CFBT-FM re a segment on The Kid Carson Show

british columbia regional Panel
S. Warren (Chair), R. Cohen (ad hoc), H. Ainsworth, J. Doobay, G. Leighton and T. Plasteras

THE FACTS

The Kid Carson Show is the morning show on CFBT-FM (The Beat 94.5, Vancouver), which airs weekdays from 5:30 to 10:00 am.  It is hosted by Kid Carson, Nira Arora and Amy Beeman.  It includes the usual morning show fare of music, news, and banter among the hosts about current affairs and other topics of interest.  The program occasionally welcomes celebrities or other public personalities as guests.

On March 2, 2009 at around 9:30 am, the hosts of the Kid Carson Show did a telephone interview with Dick Masterson, the author of a book entitled Men Are Better than Women and the creator of a website of the same name.  His ideas are known to be controversial and, by the date of the Kid Carson appearance, he had already been on the American talk shows Dr. Phil and The Tyra Banks Show, among others, to discuss his views.  (A summary of the most relevant portions of the March 2 episode follows, but a complete transcript of the segment can be found in Appendix A.)

Prior to placing the call to Masterson, the hosts provided some background information about their decision to invite him onto the program.  They explained that they had played audio clips from Masterson’s website on a previous program, which contained “brutal” views about women, and that they had received some viewer feedback suggesting, on the one hand, that they bring him on to debate him and, on the other hand, that they should not “spread this negative energy.”  Arora joked that she had referred to him as a “dick” because his name is Dick.  Following the broadcast of a song, there was an alarm sound and then a male voice stated “Warning.  The following topic may not be suitable for younger audiences.  Listener discretion is advised.”

Carson then introduced the segment by re-playing some of the clips from Masterson’s website that had been aired on the Kid Carson Show the previous week.  The clips were of Masterson making the following statements:

There’s nothing more liberating and freeing to a woman than chauvinism.

A woman has no responsibilities because I don’t expect her to get anything right.

All women are whores.  They trade sex for money, they trade sex for cars.  How is prostitution illegal but alimony isn’t?  They’re basically the same thing.  You’re paying for the whore to leave.

A penny saved is a woman fired.  Women make horrible employees.

Women should not be allowed to vote.  It’s ridiculous.  A woman president would be a disaster.

Women know in their hearts that women cannot make decisions.  A woman would never vote for Hillary Clinton.  She embarrassed herself by not pleasing her man, essentially.  And women know it.

Women are only good for having kids.  Unfortunately they’re not very good at raising them.

Hitler was raised by a single mother.

Men have created everything you see in the world.  Men invented electricity.  Men invented cures for diseases –

After some additional introductory comments about their decision to have Masterson on the show, the actual conversation with Masterson began:

Carson: And he’s on the phone.  Please welcome to the show the, uh, I guess the, the author of a book he’s come out with and also the guy who runs this website.  Uh, he’s been on Dr. Phil.  Very controversial.  Dick Masterson is his name.  Dick Masterson, good morning.

Masterson:        How you doin’, Kid Carson, ladies?  Good morning.

Arora:   We have names too.  [Masterson laughs]  You can’t just call us “ladies”.

Masterson:        Do you, uh, do your husbands have last names?  I can call you “Missus Blank” and “Missus Blank”.

Arora:   No, I haven’t changed my name, so if you could just call me “Nira” if you can pronounce it properly, then that would be greatly appreciated.

Masterson:        All right, Nira, dear.  You sound like a fiery vixen.  I like it already.

Carson then observed that Masterson had appeared on the American talk show Dr. Phil and Masterson bragged that he had insulted a woman on that program who had accused him of not being able to get a date.  Masterson recounted that he had responded, “If she hits the treadmill a little more she’d be, uh, she’d be in front of the line.  To date me.”  Carson then suggested that much of Masterson’s controversial opinion was simply exaggerated in order to sell his books.  Masterson replied:

I am trying to sell a book.  Uh, I started the website as more as [sic] a hobby.  I’ll tell you how much of it is serious.  As long as eight-year-old kids are getting expelled, uh, from schools for things like sexual harassment, as long as the rampant feminization of society is going on, I’m dead serious.  Because that’s a huge problem.  You look at, uh, at, take something like police officers.  We’re all supposed to pretend that men and women are so equal, women are just as qualified to be cops and that’s just not true.  That’s insane.

