Code on Ethics

Table of Contents

A. Preamble
B. Definitions
C. General Principles
D. Mosaic Programming
E. Editorial Policy

A. Preamble

VisionTV affirms that all eligible religious and faith communities have the right of access to its broadcast services. This right includes both the guarantee of freedom of expression and protection against comments that may incite or contribute to discrimination, hatred or violence.

VisionTV upholds the following principles and practices:

  1. VisionTV upholds the rights and principles set out in The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, The Canadian Broadcasting Act, the Conditions of Licence established by the Canadian Radio­television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) as part of our broadcast licence, including the Specialty Services Regulations and other rulings of the CRTC; and all other Canadian laws guaranteeing freedom of expression and prohibiting discrimination, abusive comment and hate propaganda.
  2. Religious and Faith groups who purchase time on VisionTV are entitled to state their faith and beliefs freely and clearly within a framework of responsibility.
  3. While faith and religious groups, including broadcast ministries, are free to express their views about beliefs or behaviour they consider to be wrong or contradictory to their own values, such comments must only be expressed within the context of religious belief.
  4. If a religious broadcast refers to the beliefs, practices, liturgy or behaviour of adherents of another faith, the references must be accurate and fair and must not take words or phrases out of context. VisionTV is required by its licence to guarantee that the programs it broadcasts meet high standards of accuracy and fairness.
  5. The tone and content of programming must not abuse, misrepresent or incite hatred against any individual or identifiable group. It must not call into question the human rights, equality rights or dignity of any individual or group.
  6. The tone of programming must not expose or incite individuals or groups to hatred, contempt, malice, bigotry or violence based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, mental/physical disability, marital/family status, or political affiliation.
  7. Identifiable groups must not be targeted for conversion, indoctrination or proselytizing.
  8. Programs must not have the effect of provoking or abetting domestic or international religious or political conflicts.
  9. Religious and Faith organizations that purchase broadcast time on VisionTV must ensure that their programs uphold the highest standards of integrity. These include:
    (i) Adherence to VisionTV’s Conditions of Licence governing the duration, nature and content of advertising, give-aways, and/or merchandising as well as solicitation of funds;
    (ii) Ensuring that appeals for funds are responsible and do not place undue pressure on viewers; and
    (iii) Avoiding deceptive or misleading business practices.
  10. Contravention of this Code by any group purchasing time to broadcast programs on VisionTV will result in a series of penalties leading to indefinite suspension of the program.

B. Definitions

The VisionTV schedule consists of two main divisions:

  1. “Cornerstone” – programs produced by ZoomerMedia Limited, or co­productions in which ZoomerMedia Limited is a partner, or programs that ZoomerMedia Limited acquires. Cornerstone programming will constitute no less than forty-five percent (45%) of the ZoomerMedia Limited broadcast schedule; and
  2. “Mosaic” – programs produced and/or provided by faith communities, broadcast ministries, religious societies and associations, faith­related accredited educational institutions, and their designated producers; Mosaic airtime is purchased from VISION.

C. General Principles

1. Balance

All VISION programs – Cornerstone and Mosaic – will maintain an appropriate balance within the following areas:

  1. The rights and needs of a general audience, and the interests of specific faith groups;
  2. The needs and interests of all faith groups;
  3. National and regional needs and interests;
  4. The exposition of all relevant and significant points of view;
  5. Over time, and where appropriate or necessary, VISION will seek out a diversity of interests and voices;
  6. Personal and/or institutional opinions offered will be clearly labelled and understood as such;

2. Journalistic Standards and Practice

The highest journalistic standards apply for every producer of programming for VISIONTV. These include:

