No Fake News On Weather

Telecom regulators yesterday cleared the Weather Network of broadcasting inaccurate information. There was no evidence the channel deliberately spread “false news”, said the CRTC.

A lone unidentified viewer from British Columbia filed multiple complaints after the Weather Network last April 13 broadcast a long-range forecast entitled “30-Day Forecast” that in fact covered only 27 days. Under Television Broadcasting Regulations licensees are forbidden from “broadcasting false or misleading news”.

The channel’s Canadian licensee, Pelmorex Weather Networks Inc., admitted 30 days was not 27 days but explained graphics were constrained by high-definition television. “Technical limitations of space on the screen and detail issues in standard definition make it difficult to squeeze the 30 days onto the screen in all cases without decreasing the font size, which would have made the information tougher for viewers to read,” Pelmorex wrote in a submission.

The Canadian Radio Television & Telecommunications Commission ruled that, while the graph title was clearly wrong, “Given the protections afforded by the Canadian Charter Of Rights And Freedoms and the objectives set out in the Broadcasting Act, the breach of these provisions must be flagrant for the Commission to take action on a complaint. The Commission does not consider it to be the case in this instance.”

Pelmorex yesterday did not comment. The Weather Network last June 6 changed its long-range forecast titles from “30 Days” to “Next 4 Weeks”.

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council last October 12 dismissed a similar complaint against the network. “This complaint is hair-splitting and even verging on the frivolous,” the Council wrote.

A Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Code Of Ethics requires that all TV non-fiction programming be fact-based. “It is not every inaccuracy that will amount to a breach of the Code provisions,” wrote staff.

The Council earlier rejected complaints that a TV news report referred to Olympic “uniforms” instead of “clothing”, or that the red cross painted on ambulances was a “healing message of Jesus Christ”: “There is no such link; it is simply the symbol of the Red Cross Society”.

Complaints about weather have seen federal agencies flooded with viewer mail in the past. A 2016 Environment Canada initiative to transfer its weather website to a single government portal promoted “rude” and “abusive” emails, according to Access To Information records. “This is a terrible website,” wrote one complainant; “Now you clowns have gone and changed the weather again!” said another.

Viewers similarly complained in 2013 when Environment Canada depicted temperatures in both Celsius and Fahrenheit, though the Metric Commission mandated Celsius temperatures in 1975. Comments from website visitors included: “Help!”; “How do I change it???”; and “I am 45 and can no longer understand Fahrenheit.”

“Canadians talk more about the weather than Americans,” Liberal MP Scott Simms (Bonavista-Gander, Nfld. & Labrador), a former TV weatherman, said in an earlier interview. “If it’s not hockey, it’s weather. I tell people it’s why I became a politician, to stop lying to them.”

By Staff

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