Arora and Masterson then debated women’s ability to be police officers and Arora questioned Masterson on his own mother’s opinion of his views.  Masterson claimed that his mother “loves what I’m doin’.”  He then explained his position that all women are “whores”:

Women are, you know, it’s a, it’s a necessity, uh, in society that women are whores because men have more money and we want sex more than women do.  So what’s gonna happen, we’re gonna try to dump money on you guys to put out.  It’s a necessity of the system.

At his point, Carson declared that he felt like he was in a comedy skit because he could not believe that Masterson was serious and that, if Masterson were serious, Carson would be “furious and I’d be shuttin’ you down.”  Arora then asked Masterson what he was “trying to prove” with his book and website.  Masterson replied that he was “trying to make men laugh” because men are made to feel guilty about being men.  Arora and Masterson then argued about which sex was more oppressed throughout history, men or women.  That exchange was followed by a discussion between Carson and Masterson about whether the intent of the book and website was just “extreme, hardcore, edgy comedy for guys.”  Arora expressed her view that, even if part of it were exaggerated, Masterson had gone too far.

Arora:   Obviously there’s jokes out there.  But, come on, you’re writing a book that’s sitting there and saying that women shouldn’t even be allowed to vote and the only thing we’re good for is giving birth.  […]  You’re calling us all “whores”.  Whether you’re saying it’s a joke or not, you’re still saying all women are whores.

Masterson:        Well, I do think you’re all whores.  You’ll, you’ll all take, um, –

Arora:   So –

Masterson:        – take free stuff because you know guys wanna bang you.

Arora:   I don’t take free stuff from guys!

Beeman:           Wow!

Masterson:        You’ve never in your life taken –

Arora:   You don’t even know me!

Masterson:        – a supersize ’cause a guy was tryin’ to hit on you?

Arora:   You don’t –

Masterson:        You’ve never taken a free drink?

Arora:   No!  I don’t, I, that’s one thing about, that was one of my things.  And I was, because I was one of those “oh, I’m gonna be a feminist.  I don’t need men” and you’re the reason why I was like that.  And I’m now at a post-feminist stage in my life [Masterson chuckles] where I’m just, like, you know what, let it all go, let it all go, we’re equals, we’re havin’ a good time together.  But then I read things like, things that are on your website, Men Are Better than Women.  And then hear that you’re writing books about this and I feel like going backwards and just wanting to hate on men.

Masterson:        Well, honey, you’re the exception to the rule then.  You’re the one in a million exception that proves the rule.  You prove it because you’ve made it such a big deal that you’re not going to behave like this.  You’ve proved that all women do behave like this.

Arora:   No!

Carson: In fact this is –

Beeman:           Oh, twisting words!

Masterson:        You can just jump onto a freeway and fall on a mattress truck, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.  The general rule is that women do behave like whores.

[…]

Carson: Okay, that proves it then.  You are the [Arora laughs].  All right, this is the website.  It’s, uh, a little bit [?] you’re hearing.  Dick Masterson.  He’s, um, got this website, got this book, Men Are Better than Women dot com.  It’s very out there.  It’s very extreme.  It’s very wrong.  I tend to look at it more like an extreme comedy.  I don’t think it’s funny, but I think that, I think that Dick is not as much of a bad guy as he’s saying.  He’s trying to get everyone’s attention.  I think that’s, you know, –

Arora:   Shock value.

Carson then accidentally hung up on Dick Masterson as he was trying to put a caller on air.  The hosts discussed the legitimacy of Masterson’s outrageous views and eventually got Masterson back on the line to speak with listeners who had phoned the station.

