CFNY-FM re the Dean Blundell Show (Females, Freezies & Halloween)

ONTARIO REGIONAL PANEL
CBSC Decision 11/12-0380
May 24, 2012
M. Ziniak (Chair), J. David, M. Oldfield, J. Pungente

THE FACTS

The Dean Blundell Show is the morning show on rock radio station CFNY-FM (102.1 The Edge, Toronto).  It is hosted by Dean Blundell, Todd Shapiro and Derek Welsman and airs weekdays from 5:30 to 10:00 am.  It contains news, traffic and weather updates, songs and banter between the hosts.

On October 12, 2011, the CBSC received a complaint from a listener who expressed his concerns about three separate segments broadcast during episodes of the program (transcripts of each segment can be found in Appendix A and all correspondence from both the complainant and the broadcaster can be found in Appendix B). The first segment occurred on October 11 at approximately 7:00 am.  The hosts discussed a television morning news program and Blundell repeatedly commented on the “great jugs” of one of the female on-air personalities.  He went on to joke that he was going to publish a book entitled Chicks that Can Touch My Thing.  He said it would be a pop-up book with each woman “spread eagle”.  The listener complained this conversation constituted an objectification of women contrary to the sex-role stereotyping provisions of the broadcast codes.

The second segment identified by the complainant was broadcast on October 12 at approximately 7:00 am. Blundell read an e-mail from a listener that described a sexual move called the “freezie”.  Blundell explained that “you take the safe after you’ve just made it busy” and “run the old thumb in” like one would to get a melted Freezie out of its wrapper.  Blundell and his co-hosts commented that it was a “great move”.  The complainant stated that this segment was too sexually explicit and would be inappropriate for young people to hear.

The third challenged segment was broadcast on October 12, at approximately 7:10 am. During that segment, the hosts talked about a Christian religious group who had started a movement called JesusWeen which was encouraging people to give out Bibles and Christian gifts for Halloween in order to spread a Christian message.  The hosts complained about the group, arguing that Christians already have many holidays so this group should not be trying to “overtake Halloween” as well.  Blundell criticized the group for trying to get people to buy stuff so that Christian groups would profit.  Blundell stated, “This is everything that’s awful about religion.”  They also referred to the group as “religious freakos” and said the name “JesusWeen” was “very gay”.  They then said that the word “ween” makes them think of “penis” and joked about asking Mary Magdalene or the 12 disciples about Jesus’ ween.  Blundell effected a stereotypically effeminate voice and used double entendres to imply that Jesus and the disciples had engaged in homosexual behaviour.  At the end of the conversation, Blundell said that he did not want this Christian group to ruin Halloween because it is his favourite holiday, as he gets to walk around the neighbourhood with his children getting candy.  Shapiro said that he likes to celebrate the holiday by going to clubs and Blundell joked that Shapiro liked to dress up like a French maid.  Shapiro replied, “Yeah, you know, it’s my excuse to be a slut like every other female.”

The complainant was concerned about the use of the word “gay” to indicate displeasure. He suggested that it was discriminatory on the basis of sexual orientation and that The Edge hosts were not acting as good role models for youth in their use of the expression.  He also complained about Shapiro’s reference to women as “sluts”, characterizing it as “misogynistic violence”.

The broadcaster responded to the complainant with a letter dated November 9. Regarding the conversation about television personalities, the station argued that The Edge hosts had not only talked about women, but also commented that one male newscaster had “a great ass”; since both men and women were mentioned during the conversation, it was not sexist.  With respect to the “Freezie” discussion, CFNY-FM stated that Blundell “deliberately used vague language and innuendo” so that it was not sexually explicit and did not contravene the broadcast code.  The station also suggested that neither the use of the word “gay” as an insult nor the jokes about homosexuality were offensive on the basis of sexual orientation.  Finally, the station asserted that Shapiro’s reference to “sluts” “was a comment on the behavioural choice made by some women to dress provocatively on Hallowe’en”, but was not a comment about women in general.

The complainant filed his Ruling Request on November 23 in which he expressed his disagreement with each of The Edge’s arguments.

THE DECISION

The CBSC Ontario 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 9 – Radio Broadcasting

Recognizing that radio is a local medium and, consequently, reflective of local community standards, programming broadcast on a local radio station shall take into consideration the generally recognized access to programming content available in the market, the demographic composition of the station’s audience, and the station’s format. Within this context, particular care shall be taken by radio broadcasters to ensure that programming on their stations does not contain:

[…]

(b)        Unduly sexually explicit material.

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 [since March 17, 2008, replaced by the Equitable Portrayal Code] 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 6 – Derision of Myths, Traditions or Practices

Broadcasters shall avoid the airing of content that has the effect of unduly deriding the myths, traditions or practices of groups on the basis of their 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 8(a) – Exploitation

Broadcasters shall refrain from the airing of programming that exploits women, men or children.

