Broadcast of Eminem’s Foul Language during the Junos Breached the Code of Ethics, Says the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, February 11, 2004– The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the broadcast of Eminem’s pre-recorded acceptance speech during the Canadian music awards known as the Junos on April 6, beginning at 8:00 pm.  One complainant protested the foul language aired during the show.  The CBSC’s National Conventional Television Panel concluded that the broadcaster violatedClause 10 (Scheduling) which requires that no coarse or offensive language be included in a program telecast wholly or in part before the 9:00 pm Watershed, and Clause 11 (Viewer Advisories) of the CAB Code of Ethics, which requires the inclusion of a viewer advisory at the beginning of the show and coming out of each commercial break.

American rap artist Eminem had been recognized by the Canadian music industry with the “International Album of the Year” award.  Since CTV had known that Eminem would not be present at the gala to accept the industry award, the broadcaster had arranged that a message from him to the audience would be videotaped and played.  In his message, which was aired at 9:18 pm, the artist had used a derivative of the F-word.  A single advisory was aired during the course of the broadcast within the few first minutes of the show but was not provided either at the beginning of the program at 8:00 pm, nor coming out of all the other commercial breaks throughout the broadcast of the gala.  On the basis of its previous decision relating tothe film The House of the Spirits, the Panel concluded the following:

While the Panel considers that there may be circumstances in which the foregoing principle may not be applicable to an apparently live broadcast, that is not the case with respect to the Junos show under consideration.  Because the challenged item was pre-recorded, there was no element of surprise for the broadcaster.  The Junos began a full hour before the Watershed and parents were entitled to expect that the entire program would be free of material about which they could be expected to have some concern.  It was not, and the broadcaster knew that this would be the case.  The attempt to “alert” viewers of the coming strong profanity did not reflect any serious effort.  Running no advisory at the start of the show and but a single viewer advisory at 8:08 pm (while Eminem’s offending comment was made at 9:18 pm) was as close to no notice as CTV could have come.  The broadcaster had a choice.  It could have excised the offending word, which has consistently been held by CBSC Panels to constitute exclusively adult programming, or it could have broadcast the Junos after the 9:00 pm Watershed.  By doing neither, it has breached the scheduling provisions of Clause 10 of the CAB Code of Ethics.  By failing to include the requisite viewer advisories, it has also breached Clause 11 of that Code.

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