Broadcast of Coarse Language in a Music Video before 9:00 pm Requires Viewer Advisories, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, November 15, 2005 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the broadcast of a song, “Va donc chier” by the Quebec recording group Les Chiens sales on April 20, 2005, between 6:30-7:30 pm during a video countdown program entitled Top5.M+.com.  The song includes the frequently-repeated refrain, “Va donc chier, va donc chier, va donc chier, mange donc d’la marde”.  A viewer advisory, which appeared in visual format only before the airing of the video, stated: “[translation] Warning: This song contains explicit lyrics that may offend some viewers.”  On May 16, in the course of the late-night broadcast of an episode of the program Les pourris … de talent, Les Chiens sales sang the song live at the MusiquePlus studio.  On this occasion, no viewer advisories were included. 

A viewer complained that his children (between the ages of 5 and 9) had seen the performance of the song while watching Top5.M+.com.  The broadcaster replied that, as a result of the complaint, the challenged video clip had been taken out of broadcast rotation.  The broadcaster also explained that the pre-recorded episodes of the show Les pourris … de talent, which were introducing many new vocal groups, including Les Chiens sales, had been moved to a post-9:00 pm time slot, so as not to penalize new artists who were appearing in the same episode as that group and, the Quebec Panel understood, to put potentially offensive material in an adult (post-9:00 pm) time slot.  

In concluding that the challenged words were not in breach of the Code, the Quebec Panel said: 

In the matter at hand, however, the usage of the expression was, relatively speaking, benign.  It was a song refrain (and title), one which resonates worse in its repetitiveness on paper than over the air, but which is directed at no individual in particular.  At worst, it could be seen as a youthful expression of a rebellious societal observation, and one undeniably in poor taste in terms of what polite adults and caring parents would wish to hear.  Nor can the inappropriateness of the lyrics be denied in terms of the young children who heard them in the presence of the complainant.  That is not, however, the standard against which they are to be measured.  That must be whether the coarse language was exclusively intended for adult audiences.  The Panel considers it was not.  

Although the language was not intended exclusively for adult audiences, the Quebec Panel did conclude that it was “unsuitable for children”.  In such circumstances, “viewer advisories are mandatory and must be aired in both video and audio formats.  In the case of the April 20 broadcast, the advisory was only in a video format and was, to that extent, in breach of Clause 11 [of the CAB Code of Ethics].”

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 550 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