CAB Equitable Portrayal Code, Clause 9 – Language and Terminology

Broadcasters shall be sensitive to, and avoid, the usage of derogatory or inappropriate language or terminology in references to individuals or groups based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability.

  1. Equality of the sexes must be recognized and reinforced through the proper use of language and terminology. Broadcasters shall employ language of a non-sexist nature in their programming, by avoiding, whenever possible, expressions which relate to only one gender.
  2. It is understood that language and terminology evolve over time. Some language and terminology may be inappropriate when used with respect to identifiable groups on the basis of their race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability. Broadcasters shall remain vigilant with respect to the evolving appropriateness or inappropriateness of particular words and phrases, keeping in mind prevailing community standards.

The Panel Adjudicators read all of the correspondence and listened to the challenged broadcasts. The Panel concludes that the October 11 broadcast did not violate any Code provisions.  The October 12 broadcast violated Clause 3 of the CAB Code of Ethics as well as Clauses 3, 4, 6 and 7 of the CAB Equitable Portrayal Code.

Discussion about Female Media Personalities

On October 11, 2011, the hosts of the Dean Blundell Show launched into a discussion about certain physical attributes of a well-known female television host, and mentioned in slang terms that she still had a remarkable chest in spite of two pregnancies:  “Two kids and she’s still got great jugs”.  Their conversation then turned to another female television host on a sports network and Blundell said “What a body”.  Keeping the momentum going, they referred to the posterior of another well-known host, male in this case, saying “What an ass!”  Blundell then added that the first female host he mentioned was almost at the top of his list of “chicks that could touch my thing” and then went on to say that he would share with the audience his top ten list of “chicks that could touch my thing”, adding that he would make a pop-up coffee table book out of it in center-fold style featuring women spread eagle and a tab to make them move.

While recognizing that this conversation was on the edge of what is acceptable on the air, the Panel Adjudicators pointed out that the episode at issue did not contain any sexually explicit description, nor discrimination based on sex, or for that matter any sexual stereotypes, but rather double entendres and innuendo and therefore did not breach either Clauses 9 (b), 2 and 3 of the CAB Code of Ethics nor Clauses 2, 3, 4, 7 and 8 (a) of the CAB Equitable Portrayal Code.[1]

 

Discussion about the “Freezie”

At 7:00 am on October 12, the hosts discussed e-mails they had received from listeners, in particular an e-mail suggesting using a condom as a “Freezie” and spoke about the original nature of that suggestion, again through double entendres and innuendo. The Panel concluded that this discussion did not contain any sexually explicit material and did not violate the provisions of Clause 9 (b) of the CAB Code of Ethics.[2]

Use of the Word “Gay”, the Discussion about a Religious Group and Comments about Women at Halloween

At approximately 7:10 am the same day, the three hosts discussed a Christian religious group known as JesusWeen. Reading from the group’s website, jesusween.com, host Blundell gave the description provided including the fact that it is a non-profit organization created to allow Christians to take back Halloween on October 31st and reconnect with Christ by giving out Bibles instead of treats.  Once he finished quoting from the site, Blundell concluded that the JesusWeen group’s ultimate goal is to take over Halloween.  His co-hosts then added that since these “religious freaks” already have All Saints Day, Christmas and Easter, they could leave Halloween to everyone else.

The discussion then turned to the costumes to wear and a play on words based on the name of the organisation, with Blundell saying “the name’s very gay. ‘JesusWeen’?”

However, the discussion then derailed with more plays on words about the possible meaning of the word “ween” and the hosts suggested it could refer to Christ’s penis. They continued in the same vein by suggesting this issue should be taken up with the twelve apostles or Mary Magdalene, thereby raising doubts as to the sexual orientation of Jesus Christ and the twelve disciples or insinuating a possible intimate relationship between Christ and Mary Magdalene.

Then, at the very end of this segment, after pointing out Halloween is his favourite day with his children because they go trick-or-treating throughout the entire neighbourhood, Blundell turned the microphone over to his co-host Todd Shapiro. The latter declared that for him, it was a night to go clubbing, to which Blundell laughingly added “And get dressed up like a French maid and take one from two dudes”.  At that point, Shapiro interjected with “Yeah.  You know, it’s my excuse to be a slut like every other female”.

The Panel examined every aspect of this segment of the program. It concluded that the word “gay” has a variety of meanings, among others “stupid” or “weak”, and that, given the context in which it was used in the program, it did not constitute, in and of itself, a negative portrayal of an individual or a group based on sexual orientation.