Carson: Listen.  If this guy obviously is, I mean, if, if this is all really dead serious, if he wasn’t trying to sell a book.  Obviously.  I mean, the guy’s a total ham.  The guy’s a total ham.  I think he just feeds off the fact that he’s getting you so worked up.  That you’re like [affects funny angry voice] “No, I’m not one of those girls!”  He loves it.  He’s trying to sell books.  Who, the, it’s impossible for there to actually be a guy like this.  It’s impossible.

Arora:   I don’t think it’s impossible.

Carson: I can’t, I can’t even believe –

Arora:   I really don’t think it’s impossible.

Carson: I can’t even –

Arora:   There are people that are twisted and he’s a twisted person.

Beeman:           And it’s scary.

Carson: I don’t know.  He can’t be for real.  Anyways, I, I just feel bad I hung up on him.

The first caller was a man who called Masterson a “chauvinistic pig” and suggested that, if Masterson truly thought men were better at everything, then Masterson must be gay.  Masterson replied that he had received a piece of fan mail from a man who had had sexual experiences with both men and women and had agreed with Masterson that “guys do everything better in the sack too.  I can’t speak from personal experience, but I gotta go with the guy.”  When the caller insisted that Masterson was gay, Masterson said “F you, pal.  I’m not gay.”

The second caller was a woman named Paris.  Masterson greeted her with “How’re you doin’, baby?”  The caller expressed her disagreement with Masterson in the following terms:

Paris:    I’ve been listening to your nonsense and I actually checked your website the other day.  And I’ve been listening to the conversation you’re been having with Nira and Kid.  And everybody’s against you.  And there’s a reason that, actually, everybody’s against you.  I just have a proposition for you.  I have a friend that works, um, actually downtown where you go and change your name.  Um, your first name actually suits you perfectly.  But I just wanted to know if you would like I can book it for you for free – because you have to pay – they’re willing to waive the five hundred dollars and you can change your last name to “Head”.  [Arora & Beeman laugh & clap]

[…]

Masterson:        You know what?  You have such a sexy accent.  I love hearing every word of that, uh, five-year old’s insult.  Did your kid help you come up with that?  [Arora laughs.]  If you continue looking at my site, you talk about how much people hate me, but if you keep lookin’ at my site a little bit better, you’re gonna find a page full of women who’ve sent me pictures of their gorgeous racks with the name of my site written across it [sic].

Paris:    Oh my, you must have been either abused in childhood or your mother did something to you or something has been done to your mother because psychologically you’re screwed.  You’re absolutely screwed.

Masterson:        You know what happened to me?  When I was a kid, I got this disease that, uh, gave me gigantic balls.

Paris:    Oh God, you’re mentally screwed.  [Arora & Beeman laugh]

Masterson:        And that’s what turned me into the man I am today.

Carson: Thank you, Paris.

Caller Anita then voiced her opinion on Masterson’s philosophy about women.  She stated that she was a mother of two boys and that she felt sorry for Masterson’s mother who had to watch her son making money by insulting females.  She also questioned the reason for Masterson’s “hatred for females”.  Masterson explained and engaged in a lengthy debate with that caller, with interjections from Arora:

Masterson:        No, no, I don’t hate women at all.  Uh, I just don’t, uh, I don’t want to see them, you know, get, uh, go for the career girl life.  ’Cause it’s, it’s unfulfilling to women.  Women –

[…]

Anita:    No, but say, for example, even if you didn’t [get married] and you got a woman pregnant.  And she had a female, which would be your daughter, you would say that your daughter’s a “whore”?

Masterson:        Well, I’d raise, I’d raise her to embrace what makes her a woman.  I wouldn’t teach her to act like a man.

Anita:    Okay, so what if –

Masterson:        I wouldn’t teach her to take on the boys.

Anita:    Okay, well, what is a woman?  Please, define –

Masterson:        A woman should be, uh, is, is, uh, well, she should get her priorities straight.  […]  She should go for personal fulfillment.  Because women need kids.  Women want to have a kid.  They wanna, they wanna have kids, they wanna get married.  And they shouldn’t, they shouldn’t neglect that until late in life like a lot of broads are doing these days.

[…]

Arora:   Broads?

Anita:    Okay, now, first thing:  “broads”.  Okay, why would you call a woman a “broad”?

