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CBC appears to break Elections Act, broadcasts results before polls close

A image of Peter Mansbridge on Newsworld with election results on-screen ahead of the embargo.


As election results started to roll in from Eastern Canada, a website calling on plugged-in politics junkies to tweet their dissent by publishing early elections results pulled back - and it was Canada's public broadcaster that appeared to break the Elections Act by mistakenly broadcasting results in time zones that still had polls open.

CBC Newsworld went live with results from Atlantic Canada shortly after 9 p.m. ET, half an hour before polls closed there. The broadcast was pulled after about four minutes, replaced with a message that noted "technical difficulties."

CBC spokesman Jeff Keay said the mixup was the result of a "switching error."

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"At approximatesly 9 p.m. EST, CBC experienced a technical error which resulted in early election results from Eastern Canada being brodacast on CBC News network. The error was resolved within several minutes and normally scheduled programming resumed," he said. "As soon as we could get the error fixed, we fixed it."

Mark Freiman, a lawyer representing the CBC and CTV in their Ontario Superior Court challenge of the Elections Act ban on "premature transmission" of election results, said Monday he can't speak for the broadcaster in this instance.

But in an interview Sunday, he noted the lengths to which media organizations have to go to avoid breaking the 73-year-old law have become increasingly challenging and complex.

Meanwhile, Alexandra Samuel and Darren Barefoot, the Vancouver-based social media gurus behind the website, decided at the last minute not to display results during the blackout.

Ms. Samuel said the site was a victim of its own success.

"We just got more worried that there were enough people sniping about the site, we thought: 'What are the odds one person would file a complaint about us?'"

Nonetheless, the #tweettheresults hashtag was among the top trending topics on Twitter worldwide as thousands of people used it to post spoilers both electoral and otherwise.

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Elections Canada spokesman John Enright wouldn't say whether there have been any complaints filed about violations of the results blackout. He said he isn't sure Elections Canada has ever charged a large media organization with a violation of the law.

"I don't recall there ever being one in my 25 years here."

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