However, the Panel did determine that the discussion that followed had nothing to do with presenting opinions on controversial issues, and that given the accumulation of iconoclastic details it amounted to content unduly deriding Christian myths, traditions and practices – one of the founding concepts of Christianity being the celibacy of Jesus Christ – contrary to the provisions of Clause 6 of the CAB Equitable Portrayal Code.[3]

In its analysis of the last segment of the discussion, the Panel Adjudicators determined that Shapiro’s remarks on the air to the effect that all women are sluts breached the provisions of Clauses 2 and 3 of the CAB Code of Ethics relating to human rights and sex-role stereotyping, as well as Clauses 2, 3, 4 and 7 of the CAB Equitable Portrayal Code concerning human rights, negative portrayal, stereotyping and degrading material.[4]

Broadcaster Responsiveness

In all CBSC decisions, the Panels assess the broadcaster’s response to the complainant. The broadcaster need not agree with the complainant’s position, but it must respond in a courteous, thoughtful and thorough manner.  In this case, CFNY-FM provided a lengthy reply to the complainant, outlining its view of each of the challenged segments.  The broadcaster fulfilled its obligations of responsiveness and nothing further is required in this regard in this instance.

Announcement of the Decision

CFNY-FM is required to: 1) announce the decision, in the following terms, once during peak listening hours within three days following the release of this decision and once more within seven days following the release of this decision during the time period in which the Dean Blundell Show was broadcast, but not on the same day as the first mandated announcement; 2) within the fourteen days following the broadcasts of the announcements, to provide written confirmation of the airing of the statement to the complainant who filed the Ruling Request; and 3) at that time, to provide the CBSC with a copy of that written confirmation and with air check copies of the broadcasts of the two announcements which must be made by CFNY-FM.

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has found that CFNY-FM 102.1 The Edge violated the Equitable Portrayal Code of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters because a broadcast of the Dean Blundell Show on October 12, 2011 contained comments that derided Christian traditions, contrary to Clause 6 of that Code.  The broadcast also violated the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Code of Ethics and Equitable Portrayal Code because it contained negative comments about women contrary to Clauses 2 and 3 of the Code of Ethics and Clauses 2, 3, 4 and 7 of the Equitable Portrayal Code.

This decision is a public document upon its release by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.

[1] See the following CBSC decisions for examples of comments about the physical appearance of women and sexual matters: CHOM-FM and CILQ-FM re The Howard Stern Show (CBSC Decision 97/98-0001+, October 17-18, 1997); CJKR-FM re a radio contest (Nude Bicycle Riding) (CBSC Decision 98/99-0476, November 18, 1999); CILQ-FM re The Howard Stern Show (CBSC Decision 99/00-0717 and -0739, June 28, 2001); CFMI-FM re Brother Jake Morning Show (CBSC Decision 00/01-0688, January 23, 2002); CFNY-FM re The Show with Dean Blundell (CBSC Decision 01/02-0267, June 7, 2002); CIRK-FM re K-Rock Morning Show (CBSC Decision 01/02-0713 & -1113, February 5, 2003); CHMJ-AM re Tom Leykis Show (Valentine’s Day) (CBSC Decision 02/03-0673, July 22, 2003); TQS re an episode of Scrap Metal (CBSC Decision 08/09-1711, August 11, 2009); and CFNY-FM re the Dean Blundell Show (Women at War) (CBSC Decision 10/11-1767, July 12, 2011).

[2] See the following decisions for examples of sexual discussions that did not violate Clause 9(b) of the CAB Code of EthicsCFNY-FM re a “Gay Jeff” segment on the Dean Blundell Show (CBSC Decision 08/09-0700, June 25, 2009); CIHT-FM re a “Josie & The City” segment on The Morning Hot Tub (CBSC Decision 08/09-1628, June 25, 2009); and CFNY-FM re a “Wha’ Happened?” segment on the Dean Blundell Show (CBSC Decision 08/09-1238, September 23, 2009).

[3] See the following decisions for other examples of jokes involving religion: CKVR-TV re Just for Laughs (CBSC Decision 94/95-0005, August 23, 1995); CTV re an episode of Open Mike with Mike Bullard (CBSC Decision 01/02-0783+, January 15, 2003); and CJAY-FM re Forbes and Friends (multiple choice “quiz”) (CBSC Decision 02/03-0638, December 15, 2003).

[4] See the following decisions for examples of offensive generalizations about women that violated the Codes: CHOM-FM and CILQ-FM re The Howard Stern Show (CBSC Decision 97/98-0001+, October 17-18, 1997); CHMJ-AM re Tom Leykis Show (Valentine’s Day) (CBSC Decision 02/03-0673, July 22, 2003); CKAC-AM re an episode of Doc Mailloux (Childless by Choice) (CBSC Decision 05/06-1671, December 11, 2006); and CKAC-AM re Doc Mailloux (six episodes) (CBSC Decision 06/07-0168 & -0266, August 23, 2007).