[…]

Masterson:        ’Cause it’s funny.  [Arora & Beeman laugh]

Beeman:           Oh geez!

Arora:   What is wrong with you?!  […]  I want to smack you!

Masterson:        Women like it.  Women like to be treated like this.

Anita:    No, we do not.

Masterson:        Women like to be treated with disrespect.

Arora:   I don’t think so.

[…]

Masterson:        You treat ’em like dirt, they’ll stick to you like mud.  That’s my philosophy.

Anita:    No, no.  The point is you’re not respecting the females.

Masterson:        No, I never would respect the females!  I don’t respect men either until they’ve earned it!

Anita:    Okay, but the point is that’s sad.  That means you don’t respect your mother?

[…]

Masterson:        You know what?  My mother is so classy that she wouldn’t listen to things that pissed her off.  That’s the difference between my mother and most chicks out there these days.

Anita:    So basically, so you, you’ve created a book so people can go buy it so you can inst-, insult the female and your mom’s a female.  So what does that represent?  So the mother has not done a good job.  That’s what you’re telling me?  Mom hasn’t –

Masterson:        So are you teaching your boys to only do things that impresses [sic] mommy?

Anita:    No!  I’m teaching my boys to stand up there, not to be afraid of anybody, to be afraid of God.  And respect anybody that’s around you, twenty-four seven.  That is –

Masterson:        Well, I hope daddy is teaching a different lesson.  […]  He’s at work while you’re gabbin’ on the phone.  Like all over the world, the man’s at work, the woman’s at home gabbin’ on the phone.

[…]

Anita:    But I’d like to tell him, um, I own my own company.  And it’s under my expenses.  It’s, I run the business.  And my husband –

[…]

Anita:    I think it’s, I think it’s pretty sad, Dick.  And it’s, it’s so sad [Arora laughs], like the –

Carson: Anita, you don’t have to convince everyone that you’re right.

Arora:   We know, Anita.  We’re on your side, okay?

[…]

Carson: We’re just havin’ some fun.  You’re havin’ fun callin’ up and bitchin’ him out, okay?  We’re, I didn’t even, Amy, it’s Amy’s fault!  Amy booked him to come on the show!

The hosts concluded the call with Anita and continued to argue with Masterson:

Arora:   Can I just quickly bring up that, Dick, I feel that you’ve contradicted yourself in a few of these phone calls that we’ve had recently.  Because at one point you’re saying that us women are whores because we rely on men because we can do, we’ll do anything for money, right?

Masterson:        Right.

Arora:   So wouldn’t that make sense because you want us to stay home and not have a career and take care of the kids anyways.  So if that’s our role, like what you assume is our role, uh, then where are women supposed to get the money anyways?  From the man, right?

Masterson:        From the man, yeah.  When I s-, I don’t say, um, I’m not meaning to demean you by calling you a “whore”.  That’s, that’s –

Arora:   [sarcastically]  Oh, I’m sorry.

Masterson:        That’s not the basis of what I’m saying.

Arora:   I didn’t know that.

Masterson:        It’s simply what you are.  You take money for sex.  It makes, makes you a whore.

Arora:   But you are, you’re saying that that’s what my role is supposed to do.  So then why, why are you calling me a “whore”?  Then I’m just being a woman.

Masterson:        Right.  Right.  That’s why, that’s what I’m trying to get across.

Arora:   So just say “be a woman” instead of saying “being a whore”.

[…]

Masterson:        No, I, I definitely think a woman’s natural place is at home spending a man’s money.  And I think men need to be aware of this when they get in these relationships.  Today’s men think that it’s a fifty-fifty partnership, a marriage.  And it’s not.

[…]

Arora:   It is in some.

Carson then questioned Masterson about how old he was when he developed these viewpoints.  Masterson stated that he had always seen the world this way:

Masterson:        No, you can tell, uh, if you, I think if you pay attention in life, you can tell who’s, who’s getting, uh, screwed over in things like divorce.  Uh, who’s generally at home taking care of the kids and workin’ an eight-hour day, you know, watching TV and cleaning the house.  And who’s out there busting their ass for twelve hours a day commuting.  And, uh, puttin’ food on the table.  All right, you can tell this stuff.

