The CBSC has traditionally recognized that hosts of public affairs programs are entitled to hold and express their opinions on the topics discussed during those programs, even when those opinions are controversial, unpopular or provocative. 1 While Clause 7 of the CAB Code of Ethics provides that broadcasters must present all sides of a public issue and treat all subjects of a controversial nature fairly as part of balanced programming, the CBSC has also recognized that broadcasters are not required to bring to light all the divergent views on such topics within a single program. 2
These opinions must, however, be founded on actual facts, and the host cannot base his or her opinion on unproven information. 3
Yet, host Ezra Levant maintained several times throughout the entire program that Arts Habitat offered free housing to artists, when it was in fact a provincially and municipally (Edmonton) subsidized housing/studio program that is offered to eligible artists who are required to pay rent. His guest mentioned on one occasion that the housing in question is “free”, but otherwise referred to it as “subsidized”.
After watching the program and examining all the related documents, the Panel adjudicators unanimously determined that Sun News did not breach the provisions of Clause 7 of the CAB Code of Ethics as both guest and host were entitled to question the relevancy of taxpayer subsidized programs for artists. The Panel did, however, also rule unanimously that Sun News Network and its host Ezra Levant violated Clause 6 of that Code because the opinion broadcast was based on an erroneous premise.
Ezra gets in so much trouble with this whole "truth telling" stuff that its hard to keep up. Here's my favorite bit from the decision:
On July 6, two days after the program at issue containing his assertions had aired, host Ezra Levant read an e-mail on the air that faulted him for not having verified the accuracy of his information, and pointed out, among other things, that the Arts Habitat program is a subsidized housing and studio program and not a free housing program. The host admitted his error, adding that his opinion remained unchanged with respect to public funding of subsidies for artists.
That's our Ezra; no matter what the facts are, his opinion doesn't change.