 dispatch.
Earlier today, the Public Policy Forum released its much anticipated report on the Canadian media industry. The report establishes a concrete public policy framework to address the long-term health of the Canadian media ecosystem.
You can download a copy of the report here.
The entire suite of documents that members will require for the NNC’s first annual general meeting, to be held on December 8, 2016, are now available.
Please see the appropriate links below.
We are happy to be able to distribute a copy of the NNC’s by-laws, which we approved by the board at our meeting on September 22, 2016.
You can download your copy in PDF format here.
TORONTO (23 September) — John Fraser, President and CEO of the National NewsMedia Council of Canada (NNC), announced today that Shelley Chrest of Victoria, B.C., the former director and chair of the British Columbia Press Council, and an inaugural vice chair of the NNC, has succeeded the Hon. Frances Lankin as Chair of the year-old council.
Ms. Lankin was named to the Senate of Canada earlier this year. At that time she announced she would step down from her formative role in the country’s first national news media council as soon as her successor could be named. The change was part of a quarterly meeting by members of the council on Sept. 22.
Mr. Fraser also announced that Joanne De Laurentiis, the former President and CEO of the Investment Funds Institute of Canada (IFIC), was elected a new vice chair (central) of the organization. Moreover, the highly-accomplished Ann Dillon was elected a new public council member.
The NNC, which was created when four former Canadian press councils joined together to create a national body in September 2015, is made up of eight public members and seven members from the news media industry. Its task is to guarantee ethical standards in media coverage and to educate the public.
The next meeting of the National NewsMedia council will be held on Thursday, September 22, 2016 at 9:30 am EDT, in Toronto.
Please find below the meeting’s agenda and other documents that will be discussed.
- Meeting agenda
- Minutes from previous meeting
- Financial reports
- Nominations Committee report
- Bylaws for approval
- Governance Policy Manual
- Draft agenda for December 2016 AGM
- Updated complaints report
The Press Council considered a complaint by Wade Laube, on behalf of Senator Sean Edwards, about an article published by The Australian on 13 March 2015. The article was headed “Nukes never free, senator told” in print and “Nuclear energy never free, senator Sean Edwards told” online. It followed an announcement by the Senator on 12 March that urged governments to investigate the importation and recycling of spent nuclear fuel.
The article referred to comments made following the Senator’s announcement by a former chairman of Britain’s Office for Nuclear Development, Dr Tim Stone, who was in Adelaide addressing a nuclear energy forum. The article said Dr Stone had “questioned claims” by the Senator and had said that nuclear energy was “no free lunch” and “[e]nergy is never free”.
The complainant said the article and headline implied that Dr Stone was directly rebutting the Senator’s proposed nuclear energy plan, when in fact Dr Stone made clear he had not seen the Senator’s proposal and his remarks were general.
The complainant said the article inaccurately reported that Senator Edwards claimed his “plan to use spent fuel rods to generate nuclear power would revive South Australia’s ailing economy within five years” and that he was “promising it would lead to free power and the abolition of $4.4 billion in state taxes”. The complainant said the Senator had in fact told the publication there was “a scale of possibilities” and a five-year time frame was never mentioned. The complainant said the article was also inaccurate in implying that the Senator had said nuclear power would be free because the Senator had identified in the business model where and by whom the costs would actually be borne.
The complainant said the Senator should have been given an opportunity to respond to comments in the article that “Labor Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis said Senator Edwards was becoming increasingly worried about his upcoming preselection”, as this unfairly implied the proposal was motivated by the Senator’s personal interest in re-election.
The complainant also said he had sought a correction by the publication to clarify that Dr Stone had not seen the proposal and was not questioning it and that the proposal had a funding model. The complainant said that prior to publication of the article, The Australian had agreed to publish an opinion piece by the Senator and it was not reasonable to require him to use that opportunity to correct the factual inaccuracy, when it should be the responsibility of the publication.
The publication, in the initial part of the Council’s complaint process, said that it was inconceivable that Dr Stone had not seen the Senator’s comments and in any event the Senator could have used the opinion piece published after the article to raise his concerns. It also noted that it had published a follow-up article, headed “Nuclear path ‘leads to riches’”, which reported on a speech the Senator was to make about his proposal.
However at a late stage of the Council’s process, after reviewing its records, the publication accepted Dr Stone had not seen the Senator’s proposals and that the article inaccurately implied Dr Stone was commenting on the proposal. It published a clarification, including an apology, to this effect and said that this was adequate redress.