Arora:   You don’t know people at all.  That’s all I have to say, is that’s all, you’re, you live in this tiny little bubble.  And you just, you’re making up all this crap.  And you’re judging the rest of the world on it.  But that’s okay ’cause you’re allowed ’cause that’s your world.  And I don’t want to be a part of it, so that’s my choice.

After some additional debate, they ended the call with Masterson.  Carson reiterated that Masterson’s goal was to generate controversy and Carson did not want to play into his game by getting all worked up:

Carson: You know, I, I can’t even, I’m not even, I just, I can’t sit here on the phone and, like, bash him or rip him apart because it’s almost, like, then, uh, I don’t want to feed into his whole, you know, thing.  It’s, it’s already, it’s so obvious that’s he’s ridiculous and he’s absolutely insane and what he’s saying is so pre-historic and, and crazy that, that it’s, like, I just have to laugh at it.  It’s like –

Arora:   So you don’t want to give him what he wants?

Carson: Yeah.  I don’t want to sit here and bash him and give him what he wants.  So, but, I mean […] I want, I don’t wanna give him that satisfaction.  […]  ’Cause he’s ridiculous, obviously.  I mean, anyone who, if I don’t want to get e-mails later going “you had this guy on your show and you, you didn’t attack him at all” and blah blah blah.  […]  That’s not, I’m not gonna give, he wants me to attack him.  He wants you guys to jump on him.  […]  He’s tryin’ to sell books.  It’s probably a scam.  You know what I mean?

The hosts then mentioned that they had received an e-mail from Chris Flett (a male author and speaker who promotes and assists a greater participation for women in the business and corporate world), who expressed his desire to appear on the program to debate Masterson sometime.  The hosts agreed that it would be interesting to hear Flett and Masterson go head-to-head.

Arora:   Chris Flett is a man.  So hearing it from a man’s perspective for Dick might actually affect him in a different way.  […]  ’Cause he, I think he automatically tunes out women and what women have to say.

The segment (and program) then concluded with a discussion between the hosts about Masterson’s appearance, as Arora in particular tried to calm down after having confronted his chauvinistic views.  When Carson commented that Arora “needs to go outside and cool off”, she replied “I really do!”  Arora also commented that it was “so frustrating” and that she had not attacked Masterson as much as she had wanted to.  Carson again repeated that he did not want to give Masterson the satisfaction of attacking him because that would only help his desire for publicity and controversy.

The Correspondence

The CBSC received two complaints about this broadcast, but only one complainant requested a CBSC ruling.  That listener’s letter, dated March 3, read as follows (the full text of all correspondence can be found in Appendix B):

I was deeply offended that the show hosted a male chauvinist whose book Why Men Are Better than Women [sic, actually only Men Are Better than Women] was being promoted.  In the interview, he claimed that all women are whores, are only good for sex and having children, and that any job that exists is better done by a man.  He claimed that women enjoy being treated like dirt and that hiring a woman is the worst idea because, in addition to being unable to make decisions, they’ll leave you in the lurch when they get pregnant.

I wonder if the show would invite a racist or white supremacist who wrote a book entitled Why White Men Are Better than Men of Colour.  Not so funny is it?  So why is it acceptable to promote these misogynistic views about women?  We all have a mother – can we please at least stand up for her on this issue?

I turned off the radio when the show’s host told an angry caller that it was all meant to be fun – that she had fun calling in to complain so she shouldn’t be upset.  I promise you I was not having fun listening to the show and I definitely do not have fun thinking about the systems which allowed this hate speech to be broadcast (and on mainstream radio no less).

The station’s Program Director replied to the complainant on March 24 explaining how it had addressed the complaint:

Before I address your specific concern, it should be noted that CFBT-FM is a member of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, and adheres to the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics and Equitable Portrayal Code, and the Radio Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) of Canada Code of (Journalistic) Ethics.  If you would like to view any of these codes, you may do so at www.cbsc.ca.

