Access to Information
CBC/Radio-Canada responded to a total of 349 requests under the Access to Information Act during 2010–2011, including 309 received this year and 40 others carried over from 2009–2010. These requests touched all areas of the Corporation, primarily affecting English and French Services in approximately equal numbers.
In 2010–2011, the Corporation continued to improve considerably its efficiency in dealing with requests under the Access to Information Act. We dedicated more resources to processing requests and developed better internal procedures. Performance monitoring, measuring and reporting practices were put in place and applied rigorously throughout the year. Responsibilities and accountabilities were more clearly defined within the Access to Information and Privacy office.
As a result of these efforts, the average number of days to respond to an Access to Information request decreased by 63 per cent, from 158 in 2009–2010 to 57 in 2010–2011. Similarly, our "Deemed Refusal Rate", which refers to requests not responded to within the statutory limits, decreased from 57.7 per cent to 21.5 per cent.
These numbers show that the Corporation's efforts have borne fruit over the last year, although these results were not reflected in the Information Commissioner of Canada special report entitled Open Outlook, Open Access 2009–2010 Report Cards, which was released last year. This report attributed to CBC/Radio-Canada a rating of F, which means unsatisfactory, for its management of Access to Information requests in fiscal year 2009–2010. The Corporation has publicly acknowledged that the initial large volume of requests we received when we became subject to the Act in September 2007 has had a long-term impact on our operations. This impact was recognized by the Commissioner herself in her report.
In March 2011, the President and CEO, and the Vice-President of Real Estate, Legal Services and General Counsel of CBC/Radio-Canada appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. They presented the actions that have been taken by the Corporation to improve its management of Access to Information requests and reaffirmed our commitment towards transparency and accountability so that Canadians can have confidence that the resources invested in CBC/Radio-Canada are used effectively.
On that front, the Corporation went one step further by giving Canadians even more information about its administration. We developed an Internet site where records released in response to five categories of Access to Information requests are posted. Since the launch in November 2010, these records have been consulted approximately 4,500 times.
The year 2010–2011 was also marked by two legal challenges.
The first refers to the decision of the Federal Court of Appeal affirming a previous decision by the Federal Court, and dismissing David Statham’s case against CBC/Radio-Canada. The case had originated from Mr. Statham’s multiple access to information requests to CBC/Radio-Canada. Within the first three months that the Corporation was subject to the Access to Information Act in 2007, Mr. Statham had submitted almost 400 requests to CBC/Radio-Canada. He had then complained about the Corporation not meeting the 30-day deadline imposed by the Access to Information Act on more than 375 of those requests. Both the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal refused to blame CBC/Radio-Canada.
The second pertains to the question of the exclusion (Section 68.1 of the Access to Information Act) granted by Parliament to CBC/Radio-Canada and currently before the courts. While the Act gives Canadians a right of access to records that relate to our general administration, Parliament has excluded from this Act the information that relates to our journalistic, creative or programming activities. Without this exclusion, a requester could ask for the files of our journalists, consult investigative materials and gain access to the identity of confidential sources. CBC/Radio-Canada's position is that only a judge should have the right to force disclosure of this kind of information and in carefully defined circumstances. The Information Commissioner argues that she should have unfettered access to such files. The Federal Court agreed with the Commissioner’s contention in the first instance and we are appealing this decision to the Federal Court of Appeal, given the importance of this decision for freedom of the press principles and our ability to manage our journalistic activities.
Journalistic Standards and Practices
CBC/Radio-Canada has an extensive code of Journalistic Standards and Practices and editorial control mechanisms to guide employees and to ensure that our programming remains balanced and accurate.
To address new challenges, CBC/Radio-Canada adopted an updated and modernized Journalistic Standards and Practices (JS&P) document. This latest version still holds the national public broadcaster to the highest standards of accuracy and fairness when it comes to its news and current affairs, but also takes into account many of the new situations encountered in the world of social media and the Internet. The Corporation also adopted guidelines to ensure employees consider the implications of each and every posting they make on social media sites and services, and they can act in a way that reflects CBC/Radio-Canada's values.
Complaints about news and current affairs programming from the public that are not resolved at the program level to the satisfaction of the complainants are dealt with by the Corporation’s two Ombudsmen. The Ombudsmen are completely independent of CBC/Radio-Canada programming staff and programming management and report directly to the President of the Corporation and, through the President, to the Corporation’s Board of Directors. The role of the Ombudsmen is pivotal in strengthening the national public broadcaster’s accountability and transparency to Canadians.
In 2010–2011, the offices of the Ombudsmen handled a total of 4,437 complaints, expressions of concern and other communications (English Services and French Services combined). Of these, 2,028 concerned English Services and 2,409 French Services as documented in the annual reports from the Ombudsmen. For English Services, 1,204 communications fell within the mandate of the Ombudsmen (news and current affairs programming), compared to 1,131 for French Services. Communications not directly related to CBC/Radio-Canada news and current affairs programming were forwarded to the programming departments concerned.
The Ombudsmen can be reached at:
The Ombudsman, English Services, CBC/Radio-Canada, PO Box 500, Station A, Toronto ON M5W 1E6
Bureau de l’ombudsman, Services français, CBC/Radio-Canada, CP 6000, Montréal QC H3C 3A8
Codes of Conduct
CBC/Radio-Canada employees at all levels across the Corporation are expected to adhere to the Code of Conduct and policies governing their behaviour in such areas as conflict of interest and ethics, disclosure of wrongdoing, official languages, harassment and political activity. The Corporation’s human resources policies are available for viewing online.
The Corporation uses a risk-based internal control process, based on the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations’ (COSO) framework, under which the Corporation annually reviews and assesses key internal controls over financial reporting. This process is evolving towards the best practice requirements from the Proposed Certification Regime for Crown Corporations of the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS), as well as National Instrument 52-109 of the Canadian Securities Administration (CSA), even though CBC/Radio-Canada is not subject to CSA requirements.
In 2010–2011, the Corporation assessed the effectiveness of internal controls on financial reporting. The assessment concluded that the controls are operating effectively and identified some opportunities for improvement, which will be addressed in the coming year. The assessment did not cover internal disclosure controls and procedures, which have not yet been documented and evaluated.