  1. Telling subjects why they are being interviewed, and ensuring they know when they are speaking “on the record”;
  2. Ensuring accurate attribution of statements;
  3. The equitable reflection of relevant facts and significant points of view, including adequate research and context;
  4. Equitable treatment of persons on various sides of issues;
  5. Editing that maintains the context of questions and statements, and accurately reflects significance, reality and truth;
  6. Ensuring the presence of production staff, cameras and microphones is not a provocation;
  7. Ensuring that the presentation of participants’ points of view generally reflect their current opinions;
  8. Persons selected as commentators and participants in programs will have a background which qualifies them to provide expert opinion based on accurate information and experience. Their background, qualifications and affiliations must be made clear to enable the audience to place their comments in perspective;
  9. Every effort should be made to include relevant points of view. Refusal to participate in a program, whatever the reason, or for no stated reason, must be respected. No dramatic devices or comments shall be employed to underline such a refusal;
  10. When persons are telephoned from a program, they shall be informed of the purpose and context of the interview, and their permission will be obtained before the call is broadcast;
  11. VISIONTV is solely responsible for the programs it transmits. The Senior Vice­President, Programming or his/her designate will have the authority and the right to withhold from broadcast all or any portion of any program.

3. Open Line Programming

‘Open Line’ programming will be subject to the following provisions:

  1. When accepting telephone calls to be aired on a program, care will be taken to ensure principles of fairness, integrity, balance and diversity of individual expression;
  2. Suitable technical and screening procedures will be employed to preclude abusive comment which may violate the law;
  3. A record will be kept of the names and telephone numbers of callers whose voices are heard on air;
  4. Persons whose voices are to be broadcast shall be so advised before they are on air.

4. Program Taste, Public Morality and Controversial Subject Matter

  1. Though notions of ‘good taste’ may vary substantially, VISION programming will respect and reflect standards of moral behaviour consistent with the teachings of participant faith groups.
  2. Programming will seek a balance between respect for the audience and its obligation to reflect reality. In the event some programming may not be suitable for all persons or age groups, such programming shall be introduced and accompanied by an appropriate caution.
  3. The tone and content of programming must not abuse, misrepresent or incite discrimination, hatred or violence against any individual or identifiable group based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, mental/physical disability, marital / family status, or political affiliation.
  4. Incitement of violence: Neither the content nor the tone of programming will incite people to commit violent acts or attacks on any other group or person. Violence will be neither glorified nor exploited nor used out of context to shock or for trivial reasons.
  5. Programs must not have the effect of provoking or abetting domestic or international religious or political conflicts.
  6. Comment upon, and the depiction of, human sexuality will not be exploitive nor used for purposes of titillation.
  7. Matters of personal privacy will not be portrayed without the subject’s expressed consent or volunteering. Particular sensitivity will accompany matters of sorrow and grief.

5. Errors and Omissions

As far as is reasonably possible VISIONTV will ensure the accuracy and appropriate context of the materials it presents as follows:

  1. When a material error has been made or a significant unfairness occurs, it shall be admitted and corrected in a context of equal prominence.
  2. When complaints or requests are judged to have legal implications they will be referred to VISION’s Legal Counsel; and/or
  3. Release forms, notes, transcripts, and other program materials will be retained and protected.

6. Solicitation, Advertising, Free Offers and Sponsorships

In accordance with its Conditions of Licence, VISIONTV upholds the following definitions:

  1. Solicitation” — Solicitation consists of direct appeals to viewers for financial gifts of cash, cheques, money orders, credit cards or electronic and other means of transferring funds; for example, where the primary objective is to raise revenues to sustain broadcast of the program. Alternatively, the issuing of a charitable tax receipt, under applicable laws, will represent a further test of when a program element is deemed to be a solicitation.
    i) The wording and tone of presentation of such solicitations on air or in corresponding printed matter will in no case place an undue responsibility on the viewer to respond to the appeal, be unduly alarmist in suggesting that the program may be discontinued in the absence of such response, predict any negative divine consequences as a result of not responding, or exaggerate the positive results of responding.
    ii) Where a 1­900 or toll­charge phone number or other fee­based method of electronic transmission is being used to elicit viewer response, there must be displayed on screen along with the phone number, the estimated cost per order or call, and cost per minute of additional time. The message should be at least as large as the message making the offer. The word “FREE” may not be used in conjunction with a service that charges a toll or fee.
    iii) Organizations soliciting funds must be able to substantiate that funds are being directed to the causes for which they are raised, in compliance with Revenue Canada regulations.
  2. Special Charitable Appeals” — No programs in which the primary purpose is the raising of funds, for whatever reason, can be broadcast without the authorization of the Board of Directors of VISIONTV.
  3. Advertising” — Includes a commercial message where a product or service is being sold directly or implicitly for money.
    i) The sum total of such messages must not exceed 12 minutes per clock hour from 6:00am to 12:00mn.
    ii) The message must be directed to national markets and audiences.
    iii) The message must adhere to all applicable laws and codes regarding television advertising in Canada and must have approval of the Canadian Telecaster Committee.
    iv) The message must be otherwise consistent with the Code of Ethics and the objectives of VISIONTV.
  4. Free Offer(s)” — Involves a product or service being given away without conditions, and with no transfer of funds.
    i) Free offers will take up no more than 5 minutes per half hour. The time will be subtracted from allowable advertising time.
    ii) Notices of upcoming church events and free church courses and seminars are exempted from categorization as “free offers”.
  5. Promo” or “Announcement” — Is a short message that informs viewers of an upcoming program or event.
  6. There shall be no profit ­making or monetary gain for the broadcaster or sponsor attached to such messages.
  7. Sponsorship” — Corporate sponsorship of programs and series on VISION shall be permitted subject to the following provisions:
    i) The nature of the sponsor and sponsor’s product or service is consistent with VISIONTV’s style and objectives; and
    ii) The sponsor and the sponsor’s product or service will be identified only at the beginning and end of programs, and according to an approved verbal and visual format.