I understand your concern and apologize if you were offended by the comments and beliefs of Dick Masterson, the guest of The Kid Carson Show March 2nd, 2009.

Since receiving your complaint, I’ve listened to the logger tape of this Broadcast and also talked to our morning show about this particular guest.

The members of The Kid Carson Show do not share and do not agree with the views of the guest and told me that their intention was not to offend anyone, but rather expose a person who has such negative and ridiculous views on women.  Mr. Masterson has been a guest on Dr. Phil and The Tyra Banks Show to express his views as well.

Having said that, I feel that our morning show could have used better judgment in allowing this person on their show.

I can assure you that The BEAT 94.5 does not share the views of this guest and will not be having him back on the station.

The complainant was not satisfied with that response and wrote back to the CBSC on March 30:

The show featured a chauvinistic man promoting his book Why Men Are Better than Women [sic].  He used extremely offensive language including “slut”, “whore”, “stupid”, etc. to describe women, argued that women are unreliable, good only for sex, etc., etc.

This violates Clauses 4, 5, 7 and 9 and, although the station sent me a letter assuring me that they do not share the man’s views and will not have him back on the show, I was so deeply concerned that I felt a need to take further action.

If the man had written a book Why White People Are Better than Non-White People would he still receive air time?

THE DECISION

The British Columbia Regional Panel examined the complaint under the following provisions of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics and Equitable Portrayal Code:

CAB Code of Ethics Clause 2 – Human Rights

Recognizing that every person has the right to full and equal recognition and to enjoy certain fundamental rights and freedoms, broadcasters shall ensure that their programming contains no abusive or unduly discriminatory material or comment which is based on matters of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability.

CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 3 – Sex-Role Stereotyping

Recognizing that stereotyping images can and do have a negative effect, it shall be the responsibility of broadcasters to exhibit, to the best of their ability, a conscious sensitivity to the problems related to sex-role stereotyping, by refraining from exploitation and by the reflection of the intellectual and emotional equality of both sexes in programming.  Broadcasters shall refer to the Sex-Role Portrayal Code for Television and Radio Programming [replaced by the CAB Equitable Portrayal Code in March 2008]for more detailed provisions in this area.

CAB Equitable Portrayal Code, Clause 2 – Human Rights

Recognizing that every person has the right to the full enjoyment of certain fundamental rights and freedoms, broadcasters shall ensure that their programming contains no abusive or unduly discriminatory material or comment which is based on matters of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability.

CAB Equitable Portrayal Code, Clause 3 – Negative Portrayal

In an effort to ensure appropriate depictions of all individuals and groups, broadcasters shall refrain from airing unduly negative portrayals of persons with respect to race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability.  Negative portrayal can take many different forms, including (but not limited to) stereotyping, stigmatization and victimization, derision of myths, traditions or practices, degrading material, and exploitation.

CAB Equitable Portrayal Code, Clause 4 – Stereotyping

Recognizing that stereotyping is a form of generalization that is frequently simplistic, belittling, hurtful or prejudicial, while being unreflective of the complexity of the group being stereotyped, broadcasters shall ensure that their programming contains no unduly negative stereotypical material or comment which is based on matters of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability.

CAB Equitable Portrayal Code, Clause 7 – Degrading Material

Broadcasters shall avoid the airing of degrading material, whether reflected in words, sounds, images or by other means, which is based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability.

CAB Equitable Portrayal Code, Clause 10 – Contextual Considerations

a)         Legitimate artistic usage: Individuals who are themselves bigoted or intolerant may be part of a fictional or non-fictional program, provided that the program is not itself abusive or unduly discriminatory;

[…]

c)         Intellectual treatment: Programming apparently for academic, artistic, humanitarian, journalistic, scientific or research purposes, or otherwise in the public interest, may be broadcast, provided that it: is not abusive or unduly discriminatory; does not incite contempt for, or severely ridicule, an enumerated group; and is not likely to incite or perpetuate hatred against an enumerated group.

