Annual Tom Leykis Show on Drunk Driving Is a Fair and Balanced Approach to the Subject, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, August 29, 2003 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a segment of the American-originating Tom Leykis Show, broadcast on CHMJ-AM (MOJO Radio, Vancouver), between 5:00 and 6:00 pm, on December 10, 2002. A complainant was offended by the radio programming because it allegedly applauded the “multi-tasking” ability of young people to drink, drive, and use their cell phones to call the show. The CBSC's British Columbia Regional Panel concluded that the CHMJ broadcast was not in breach of Clause 6 of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) Code of Ethics, which requires the “full, fair and proper presentation of news, opinion, comment and editorial.”

During the segment in question, the host informed listeners that the drunk driving episode was a “holiday tradition” for the program. He suggested that many people consume alcohol at holiday events and then get in their vehicles to drive home. He invited listeners who are “boozin' and now cruisin'” to call in to the show at that very moment. He explained that the purpose of the segment was “to prove that despite all of the public service announcements and all of the warnings about driving drunk […] many people are still doing it right now.” During the hour, the host took calls from a number of people who said they were driving drunk. He also took calls from people who disapproved drunk driving. The host stated that “we are ambivalent in our society about punishing drunk driving. […] [W]e keep saying that we're doin' something about it and we don't. Bottom line.” One listener complained to CBSC that this broadcast was glamorizing irresponsible behaviour and “ensuing carnage on the roads.” The broadcaster responded indicating that the station targets an audience composed of males aged 25 to 54 and that the host “was merely making a point and encouraging people to think about their actions.”

The B.C Regional Panel examined the complaint under Clause 6 of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' (CAB) Code of Ethics, which requires the “full, fair and proper presentation of news, opinion, comment and editorial”. The Panel considered that “this broadcast sought to criticize 'societal ambivalence' on the issue of drinking and driving” and concluded that

[t]he critical issue is the impression left by that annual episode of the Leykis show. The CHMJ broadcast was a legitimate way of treating the issue and within the boundaries supported by the principle of freedom of expression. It goes without saying that the Panel's determination takes into account the fact that the advocates of drinking and driving were not given an uncontested or unchallenged platform from which to broadcast their views. Had the presentation been unbalanced in that way, this decision would almost certainly have been different. Accordingly, there is no breach of Clause 6 of the Code of Ethics here.

Canada's private broadcasters have themselves created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, gender portrayal and television violence by which they expect the members of their profession will abide. In 1990, they also created the CBSC, which is the self-regulatory body with the responsibility of administering those professional broadcast Codes, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic practices first created by the Radio Television News Directors Association of Canada (RTNDA) in 1970. More than 530 radio and television stations and specialty services from across Canada are members of the Council.

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All CBSC decisions, Codes, links to members' and other web sites, and related information are available on the CBSC's website at www.cbsc.ca. For more information, please contact the CBSC National Chair, Mme Andrée Noël CBSC Executive Director, John MacNab