BC Ferries policy Transparency or Trouble for Journalists?

Mar 2, 2011

TORONTO, March 2 /CNW/ - RTNDA Canada - The Association of Electronic Journalists -- urges the British Columbia government to consider the implications of a change in practice in handling Freedom of Information requests.

BC Ferries has fallen under provincial FOI rules since last October. Now, the corporate website promises to release information "to those interested when records are made available to a requestor" through the FOI process. The province's information and privacy commissioner is investigating, and RTNDA Canada has submitted its concerns in ongoing consultations about proactive disclosure. Journalists are concerned the BC Ferries practice could spread to other organizations under FOI legislation.

The practice may at first seem like a move toward government transparency, but RTNDA Canada is worried it could have the opposite effect. Journalists who currently go through the often lengthy and expensive FOI process for an exclusive story would be less likely to pursue such information if it is distributed immediately to everyone - including competing journalists. Why would the freelance journalist, or weekly program or publication pursue a story at great expense that all media, including those with hourly deadlines, can access all at once?

RTNDA Canada urges the BC government to recognize that the BC Ferries practice may lead to less openness and transparency, and risk diminishing the diversity of voices in the news media.

"We urge the BC government to consider delaying the release of FOI responses on websites a week or two after the initiating journalist has received it. Better yet, make such information available to everyone immediately, on a continuous basis, eliminating the need for Freedom of Information requests," said RTNDA Canada President Andy LeBlanc. "That would be transparency."

RTNDA Canada is the voice of electronic journalists and news managers in Canada.  The members of RTNDA Canada recognize the responsibility of broadcast journalists to promote and to protect the freedom to report independently about matters of public interest and to present a wide range of expressions, opinions and ideas. The RTNDA Canada Code of Ethics, adopted by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, is used to measure fairness and accuracy in the profession.

For further information:

For more information, contact RTNDA Canada:

Sherry Denesha     Andy LeBlanc  
Operations Manager     President
(416) 756-2213      (506) 325-4705
sherry@rtndacanada.com     president@rtndacanada.com
or visit www.rtndacanada.com

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