Broadcaster Takes Extraordinary Measures to Resolve Complaint about F-Word in Song, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, June 4, 2008 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the afternoon broadcast of the song “Load Me Up” by Matthew Good Band, which included the f-word, on CJDJ-FM (Rock 102, Saskatoon).  The CBSC’s Prairie Regional Panel concluded that the broadcast violated the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics, but commended the station for the measures it took to resolve the issue.

The station explained to the complainant that the unedited version of the song, with the profane language, had accidentally been loaded into its computer system.  It added that it would be instituting safeguards to ensure that all songs, whether new or old, would be properly previewed from then on to ensure that only edited versions of potentially problematic songs would be added to their playlist.  Rock 102’s General Manager also agreed to immediately broadcast an on-air apology six times.  The complainant was still not satisfied and requested that CBSC rule on his complaint.

The Prairie Regional Panel examined the complaint under the clause of the CAB Code of Ethics that requires broadcasters to ensure their programming does not contain unduly coarse or offensive language.  The Panel noted that daytime broadcast of the f-word in songs remained a breach of broadcasters’ codified standards.

It almost goes without saying that the apparent increased on-air usage of the various forms of the f-word reflects a more frequent use of the term in everyday parlance.  In the view of the Panel, this does not elevate the broadcast of the term at hours of the day when children could be listening to a level of acceptability, since the CBSC still finds that there is a meaningful segment of society that is troubled, if not offended, by the broadcast of such language.

The Panel did not require the station to make the customary on-air announcement of the CBSC decision because it had already aired an apology on six occasions.  The Panel acknowledged the broadcaster’s actions in the following terms:

The Panel considers that the broadcaster proposed extraordinary measures in order to acknowledge its error and to put the matter right.  It exceeded by a considerable measure the customary CBSC membership responsibility of any broadcaster to be responsive to a complainant.  […]  In accordance with its current requirements for members, the CBSC would not, for example, have required the broadcaster to make an announcement of the CBSC decision more than twice and, at that, the CBSC-dictated announcements are statements of its findings and not worded as apologies.  In other words, the broadcaster’s preparedness to make an apologetic admission is itself something more than what the CBSC orders.  That the broadcaster was prepared to do this six times was, in the view of the Panel, significant.  […]

In conclusion, while the Panel regrets the sentiment of disappointment felt by the complainant, it can affirm the station’s good faith in going the extra mile to acknowledge its error and its intention to put matters right for both the present and the future.  It applauds those steps and considers that CJDJ-FM’s obligation of responsiveness was met and surpassed on this occasion.

Canada’s private broadcasters have themselves created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, equitable portrayal, television violence and journalistic independence 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 ethics created by the RTNDA – Association of Electronic Journalists in 1970.  More than 630 radio stations, satellite radio services, 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