The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Decima Reports.Children are more likely to steal from the cookie jar if they know all they face is a stern parental warning if caught. But they might think twice if they know the act will land them in their room for the weekend.  Voluntary codes of conduct have become commonplace in Canada’s communications industry. Quebecor is proposing such a code to reassure the CRTC, labour unions and community television groups that its merger with Vidéotron and TVA won’t compromise the editorial independence of its news rooms. A separate code was to be developed between broadcast distributors and the new digital TV channel programmers – unfortunately they can’t agree on what should go in it. Voluntary codes can be effective safeguards, but only if there are repercussions for those that break the rules. Quebecor officials brushed aside suggestions from the CRTC that its proposed code of ethics and conduct aimed at ensuring editorial independence at TVA under a merged company be accompanied by sanctions if breached. Quebecor VP Luc Lavoie indicated penalties did not have to be spelled out because the company doesn’t have a history of problems with ensuring editorial independence. Quebecor president Pierre Karl Péladeau pointed out that the reporting teams at its Le Journal de Montreal and TQS, the television station it has pledged to sell off if given approval to acquire TVA, have remained separate. If breaches are unlikely, and the need for penalties unlikely, then why fear the possibility of punishment? Quebecor should give its proposed code some teeth if it really wants to appease those groups that fear a loss of diverse voices. Meanwhile, the cable industry sees the code for equitable carriage of the digital channels as simply a guideline, but programmers are pushing for a detailed and clearly spelled out code. That makes sense. Not only should sanctions be clearly delineated but so should the rules. Otherwise, watch for that cookie jar to empty faster than mom and dad would like.