Bully Beatdown Does Not Violate Violence Code, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, July 21, 2010 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the program Bully Beatdown which aired on MTV Canada on April 21, 2009.  The CBSC concluded that the program did not violate any of the provisions of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Violence Code.

Bully Beatdown is a reality program that allows victims of bullying to get even with their bullies by inviting those bullies to compete against a real Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter.  The program is hosted by MMA champion Jason “Mayhem” Miller.  In the episode reviewed for the CBSC decision, a young man asked Miller to help him get even with his younger, but significantly bigger, brother who was in the habit of beating up his older brother for no reason.  The younger brother accepted the challenge and received a training session and protective gear prior to his series of matches against MMA star Tony “The Gun” Bonello.  The premise of the fight was that the victim would win a set amount of money each time the bully was taken down by the MMA fighter.  Not surprisingly, the bully lost to the MMA fighter and the older brother won a significant amount of money.  The two brothers also hugged and told each other they loved each other at the end of the program.

The CBSC received a complaint about this program from an anti-bullying activist who felt that it was inappropriate for the program to promote additional violence as the solution to the societal problem of bullying.  MTV Canada argued that the premise of the program is to show “to instil a sense of empathy in the bully by asking him to face someone who might cause him/her fear or anxiety.”  MTV also pointed out that the program carried a 14+ classification and viewer advisories.

The CBSC’s National Specialty Services Panel examined the complaint under the CAB Violence Code.  The Panel concluded that the program did not promote or glamorize violence and that MTV Canada had met the requirements of the Code regarding classification and viewer advisories.  The Panel pointed out that its issue was not the broader societal concern of bullying and the best solution for it; its issue was whether the specific episode of Bully Beatdown contravened any broadcasting standards.  The Panel then acknowledged that the program did “sanction or condone the use of violence [but] in a rather controlled circumstance.”  It went on to explain:

[I]t does not consider that the challenged episode in any way promotes or glamorizes violence.  It attempts the opposite, namely, the criticizing of bullying violence.  Thus, although, technically speaking, the violence in the episode is sanctioned, it is not sanctioned or endorsed in a way that can be said to be equivalent to promoting or glamorizing that aggression.  Whereas bullying itself is a form of violence or fighting without rules, this program was a form of violence or fighting with rules (that is, the bully consented to participate, had a training session, followed the MMA rules, and was wearing protective gear).  In the view of the Panel, that controlled, remedial, unsupportive approach to violent content does not fall afoul of Article 1 of the Violence Code.

[…]

In the end, although sympathetic to the complainant’s concerns about the best societal solution to the bullying problem, the Panel finds no breach of any of the foregoing standards as a result of the type, timing, or advisory choices regarding the violent content of the challenged episode of Bully Beatdown.

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 and the pay television Codes, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic ethics created by the RTNDA – Association of Electronic Journalists in 1970.  More than 735 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