News on YouTube

The complainant, Lois McQuinn, watched a clip of the young women participating in the International Women’s Day event in the House of Commons. She thought it was deceptive and made to look like a real session of the House. There was text explaining the unusual event and while it didn’t have as much information as a full news piece, it did not violate policy.

COMPLAINT

You were “livid” because you came across a CBC video posted on YouTube as “fake news”. It was a segment from the House of Commons during a special activity to mark International Women’s Day:

It portrays a "scene" in the House of Commons and is a complete piece of fake "news". Those quickly surfing would never know it is contrived.

The video portrays a young Muslim woman speaking of her rights and Islamophobia while standing in the House of Commons - the scene also implies the house as being in session - the problem is that it is all women, it misrepresents the scene as news and as a true sitting of the House of Commons.

It is misrepresentation at best and if a clip of this is played as "news" it becomes fraudulent.

You said that news should always portray two sides of the story and asked why there were no rebuttals to her statement. You also took the news team to task because there was no explanation of how this event came to be, and there was no explicit mention of International Women’s Day:

Why were these women allowed to sit in the House of Commons in the first place? Why did no one ask that question? What are they doing in there filming? Can anyone "rent" the House of Commons and create a piece of "news" and send it off to be telecast by our National News agency?? Is there really no respect left for our Canadian Institutions? Who are the Daughters of the Vote? Does this woman speaker represent all women? Where was the voice that contradicted?

MANAGEMENT RESPONSE

Steve Ladurantaye, Managing Editor @cbcnews, responded to your complaint. He pointed out that in addition to the clip there was other information provided. For that reason, he did not believe it was misleading. He told you that the headline did not imply this was a session of the House of Commons:

...the headline doesn’t suggest the woman is a member of parliament. It states “Muslim woman makes impassioned statement in House of Commons."

Secondly, the text that accompanies the video says she is taking part in the “Daughters of the Vote event on Parliament Hill,” and adds that it took place in the House of Commons on International Women’s Day.

He added that these two indications, plus the fact that the video showed a Chamber filled with teen aged girls, clearly indicated this was not business as usual.

REVIEW

This story was part of CBC News’ coverage of International Women’s Day. An organization called Equal Voice, dedicated to increasing the number of women holding elective office in Canada, created a programme called “Daughters of the Vote”. On March 8, 338 young women from each federal riding in Canada staged an event in the House of Commons; that is what you saw on YouTube - but you felt it was not at all clear what was going on and who was speaking. For you, context and background information were completely lacking. CBC makes its content available on many platforms, and, wherever published, it should conform to CBC Journalistic Standards and Practices. The YouTube format does not allow the same level of detail a CBC news page article would. Nevertheless, the segment is labelled Muslim woman makes impassioned statement in the House of Commons. It did not say an MP, as speakers are usually labelled. The descriptor under the video is also accurate:

A Muslim woman, Srosh Hassana, taking part in the Daughters of the Vote event on Parliament Hill, addresses Islamophobia and xenophobia in an emotional statement in the House of Commons on International Women's Day.

This is also an accurate description of what occurred. It does not say this was a special session of the House of Commons or call it Question Period. The video itself, especially in the wide shot, reveals an entire Chamber filled with young women. While it may be puzzling and clearly out of the ordinary, it is not set up or framed in a way that implies this is business as usual in the Canadian parliament. There is no misrepresentation. You say it was not news - but it fulfills every definition. It was happening that day, it was a comment on a matter of public policy and it was an unusual and unique occurrence. The text indicated that this was an event marking International Women’s Day, but it did give more details about Daughters of the Vote. You might wish that there was a clearer indication of the context, and that’s a reasonable criticism, but it does not make the segment a violation of journalistic policy. In its original posting, on the CBC News website where there is more control of content and format, there was a full explanation and more context given.

As for the need for balance of this particular video - the issues of Islamophobia and xenophobia are treated on many platforms over a long period of time. This was clearly framed as one woman’s statement and it was a valid editorial choice to run it. CBC Journalistic policy states that CBC has an obligation to “reflect regional and cultural diversity” and the choice of this clip of the event does not violate policy.

Sincerely,

Esther Enkin
CBC Ombudsman