Broadcast of Calgary Stampede Competitions Not in Breach of Code, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, March 29, 2006 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning Outdoor Life Network (OLN)’s broadcasts of the Calgary Stampede rodeo competition in July 2005.  The CBSC had received a complaint from the Humane Society of Canada stating that rodeos involve violence against animals and that the televised broadcast of these events promoted violence against animals.  The CBSC’s National Specialty Services Panel, which viewed 16 hours of rodeo coverage of July 9, 10 and 11, disagreed with the complainant Society’s view of the broadcasts. 

The Panel considered that the bulk of the Humane Society’s complaint dealt with its concerns with rodeo itself (a matter for bodies with jurisdiction over issues relating to animal welfare) rather than the broadcast of rodeo events, which does fall squarely within the CBSC’s responsibilities. 

The sole concern of the CBSC with this file relates to the identified broadcasts themselves.  The question for the CBSC is whether those broadcasts included content in contravention of the rules established in Article 9 […]  If not, there is no Code violation.  If so, of course there is, with the consequences that flow from any negative decision of the CBSC, which may guide the future broadcast content of that type of programming. 

In dealing with the broadcast of Calf Roping, Steer Wrestling, Saddle Bronc Riding, Bareback Riding, Bull Riding and Chuckwagon Racing, the Panel said:  

[T]he issue is whether the broadcast “sanctions, promotes or glamorizes violence” against animals.  In this respect alone, the Panel considers that the complaint fails.  It finds no glamorization, promotion or even valorizing of violence against the animals.  None of the rodeo events is a bullfight or approximation thereof.  None of the events has a hunter-hunted format.  There is no goal of injury to either the human or the animal contestant.  At best, there is a test of wills between the cowboy, on the one hand, and the calf, the bronc or the bull, on the other.  The calf wants to get away but rarely does (there were a few examples of an unsuccessful roper in the footage viewed) […].  In the bronc and bull riding, the human wants to stay on his steed for eight seconds, while the horse or bull simply wants to buck, not even necessarily with the goal of alleviating itself of its mounted burden.  Indeed, in the riding events, there may even be a sense of collaborative effort between the contestant and the bucking stock.  After all, half of the points relate to the performance of the horse or bull and half relate to the performance of the cowboy.

The Panel is also aware, from the colour commentary, that the competitors prize the broncs and bulls which come “with a reputation”; there is no indication whatsoever that there is any form of antipathy.  The riders appear to desire a bronc or bull with spirit and a known reputation.  After all, they know that that bucking ability will earn half their points.  It must also be appreciated that the other half of the points are not earned from human-over-animal supremacy, or from the victory of the one over the other.  If anything, it is a type of grace under pressure, which comes from the “control, spur motion and timing” of the rider, not the equivalent of a knock-out or a technical knock-out, as in boxing, or a pinning, as in wrestling.

In summary, the Panel does not see the broadcast of rodeo events as violence, much less sanctioned, promoted or glamorized violence.

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 590 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