The Vagaries of Vox Box

The complainant, André Choquet, questioned why his name was used in the broadcast of his comments left on the voicemail of CBC Toronto’s Metro Morning. He thought he was required to do so only for identification purposes, and that his identity would not be used. He said the messages were always anonymous. In reality, practice is mixed, and there is no policy violation.

COMPLAINT

You were concerned that your name was broadcast, along with your comment, on the Toronto Morning Show, Metro Morning. The host of the programme, Matt Galloway, solicits listeners’ opinions and invites them to leave their comments on a voicemail, dubbed the “Vox Box.” Producers then cull the comments for broadcast. You said you left your name because the recording led you to believe that it was needed for identification purposes and not for broadcasting. You wondered why your comment was singled out. You added you are a regular listener to the programme, and the Vox Box comments are always anonymous.

MANAGEMENT RESPONSE

Laura Green, Executive Producer of CBC Toronto programming, replied to your concerns. She explained that according to CBC journalistic standards, it is practice to ask people to identify themselves before their responses can be put on air. She said that practice varied on whether or not names were included. She explained why:

When editing a group of comments for playback, whether or not a name is included in the tape depends on a number of factors - clarity of the message, ease of editing (does the caller run their name into their phone number, etc.), pacing, how much time is allotted for the vox segment, and so on. That leads to the airing of some vox tape that includes listeners names and others not, a decision left in the producer's hands.

She agreed that the voice message on the “Vox Box” should be clearer. The message asked for names and phone numbers, but did not specify how the information would be used. She instructed Metro Morning and other programmes that solicit comments to replace the outgoing message so that it is clear that their names could be used.

REVIEW

CBC Journalistic practice, consistent with most other media organizations, defaults to identifying sources and interviewees. There has always been more discretion when it comes to the kind of programming you participated in. Many radio programmes invite listener feedback. Television reports feature “streeters” - comments from people approached in a public space. The term is almost an anachronism - since most opinion these days comes from some form of social media. Programmers also read tweets and messages sent digitally.

Ms. Green explained that you were not singled out. It was likely a timing issue. Your comment began: “Hi my name is André Choquet, I was born in Quebec and raised as a Francophone for most of my life.” You then provided other interesting information about your background. It would be difficult, under live radio time pressure - to edit the first phrase and leave the rest of the information you share - to give context to your comment about rights. Since there is no policy prohibiting the use of the name, there is no violation.

To assure you that you were not singled out, a random check of 5 different “Vox Box” segments in late October revealed that while most weren’t named, in 3 of the 5 clusters, a name was used.

Ms. Green is right to be concerned that the message on their phone was not clear. CBC programmers owe their audiences transparency. The message is still not explicit about using names or not. Programmers should reassess the greeting as Ms. Green indicated.

Sincerely,

Esther Enkin
CBC Ombudsman