CFMI-FM re Brother Jake Morning Show (Wake up Contests)

BRITISH COLUMBIA REGIONAL PANEL
(CBSC Decision 01/02-0875)
S. Warren (Chair), H. Mack (Vice-Chair), R. Cohen (ad hoc), G. Leighton,D. Millette, J. Rysavy

THE FACTS

On April 25 and 26, 2002, CFMI-FM (Rock 101, Vancouver) broadcast episodes of the Brother Jake Morning Show which included a contest called, when dealing with men, “Wake up Woody” and, when dealing with women, “Wake up Wendy”, the goal of which was to win tickets to a forthcoming Vancouver Canucks hockey game. While a full transcript of the relevant portions of the two episodes can be found in Appendix A, the contest is easily explained by reporting that it relates to callers’ innovative sexual techniques in awakening a sleeping partner during the morning broadcast period for the show (with an open telephone handset within earshot of the activity). One example follows here:

Female: Hello.

Jake: Are you awake yet?

Female: [laughs] I am now.

Jake: [laughs] What happened? What was goin’ on?

Well I was supposed to be sleeping in this morning, but I was, well I won't call it rudely awakened, but I was awakened by my boyfriend [intentionally clears throat].

He was like climbing between my legs and, you know, trying to wake me up and at first I was annoyed, but now I'm not so sure.

[Jake et al. laugh]

It is obviously totally tasteless, totally inappropriate in both topic and timing, and apparently allowed by management, as it was done two days in a row.

The broadcaster's response of May 11, signed by the Program Director, said, in part:

The Contest involved participants waking up their spouses such that husbands were required to come up with innovative and humorous ways to awaken their wives and vice versa.  The winner of this Contest was to be awarded a pair of hockey tickets to a sold-out Game.  We appreciate that some of the contestant's [sic] innovative approaches may have been somewhat suggestive.  We recognize that the content of the “skits” performed by some of the callers may be controversial and not appeal to some listeners' comedic tastes.  Humour and taste are extremely subjective elements relative to the point of view of an individual.

Once the CBSC became involved in the complaint process, it wrote, in accordance with its customary procedures, to the broadcaster, requesting that it reply to the complainant.  Although it had previously done so, the broadcaster took the second opportunity and wrote on June 13.  The explanatory paragraph had been rewritten and now put the broadcaster's position in the following terms:

The Contest involved participants waking up their spouses such that husbands were required to come up with innovative and humorous ways to awaken their wives and vice versa. The winner of this Contest was to be awarded a pair of hockey tickets to a sold-out Game.  We appreciate that some of the contestants [sic] innovative approaches may have been in bad taste and even somewhat suggestive.  Please be assured that the host and producers take steps to ensure that any “sexually sensitive” materials are usually presented through the use of euphemisms/innuendos (as pointed out in your letter) and in a comedic manner.  The euphemisms used are not explicit or raunchy.  Anyone listening who did not already have a mature understanding of the general topic would not have understood the euphemisms.  We recognize that the content of the “skits” performed by some of the callers may be controversial and not appeal to some listeners' comedic tastes.  Humour and taste are extremely subjective elements relative to the point of view of an individual.

The complainant wrote back to the CBSC on June 21, at which time he returned his signed Ruling Request.  He also said, in his covering letter:

What he fails to acknowledge is the fact that children are listening to their station during the morning program, and that a disclaimer will not stop that fact.

A ride at an amusement park can prohibit a child from participation if they do not come up to a minimum height.  A radio or TV station can air programs of a controversial nature late at night, [.] as young children would not be expected to be up at that time.  To air a solicitation to engage in live sex on the radio at 8 AM on a school day is unacceptable.  To air the act of sexual arousal on the air is unacceptable.  To follow up and do it the next day is totally unbelievable and unacceptable.  The station management, by allowing this level of programming, is condoning this type of broadcast.  Young people at 8 AM will be listening to the radio at that time and this type of content, as aired on April 25th & 26th is, I feel, unacceptable.

THE DECISION

The British Columbia Regional Panel considered the complaint under the following provision of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' (CAB) Code of Ethics:

CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 6, paragraph 3:

It is recognized that the full, fair and proper presentation of news, opinion, comment and editorial is the prime responsibility of the broadcast publisher.

The B.C. Regional Panel Adjudicators listened to a tape of the episodes of the Brother Jake Morning Show in question and reviewed all of the correspondence.  The Panel considers that neither episode is in breach of the foregoing clause.

The position of past CBSC decisions on this subject is easily summarized.  Sexually explicit material is unacceptable on morning radio or at other times when children might be listening but sexual innuendo or sexually suggestive content is not.  Drawing that line is frequently challenging for CBSC Panels.  It has also tended to be their conclusion in those circumstances in which they have not found a breach of the above Code provision that they have described the considered material tasteless.  It is to this conclusion that the Panel arrives in the present instance.

The song playfully alludes to the sexual fantasies of the songwriter without explicitly describing them.  In one such reference, the songwriter muses “I got the notion that the motion of your ocean means 'Small Craft Advisory'.”  The lyrics are far removed from the explicitness of the graphic descriptions which led to a finding of breach in the Howard Stern decision

In the matter at hand, the Panel finds considerable sexual banter that is on the edge but nothing that falls over it.  The contest is filled with double entendres and suggestive comments; however, after examining the comments closely, the Panel concludes that there is nothing that is explicit enough to be in breach of the Code provision.  The Panel is not even convinced that all children would even understand the innuendo; however, even if some might, the Adjudicators are not of the view that the two contests are sufficiently explicit to fall afoul of the Code.  When Panels reach such conclusions, they are constrained to decide that the principle of freedom of speech overrides suggestive or taste-doubtful content.  They find no breach of the Code in the matter at hand.

Since one of the responsibilities of membership in the CBSC Manual is to “co-operate fully with complainants by responding quickly and effectively to their concerns,” CBSC Panels always take the time, in the course of their deliberations, to review the broadcaster's responsiveness to the complainant.  Compliance with this undertaking is a matter required in all files under consideration by the CBSC's Panels.  In this case, the Program Director wrote two letters, rather than just one.  While they were quite similar in large measure, both dealt fairly and at some length with the issues at hand.  Nothing more is required in this instance.

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.