At CFTO-TV and City-TV, the news was for sale to a tobacco company 

Ottawa June 20, 2005–Major television stations sold news time to Rothman’s, Benson and Hedges in the 1990s.  This disturbing information came to light today in a presentation at the Fourth National Conference on Tobacco or Health.  Neil Collishaw, Research Director at Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada explained that Rothman’s Benson and Hedges (RBH) had major advertising contracts with CFTO-TV, and City-TV in Toronto in the 1990’s to promote the Benson and Hedges Inc. Symphony of Fire fireworks festival.  The tobacco company made media buys of about $100,000 a year from 1992 to 1996 at CFTO, and $120,000 at CITY-TV in 1997.  To show its gratitude CFTO in 1996 ran news stories about the Symphony of Fire on its news broadcasts, World Beat News and Night Beat News. CFTO judged these news stories to be worth $92,800 to the tobacco company.  Over at City-TV, “best efforts to cover the Benson & Hedges Symphony of Fire in the noon, 6 pm and 11 pm newscasts of CityPulse,” were judged to be worth $9,800 to RBH.

“Even though the days of tobacco company sponsorships are thankfully behind us, these previously secret tobacco industry documents raise disturbing questions about media responsibility.  Mr. Collishaw asked, “If the news is for sale to tobacco companies, who else can buy it and who else is buying it?”

Mr. Collishaw’s presentation was based on documents placed on the public record during the federal government’s defence of the Tobacco Act in Quebec Superior Court in 2002.  Even though these documents have been on the public record for some time, they have not previously received public attention.


Contact:  Neil Collishaw, Research Director, Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, 1-613-297-3590 (mobile)

Availability: Mr. Collishaw will deliver his presentation “How to make the news by buying it” in the session “Defending the Tobacco Act,” Provinces Ballroom II, Westin Hotel, Ottawa, 3:30 – 5 PM, Monday, June 20.


Benson and Hedges Symphony of Fire Documents

Toronto – City-TV; CFTO-TV

Vancouver – The Province; KVOS-TV-Kidstuff