CFNY-FM re the Dean Blundell Show (Remembrance Day Protest)

ontario regional Panel
M. Ziniak (Chair), H. Hassan (Vice-Chair), H. Montbourquette (ad hoc), J. Pungente

The facts

The Dean Blundell Show is CFNY-FM’s (102.1 The Edge, Toronto) morning show, which airs weekdays from 5:30 to 10:00 am.  It contains the usual songs, news, traffic and weather updates, and banter between the hosts, Dean Blundell, Todd Shapiro and Derek Welsman.  On November 13, 2012, at 9:41 am, the hosts talked about a fist-fight that had occurred at the Remembrance Day ceremony in downtown Toronto.

They began by playing the audio from a videoclip of the incident that had been posted on the internet; they replayed portions of the clip at various other points in their dialogue.  A group of people had attended the Remembrance Day ceremony to protest Canada’s military involvement in Afghanistan.  On the audio clip, one could hear women shouting about “freedom” and the “illegal occupation”.  Blundell commented that he thought they were Afghan women, but he was not certain.  Blundell and his co-hosts then described that the videoclip showed a man who “basically walked up and just drilled” one of the men who was presumably protesting.  The hosts then spoke with the man (named Logan) who had taken it upon himself to beat up the protestor.  Logan described what had occurred.

Throughout the conversation, Blundell and Shapiro insisted that Canada’s war veterans deserve respect and that it had been extremely offensive for the protestors to voice their objections on Remembrance Day at the actual ceremony.  As Blundell explained at one point, “I hate when it’s someone from another country that doesn’t appreciate the freedom that they’ve been afforded here by the people that fought and died for them.”

Logan agreed with Blundell and explained how he “just snapped” when the protestors starting shouting during the moment of silence and he started hitting one of the male protestors.  They talked about the scuffle and how another, older man had entered into the fray to assist Logan.  Blundell and Shapiro repeatedly and enthusiastically expressed approval for what Logan had done.  They asked for details about how hard, how many times and where Logan had hit the protestor.  They commended Logan for his actions with comments like “Oh, you dummied him!”, “Good for him!”, “I’m lovin’ it, man!”, “thanks for doin’ that” and “good ol’ Canadian boy!”.  They also asked Logan whether he got “laid” by his girlfriend afterwards because she was proud of him, to which Logan answered in the affirmative.

Although at one point Blundell did say “I don’t suggest people go around beating up protestors”, he affirmed that, in his view, this type of “vigilante justice” was “fair” and that “when you’re spitting in the face of people that have lost so much, […] I don’t think there’s any, any compensation for it other than the one you [Logan] doled out”.  He also referred to the female protestors repeatedly as “bitches” and “skanks”, and commented “These, these girls, you just, I wish there were bigger girls around that didn’t share their views that just dummied them too.”  (A full transcript of the segment can be found in Appendix A.)

On November 18, the CBSC received a complaint about the broadcast.  After some additional correspondence between the CBSC and the complainant, he clarified that he objected to what he described as Blundell’s “verbal attacks” on the female protestors and his expressions of approval for Logan’s behaviour.  He wrote that “Dean Blundell and Todd Shapiro have been irresponsible (as they often are) and it [the broadcast] could have potentially caused (and could still) great harm to both of these women and protestors in the future.  He has a young and impressionable audience and this has gone well beyond entertainment into something else.”

The station sent a response in December, arguing that Logan “was on air to give his side of the story and describe what happened from his perspective”.  The station stressed that Blundell had said he did not fully understand exactly what had transpired at the Remembrance Day protest and he had also stated that he was not suggesting that people go around beating up protestors.

The complainant then sent the CBSC an email indicating that he disagreed with CFNY-FM’s viewpoint.  He mentioned that he had no connection to the female protestors, but that he is “fiercely anti-racist and strongly believe[s] that left unchecked this type of commentary will likely provoke violence against protestors in the future.”  CFNY-FM sent supplementary correspondence to the CBSC in April 2013, arguing that none of the comments were unduly discriminatory against an identifiable group, the discussion was based on an actual occurrence and included an interview with one individual involved in the incident, and that Blundell’s comments were related to his opinion about war veterans deserving of respect on Remembrance Day.  (The full text of all relevant correspondence can be found in Appendix B.)