The publication said it was an accurate summary of the Senator’s proposal – which had been covered broadly in the media in the day before the article – to say that it could revive South Australia’s economy within five years, that power could be free and that state taxes of $4.4 billion could be replaced, and it had no obligation to cover every detail of the proposal. It was also consistent with subsequent comments by the Senator and the reporting of them.
The publication also said Mr Koutsantonis’ comments were a small part of the article and would be regarded by readers as a comment made for political purposes.
The Council’s Standards of Practice require reasonable steps to ensure that factual material is accurate and not misleading (General Principle 1), is reasonably fair and balanced (General Principle 3), that a correction or other adequate remedial action is provided if published material is significantly inaccurate or misleading (General Principle 2) and that a fair opportunity is provided for a published reply if reasonably necessary (General Principle 4).
The Council considers that the publication failed to take reasonable steps to ensure accuracy and fairness and balance in reporting that Dr Stone had directly questioned the Senator’s proposal and that Dr Stone rejected a claim made by the Senator that energy could be free when Dr Stone had not done so. Consequently, the publication breached General Principles 1 and 3 of the Council’s Standards of Practice, and its later correction did not obviate the breach. Accordingly, the complaint in these respects is upheld.
The Council considers reporting that the Senator claimed his “plan to use spent fuel rods to generate nuclear power would revive South Australia’s ailing economy within five years” and that he was “promising it would lead to free power and the abolition of $4.4 billion in state taxes” was open to a range of reasonable interpretations. In addition, on the material available to the Council, it is unable to form a final view about the communications between the complainant and the newspaper prior to publication. Accordingly, it is unable to determine whether or not reasonable steps were taken to ensure accuracy, fairness and balance in relation to this part of the reporting.
The Council considers that the Labor Treasurer’s comments could reasonably be regarded as a political comment and were not given prominence, and so finds no breach of General Principle 3 of its Standards of Practice in this respect.
While the Council acknowledges and gives credit for the publication’s later clarification about the reporting of Dr Stone’s comments, the Council considers it should have been published earlier. The Council concludes there was a breach of General Principles 2 and 4 of its Standards of Practice. Accordingly, this aspect of the complaint is also upheld.
This adjudication applies the following General Principles of the Council.
“Publications must take reasonable steps to:
1: Ensure that factual material in news reports and elsewhere is accurate and not misleading, and is distinguishable from other material such as opinion.
2. Provide a correction or other adequate remedial action if published material is significantly inaccurate or misleading.
3. Ensure that factual material is presented with reasonable fairness and balance, and that writers’ expressions of opinion are not based on significantly inaccurate factual material or omission of key facts.”
4. Ensure that where material refers adversely to a person, a fair opportunity is given for subsequent publication of a reply if that is reasonably necessary to address a possible breach of General Principle 3.”
Almost 50% of the 278 complaints to the Irish Press Council in 2015 were over truth and accuracy, Ireland’s press ombudsman revealed, according to the Irish Times. Nearly a quarter of complaints focused on privacy.
The ombudsman’s report was released in late May, noting the council’s ninth year in existence. “The critical functions of the Press Ombudsman’s Office and the Press Council is to offer an independent complaints handling service,” the statement from press ombudsman Peter Feeney says.
“I have been in office since September 2014, the term of office is for three years, but it can be renewed,” Feeney told iMediaEthics by e-mail.
On the council’s website, Feeney reminded journalists of the importance of protecting privacy and determining what is in the public interest.
“I would ask all editors and reporters to be aware of their considerable responsibility to protect children’s interests and to respect the privacy of individuals,” Feeney said. “Of course there is no absolute right to privacy, but privacy can only be breached if publication of something private is already on the public record or if its publication can be justified as in the public interest. I would ask all journalists to consider carefully what ‘in the public interest’ means and to not confuse the public being interested in something as necessarily the same as in the public interest.”
The top ten reasons people complained to the council in 2015 were:
- Truth and accuracy
- Distinguishing fact and comment
- Fair procedures and honesty
- Court reporting
- Respect for rights
- Protection of source
- Publication of the decision of the press ombudsman/press council
The ombudsman decided 34 complaints, 18 were resolved, 3 were closed or withdrawn and in 79 complaints, the complainant dropped their complaint.
Hat Tip: Ethical Journalism Network