4. The way it played out: When graphic content was aired

CBC has a history of airing graphic or otherwise disturbing content. For example, senior producers at CBC’s The National chose to broadcast the image of Alan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler who drowned, and whose body washed up on the shore of Turkey. That decision was controversial, and was met with complaints. One in particular led to a response from CBC Ombudsman, Esther Enkin.

Enkin wrote that the use of the image did not violate CBC’s policy and that, while the image was shocking, it was not used in a sensational manner. The complainant also argued that while there was a warning that preceded the image, they would have preferred a more direct warning of just how distressing the image actually was. WhenThe National’s Wendy Mesley introduced the image, she warned viewers that, “One particular photo from the scene has sparked a visceral reaction worldwide: The death of a small boy… We are showing it tonight because words can’t always convey what pictures can.”

Enkin agreed that the graphic content warning “fell short of the mark.” She recommended “CBC news management and programmers might want to think about more unambiguous language that can be used when disturbing material is to be broadcast.”

In another newscast, Lyndsay Duncombe reported on the Dr. Conrad Murray trial. Murray was accused of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson. In Duncombe’s report, which aired on The National, CBC included a photograph of Michael Jackson’s corpse on a stretcher. His face and arms were visible. The report was preceded by a warning but nonetheless, there were complaints as some found the footage to be extremely disturbing.

The following video includes Peter Mansbridge’s introduction to that report and the report itself:

Watch the video here

Kirk LaPointe, who, at the time, was the CBC Ombudsman, responded to the complaints and deemed the decision to air reasonable and newsworthy.

Another controversial example was CBC’s decision to show the footage of two reporters getting shot and killed on live morning television in the United States.

Enkin asks, is this video of the shooting just “violence porn”? Or is it valuable to the story?

Read the transcript

NEXT: 5. The wildcard: social media