CFNY-FM re the Show with Dean Blundell (David Carradine Appearance)

ONTARIO REGIONAL PANEL
(CBSC Decision 03/04-1305)
R. Stanbury (Chair), M. Ziniak (Vice-Chair), B. Bodnarchuk, R. Cohen (ad hoc),J. David and M. Oldfield

THE FACTS

April 14, 2004, CFNY-FM (Toronto, also called “102.1 The Edge”) aired an interview between the station's host, Dean Blundell, and the actor David Carradine.  The interview related to the actor's role in the films Kill Bill (Volumes I and II).  The segment of the interview under consideration began at 8:36 am.  Pertinent excerpts of the transcript of the program are included below (see Appendix A to this decision for the full transcript):

Joining us is our guest from “Kill Bill”, Volume I.

D.B.:                 Oh, oh, oh, you didn't just do that, no! [Laughing]

8:41, it's Switchfoot “Meant to Live”, and right now it's 3o, high of 10 today.  Joining us in studio today, the star of Kill Bill, Volumes I and II. Volume II in theatres Friday.  Volume I you can get in stores on DVD as of yesterday. Mr. David Carradine.

We just had the long conversation about the . the foul, the use of foul language and I apologize.

So thank you very much for helping us out with .

D.C.:                 That's an f-word, too.

                 Yeah, I'm sorry [.]

On the date of the broadcast, a CFNY-FM listener e-mailed his complaint to the CRTC, which in turn forwarded the complaint to the CBSC on April 19.  The core of his complaint (the full text of the complaint and all other correspondence are provided in Appendix B) was as follows:

I was listening to the show on at this time they had David Carradine as their guest.  Right after they introduced him he said knowing he was on the air “can I use the word F**k.”  I was surprised there was no delay being used and I was put off by the station.

The station's Program Director responded on June 4, 2004.  In his response, he cited the transcript of the interview and made the following observations:

I reviewed the tape of the broadcast and here is a word-by-word transcription of the part of the interview in question:

Joining us in studio today, the star of Kill Bill, volumes One and Two, (Volume [II]in theatres Friday).Volume One you can get in stores on DVD as of yesterday.Mr. David Carradine.

We just had the long conversation about the.the use of foul language and I apo-

The use of bad language.  So thank you very much.

As you can see from the foregoing, at no time was foul language used in that Program.

The complainant was not satisfied with this response.  He responded by e-mail to the CBSC on June 7, 2004.  Although the complainant did not send a Ruling Request form, which is normally required to trigger the CBSC's adjudication process, the CBSC deemed that his e-mail message was equivalent to a Ruling Request.  His message, in pertinent part, read as follows:

I appreciate the response but the portion of the conversation you quoted happened after the part I was referring to in my complaint.  The part you have just quoted was after the break in which the “f” word was used.  That is why I am assuming they just had a discussion about foul language on the air.  As is stated here: “We just had the long conversation about the…the use of foul language and I apo-“

If you did not hear this when you listened to the tape of the show I would assume it was removed from the archive.  I know I did hear the “f-word” being used which would also explain his references to other “f-words.”

The CBSC forwarded this correspondence to the station's Program Director for further response.  On June 28, he responded to the complainant and sent a copy of his response to the CBSC.  The relevant sections of this response (provided in full in the Appendix) are as follows:

[I]t appears that I had misunderstood your original message.  Your second e-mail was instructive in alerting us about the timing of the use of “f***”, which we have since learned was prior to the segment to which I thought you were originally referring. 

  It turns out that David Carradine did use the f-word.  We apologize for not catching the use of the offending word.  I thought you were referring to a different part of the interview and as a result completely missed the infraction.  This was my error.  Since we had no reason to believe that our guest-a well-known professional with a sterling reputation when it comes to dealing with the media-would use profanity, we were caught completely by surprise and had no time to react in a way that would have prevented the comment from being aired. 

We have noted your concerns and have since had discussions with our on-air staff about appropriate on-air content and we will continue to exercise greater diligence on such matters.  We have also taken steps to reiterate to our staff the importance of ensuring that our programs do not violate the applicable industry codes or otherwise offend our listeners.

As well, the next day the Program Director sent further correspondence to the CBSC.  His letter to the CBSC made the following additional observations:

guest did utter the f-word.  However, because of a miscommunication and misunderstanding regarding the first complaint – and because I was out of town at the time of the incident – I didn't discover the infraction until [name of complainant] made his request for adjudication.

THE DECISION

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

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:

The Panel reviewed all of the correspondence and listened to a tape of the interview in question.  It is the Panel's finding that the use of the word “fuck” was in breach of the foregoing Codeprovision. 