The BC Panel Adjudicators read all of the correspondence and listened to a recording of the broadcast.  The majority of the Panel concludes that the station did not violate Clauses 2 or 3 of the CAB Code of Ethics or Clauses 2, 3, 4 or 7 of the CAB Equitable Portrayal Code due to contextual considerations outlined in Clause 10 of the latter Code.  One Adjudicator dissented.

Are There Any Limits To Outrageous Opinions?

The B.C. Regional Panel understands the perspective of the complainant and shares the complainant’s concern about the Masterson attitude.  It is hardly necessary for the Panel to refer at length or in detail to the statements made by the interviewee, Dick Masterson, regarding women.  Almost all of his generalized comments relating to women quoted above were abusive or unduly discriminatory and most constituted Code-breaching sex-role stereotyping pursuant to Clause 3 of the CAB Code of Ethics and unduly negative stereotyping on the basis of gender pursuant to Clause 4 of the CAB Equitable Portrayal Code (EPC).  Many of the comments were also degrading pursuant to Clause 7 of that Code.  Those comments would also be contrary to Clause 2 of both the Code of Ethics and the EPC.  They were, on their own, outlandish, preposterous, outrageous and unacceptable in terms of the foregoing codified standards.  Under the Equitable Portrayal Code, though, in the view of the majority of the B.C. Regional Panel, such a characterization does not necessarily put an end to the question of a breach of the foregoing codified standards.

The reason is the formal set of contextual considerations established by the EPC.  These include legitimate artistic usage (Clause 10(a)) and intellectual treatment (Clause 10(c)).  While the language in Clause 10(a) would appear applicable, the Panel considers that it is more appropriately applied to dramatic or documentary programming than to a program of the nature of that under consideration here.  The Panel fully appreciates that another Panel may encounter a circumstance in which an extension of the application of that provision may be warranted; however, in the matter at hand, it is unnecessary to the B.C. Panel majority’s conclusions.  In its view, Clause 10(c) is precisely applicable.  While some may react to the word “intellectual” as applied to the Kid Carson Show, it is after all only the label identifying the list of programming purposes covered by the paragraph; namely, academic, artistic, humanitarian, journalistic, scientific, research “or otherwise in the public interest”.  The Panel readily finds that the challenged program partakes of humanitarian, journalistic and public interest-oriented qualities.  In other words, it falls within the codifiers’ anticipated categories of defence or exemption.  Even assuming, though, that Clause 10(c) may in principle be applicable, the question for the Panel is whether or not there are criteria to be met in order for that clause to have its full effect.

The Panel considers that it is of the essence of these contextual considerations that there may be circumstances in which otherwise unacceptable comments may be broadcast.  These have much, if not everything, to do with the idea of dialogue, exchange, discussion.  In the view of the Panel, a comment that would be abusive, unduly discriminatory or unduly negatively stereotypical on its own loses some of that stinging quality if it is part of a give-and-take.  In effect, unilateral abuse may cease to be problematically abusive when it meets an equally effective defusing force.  In the view of the B.C. Panel, the factors that must be weighed in the assessment of the neutralizing comments will include their nature, strength and timeliness.  In other words, where they do not really oppose the offending statements, are weak and ineffective or not proximate from a time perspective, they are unlikely to benefit from the contextual “defences” provided in Clause 10.

Applying those criteria to the challenged broadcast, the Panel concludes that the unsavoury Masterson comments were effectively blunted, indeed destroyed.  By reason of the reaction of the three hosts, supplemented by the callers, nothing remained but buffoonery.  The segment was introduced as including “brutal” views about women; it was described as “spread[ing] this negative energy”; and the broadcaster took the unusual step of providing a listener advisory.  He was continually mocked by the women co-hosts, and Carson suggested that much of the controversial opinion was simply exaggerated to sell books.  Carson asserted that he could not even believe that Masterson was serious and that, if he thought he was, he would “be furious and [would] be shuttin’ [him] down.”  He added:

It’s very out there.  It’s very extreme.  It’s very wrong.  I tend to look at it more like an extreme comedy.  I don’t think it’s funny, but I think that, I think that Dick is not as much of a bad guy as he’s saying.  He’s trying to get everyone’s attention.