 

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 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 6 – Full, Fair and Proper Presentation

It is recognized that the full, fair and proper presentation of news, opinion, comment and editorial is the prime and fundamental responsibility of each broadcaster.  This principle shall apply to all radio and television programming, whether it relates to news, public affairs, magazine, talk, call-in, interview or other broadcasting formats in which news, opinion, comment or editorial may be expressed by broadcaster employees, their invited guests or callers.

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:

[…

c. Unduly coarse and offensive language.

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 9 – Language & 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.

[…]

The Panel members read all of the correspondence and listened to the broadcast in question.  The Panel concludes that CFNY-FM breached Clause 9(a) of the CAB Code of Ethics, but did not breach any of the other aforementioned clauses

The Panel finds that Blundell’s commendations of Logan such as “Oh, you dummied him!”, “Good for him!”, “I’m lovin’ it, man!”,and “thanks for doin’ that”, and Blundell’s reference to the female protestors, “These, these girls, you just, I wish there were bigger girls around that didn’t share their views that just dummied them too”, did sanction and promote violence against the protestors.  In addition, when he asked Logan whether he got “laid” by his girlfriend afterwards because she was proud of him,  Blundell was, in the view of the Panel, glamorizing violence, in clear breach of Clause 9(a) of the CAB Code of Ethics.

With respect to Clause 9(c) of the same code, concerning unduly coarse and offensive language, the Panel finds no breach because, as the constant jurisprudence of the CBSC has established, the word “bitch” can be broadcast at any time of day; 1 as for the word “skank”, the Panel finds that it falls into same category.

Similarly, the Panel does not find any breach of Clause 2 of the CAB Code of Ethics or of Clauses 2 or 9 of the CAB Equitable Portrayal Code because the words “bitches” and “skanks” were not used in this broadcast to generalize about all women. 2  The Panel also examined the broadcast in terms of discrimination based on ethnicity and national origin.  The Panel concludes that Blundell only made one reference during the impugned segment about Afghan women when he said he thought the female protestors were Afghan women, but was not sure; his other comments about “people not from here” did not make negative generalizations about a specific national or ethnic group.  However, the Panel did express some concern about Blundell’s assumption that the protestors were not Canadian and about his criticisms targeting non-Canadians.

The Panel also analysed the broadcast segment with respect to the use of coarse language and insults directed towards individuals.  The Panel concludes that the use of such terms as “bitches” and “skanks” to describe the female protestors and “prick” to describe the male protestor did not violate Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics because the individuals targeted by Blundell and Shapiro were not named or otherwise identified. 3

 

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 reply to the complainant, explaining its view of the broadcast.  The broadcaster thus fulfilled its obligations of responsiveness and, subject to the announcement of this decision, 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 breached the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Code of Ethics in a segment of the Dean Blundell Show broadcast on November 13, 2012.  The hosts promoted and sanctioned violence contrary to Clause 9(a) of the Code.

 

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

 

1 CIRK-FM re T-Shirt Promotion Spot (CBSC Decision 96/97-0206, December 16, 1997); CIQC-AM re Galganov in the Morning (CBSC Decision 97/98-0473, August 14, 1998); and CKQB-FM re the song “Crazy Bitch” by Buckcherry (CBSC Decision 10/11-1169, September 22, 2011).

 

2 See the following relevant CBSC decisions:  CHOG-AM re the Shelley Klinck Show (CBSC Decision 95/96-0063, April 30, 1996); and CKQB-FM re the song “Crazy Bitch” by Buckcherry (CBSC Decision 10/11-1169, September 22, 2011).

 

3 See the following CBSC decision for a similar case:  CITY-TV re Speakers Corner (CBSC Decision 97/98-0572, July 28, 1998).