Coarse or Offensive Language

Various CBSC Panels have been called upon to deal with coarse language in radio and television, both in song lyrics and in spoken word material.  In the radio context, these adjudicating bodies have consistently concluded that the broadcast of the word “fuck” and its derivatives at times when children could be listening to the radio constitutes a violation of the Code.  In CIOX-FM re the songs “Livin' It Up” by Limp Bizkit and “Outside” by Aaron Lewis and Fred Durst (CBSC Decision 00/01-0670, June 28, 2001), for example, the two songs in question, which were played at 11:31 am, 4:00 pm and 8:31 pm, contained the words “motherfucker”, “fuck” and variations thereof.  Noting that regulatory bodies in other English-speaking countries have addressed offensive song lyrics in the same way, the Ontario Regional Panel found that the songs, in their unedited versions, were inappropriate for broadcast at times of day when children could reasonably be expected to be listening.  This same principle was applied by the Prairie Regional Panel in CJKR-FM re the song “Highway Girl (Live)” by the Tragically Hip (CBSC Decision 00/01-0832, January 14, 2002) and the Ontario Regional Panel in CFNY-FM re the song “Cubically Contained” by the Headstones (CBSC Decision 01/02-0456, June 7, 2002).

CKNW-AM re Warren on the Weekend (CBSC Decision 01/02-0721, January 14, 2003), the B.C. Regional Panel dealt with the use of the f-word by a caller to a talk show. In a discussion on celibacy in the priesthood, host Peter Warren had taken a call from Bob, who said “Oh, dear.  Peter, I don't want you to hear this but Jesus was anti-religious.  And I'm married to a queer and you can tell these religious bastards to fuck off.”  Warren responded with some exasperation, “All right.  Thank you very much.”  The program continued without anyone making any further reference to Bob's call.   On the issue of the use of the f-word (other issues raised by the caller's intervention were also dealt with in the decision), the Panel stated:

While the previous decisions each involved songs, the Panel considers that the principle established in these is as applicable to a spoken word situation.  The use of the f-word, even by a caller, is the responsibility of the broadcaster.  In the case of songs, it is of course evident that playing a recording is entirely in the hands of the broadcaster.  While the case of an outside caller is not as controlled, broadcasters are expected to have the tools to cope with such circumstances.  One such method is the delay system to which the host referred in the course of the broadcast.  Another is, of course, the host's own microphone in an after-the-fact situation in which the caller somehow gets by level one.

Similarly, in CJAY-FM re Forbes and Friends (Chinese Language “Translations”)(CBSC Decision 02/03-1646, April 16, 2004), the Prairie Regional Panel dealt with the case of a fictitious call from a Mr. Wong who offered to help the hosts learn some phrases in Chinese.  The ensuing “translations” provided by Mr. Wong were in English but pronounced so as to sound Chinese.  The Panel found that the use of the expression “fucking super” in the humorous dialogue constituted a breach of Clause 9 of the CAB Code of Ethics which prohibits the use of unduly coarse or offensive language.

The use of the f-word by the guest David Carradine was gratuitous.  The broadcaster was responsible for avoiding such an occurrence, whether by tape delay or otherwise.  The failure to do so constitutes a breach of Clause 9 of the CAB Code of Ethics.

Broadcaster Responsiveness

Broadcaster responsiveness is always an issue considered in CBSC adjudications.  The CBSC considers that the dialogue between broadcasters and complainants is an extremely positive component of the self-regulatory process, to the point that it is in fact a membership responsibility of all CBSC broadcaster members.  In this case, the broadcaster's response was a totally unjustified denial.  Although the complainant pointed to the very moment in the interview when the f-word had been used, the Program Director quoted selectively from the interview and then stated, “As you can see from the foregoing, at no time was foul language used in that Program.”  It was only the result of the persistence of the complainant, who reaffirmed what he had heard and pointed out how even the selectively expurgated transcript bore him out, that the Program Director was forced to admit what was plainly there for anyone to hear.  Although the CFNY-FM representative subsequently admitted that he had been incorrect, the Panel finds that the initial evasive response constituted a breach of the standard of responsiveness which all broadcasters are obliged, by their membership in the CBSC, to respect.  The failure to do so would have the effect of undermining the public's confidence in the self-regulatory process.

CONTENT OF THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE DECISION

CFNY-FM is required to: 1) announce this 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 David Carradine interview was broadcast; 2) within the fourteen days following the broadcast of the announcements, to provide written confirmation of the airing of the announcements to the representative of the complainants who filed the Ruling Request; and 3) to provide the CBSC with 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 has breached provisions of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' Code of Ethics in its broadcast of an interview with David Carradine on April 14, 2004.  By broadcasting the interview, which contained coarse and offensive language, CFNY-FM violated Clause 9 of the CAB Code of Ethics which prohibits the use of unduly coarse and offensive language.  By not responding accurately to the complainant regarding the content of the broadcast, CFNY-FM has also breached one of the station's obligations of membership in the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.

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