When they got him back on line, they referred to him as a “total ham” just out to sell books.  As Carson said, “it’s impossible for there to actually be a guy like this. […]  He can’t be for real.”  One caller called him a “chauvinistic pig”.  Another said that “everybody’s against you.”  After the conclusion of the call, host Carson himself concluded: “it’s so obvious that’s he’s ridiculous and he’s absolutely insane and what he’s saying is so pre-historic and, and crazy that, that it’s, like, I just have to laugh at it.”

The bottom line for the Panel is that Dick Masterson’s ridiculous standards-violating anti-female assertions were shredded by the hosts and the callers.  However offensive they might have been on their own, they did not survive the torrent of reaction.  This is precisely the type of situation anticipated by Clause 10(c).  Freedom of expression prevailed.  The unduly discriminatory, unduly negative stereotypical and abusive comments were debated on a level playing field, and the unacceptable comments were left tattered on that field of debate.  Not a sentence, not a phrase, not a word was left credibly afoot.  However problematic the opening and periodic Masterson assertions, there is in the result the contextual survival of the program itself.  The Panel finds no ultimate breach of the codified standards.

That it may not have been wise to have Masterson on as a guest, that giving him a platform was risky, that there was a retrospective uncertainty by the broadcaster’s representative about the decision to have him on the show at all are strictly programming issues.  The majority of the Panel finds no fault in that decision.  Having made the choice to have him on the air, the hosts provided the internal program balance that the Masterson persona required.  The Panel is satisfied that the broadcaster’s hosts defused and neutralized a potentially problematic situation.  And the Panel wishes to respond to the complainant’s speculative concern about whether “the show would invite a racist or white supremacist who wrote a book entitled Why White Men Are Better than Men of Colour.”  As she said, “Not so funny is it?  So why is it acceptable to promote these misogynistic views about women?”  The Panel presumes that the complainant expected that its conclusion would be different in the event that it had concerned men of colour.  The Panel hastens to assure the complainant, as well as all other persons, that, in circumstances analogous to those presented in the matter at hand, any CBSC Panel would rule similarly.  No identifiable group would be treated any differently.

A Dissenting Perspective (J. Doobay)

My dissent from the majority’s decision relates to the initial decision to give Dick Masterson a platform to express his venomous perspective.  I agree with the majority’s characterization of his comments as “outlandish, preposterous, outrageous and unacceptable in terms of the foregoing codified standards.”  My difference with the majority is that I do not consider that Clause 10(c) is of application here.  Whether the programming does or does not fall within any of the categories enumerated at the start of that clause, the challenged programming is not saved by the clause unless it “is not abusive or unduly discriminatory; does not incite contempt for, or severely ridicule, an enumerated group; and is not likely to incite or perpetuate hatred against an enumerated group.”  It is my view that, by allowing Masterson on the program, the broadcaster has in effect polluted the program by his abusiveness directed at women.  In the end, that abusive quality has rendered the entire episode abusive and unduly discriminatory, unduly negatively stereotypically and/or degrading, in terms of the various Code clauses cited above.  In my view, the challenged program is not salvaged by the application of any of the contextual considerations included in Clause 10 of the EPC.

Broadcaster Responsiveness

In all CBSC decisions, the Council’s Panels assess the broadcaster’s responsiveness to the complainant.  In the present instance, the Panel finds that the response of the broadcaster’s Program Director was, in this regard, thoughtful and responsive.  It acknowledged that the program’s hosts “do not share and do not agree with the views of the guest.”  It also went as far as admitting that “our morning show could have used better judgment in allowing this person on their show.”  In all, the Panel finds that the broadcaster’s reply was particularly open, frank and honest.  That this did not satisfy the complainant is not the Program Director’s fault.  In any event, the bottom line is that the Panel considers that the broadcaster has fully met its responsiveness responsibilities of CBSC membership.

This decision is a public document upon its release by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.  It may be reported, announced or read by the station against which the complaint had originally been made; however, in the case of a favourable decision, the station is under no obligation to announce the result.