D. Mosaic Programming

In addition to the General Principles described above, Mosaic Programming shall adhere to the following provisions:

  1. Religious Programming — Religious programming is defined by the CRTC as “anything directly relating to, inspired by, or arising from an individual’s relationship to divinity, including related moral or ethical issues.” A religious program “deals with a religious theme, including programs that examine or expound religious practices and beliefs or present a religious ceremony, service or other similar event.”
  2. Religious Groups and Organizations — To purchase airtime on VISION, Faith communities must meet with all of the conditions herein:

    a) Faith Communities must meet all of the conditions herein:

    i) Permanency: Existence for a minimum of 75 years;
    ii) National Identity: Adherents in at least five of the 12 provinces and territories;
    iii) Entitlement to Perform Marriage: The legal right to solemnize marriages; and
    iv) Charitable Status: Registered charitable status in Canada.b) Broadcast Ministries – must meet the following criteria:
    i) Charitable Status: Registered charitable status in Canada;
    ii) Legitimacy: If the broadcast ministry is newly established, recognition by a major faith group. or
    iii) Permanency: A minimum of two years broadcasting on television prior to their application to VISIONTV. 

    c) Religious Societies and Associations – must meet the following criteria:
    i) Recognition by a major faith group in Canada; and
    ii) Registered charity status.

    d) Faith­ related Accredited Educational Institutions — must meet the following criterion:
    i) Accreditation from a North American or world religious educational association; and
    ii) All eligible organizations shall adhere to the highest standards of financial accountability in accordance with Revenue Canada requirements.

  3. Viewer Complaint Process Upon receiving a complaint about a specific MOSAIC program, VISIONTV will follow the following procedure:a) A staff person will view and evaluate the program and, if appropriate, notify the producer. This may lead to a warning (see Section C – “General Principles – subsection 4). The complainant will be contacted by VISIONTV, and where appropriate the producer will offer an explanation or an apology;b) If further action is required, the Chair of VISION’s Mosaic Program Management Group may be notified and asked to form a subgroup to screen the program and assess whether the program contravenes this Code;c) The producer, the complainant and the Mosaic Program Management Group are informed of the results of the assessment;d) For any complaint regarded by VISION staff or the Mosaic Program Management Group as frivolous or vexatious VISIONTV will retain the right to not respond to the complaint; and

    e) VISIONTV will respond in a timely and responsible manner to all complaints referred to it by the Canadian Radio Television and Telecommunications Commission.

  4. Enforcement of the Code For Mosaic Programming, VISIONTV will enforce its Code of Ethics as follows:a) A first infraction of the Code will result in a communication from VISIONTV warning the program producer. The program in question will either be replaced or edited, at the producer’s expense, to conform to the Codeb) A second infraction of the Code will result in a formal warning; andc) A third infraction will lead to suspension of the program from the broadcast schedule. Reinstatement will be at the discretion of VISIONTV Management, who may seek the advice of the Mosaic Program Management Group.
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