CFRQ-FM re Morning Show (“Faking It” Contest)

ATLANTIC REGIONAL PANEL
(CBSC Decision 01/02-1137)
G. Clements (Vice-Chair), R. Cohen (ad hoc), R. Jones,C. McDade (ad hoc), and R. McKeen

THE FACTS

During the morning show on radio station CFRQ-FM (Q104, Halifax) on July 31, 2002, the hosts held a “contest” in which listeners were invited to call in to fake an orgasm on the air in order to win a prize.  The stunt was inspired by the hosts' statement that it was apparently the “Second Annual National Orgasm Day.”  The male host, Jeff, first introduced the contest at 6:36 am with the following comments (the full transcript of all relevant comments can be found in Appendix A):

Six thirty-six, it is the Second Annual National Orgasm Day.  We want to hear your best fake orgasms.   Apparently 80% of all women do indeed fake 'em, uh, which is a big shock to me.  And nobody will readily admit it.  We wanna hear 'em.

Jeff and his female co-host, Lisa, then had a conversation about the Day at 6:40 am, immediately following the song Bang A Gong:

     [.] Six forty, twenty away from seven and speaking of banging.

Jeff:     Uh, it is of course Second Annual National Orgasm Day.
Lisa:     That's right!  Make it, not fake it, the slogan for this year.

They went on to discuss the statistic that 80% of all women fake orgasms and the fact that one man Jeff had spoken to insisted his wife was not one of that majority.  The hosts joked that the wife would not tell him if she was.  Lisa then commented that their listeners seemed to be shy, presumably since no one had yet called in to participate.  Jeff then played a humorous audio clip of a man yelling “ow!” and claimed that the clip was of a contestant who wished to remain anonymous.  He concluded with the comment that “Apparently he [the contestant] had mistaken his blow-up doll for a cheese grater, but that's all right.  He's okay.”  To which Lisa added “a little blood loss”.

The first real participant telephoned at 6:44 am.  The hosts commented that they were surprised it was a male since “normally guys don't fake 'em”.  Lisa questioned how the caller proposed to participate:  “What, you're gonna stuff a yogurt in a copy of Maxim magazine there or somethin'?”  In the caller's enactment of an orgasm, he moaned and then made a “baa” noise like a sheep.  Both hosts laughed and informed the caller that he had won a summertime rock album.

The second participant's call was broadcast at 6:49 am.  The relevant dialogue in that conversation was as follows:

Hey, uh, Bob, listen, what've you got for us?
Caller:  I'm gonna orgasm on the radio.
[.]
Jeff:     All right Bob, listen, what've you got for us as far as an orgasm goes?
Bob:     [staccato moans]  J'arrive.
Jeff & Lisa:       [laugh]  What the hell?
Lisa:     Jaree?  Oh, j'arrive.
Jeff:     J'arrive.  French.
Lisa:     A little bilingual there Bob.
Jeff:     He's en français.
[.]
Jeff:     Bob, I gotta tell you, I don't know about Lisa, but that didn't do a whole helluva lot for me.  [Lisa laughs]  Listen Bob.
Lisa:     We got extra marks for the, uh, bilingual aspect, I think.
Jeff:     Exactly, exactly.  So listen Bob, you hang on the line buddy, we got a great prize for ya.
[.]
Jeff:     J'arrive, j'arrive. [Lisa laughs]  I don't even know if that's like grammatically correct.  I mean, I'm not up on my French, but, uh.  That's just sad.   Bob.  Six fifty, ten away from seven o'clock here on the Q.  It is Second Annual National Orgasm Day.  And we gotta hear from some women.  I'm really disappointed.
Lisa:     So far, yeah, we, we need some gals, so, you know, if 80% of us are apparently faking it, there's gotta be some well-versed, uh, orgasms that can be, uh, that can be broadcast.
Jeff:     Come on, come on ladies.  Don't let Lisa down.

At 7:52 am, Jeff and Lisa further discussed the statistic that 80% of women fake orgasms.

That's a, that's a statistic I didn't see coming at all.
Jeff:     No?  What'd you think, it was going to be higher?
Lisa:     [laughs] Maybe a bit lower than that, but 80%, wow, that's a, that's a big number.

They then went to the phone where a female had called in.  The caller did not want to provide her real name, so they referred to her as “Beth”.

  Okay.  I had to ask my husband permission first and he kinda gave me a suggestion.  He said “Why don't you just go 'uh and get me a beer,'” but, um.
Jeff:     Nice.
Lisa:     And after you smacked him up the side of the head with a frying pan what'd you say?
Caller:  Oh well you know, I just kinda looked at him and said “Hey, that must've been déjà-vu because I said that to you before.”
Jeff & Lisa:       Ohh! [laugh]
Caller:  I said it was “get me a beer and get it now bitch before I slap ya.”  [Jeff & Lisa laugh]
Lisa:     Oh my heavens!  So “Beth”, you want to fake an orgasm for us, do ya?
Caller:  Uh, yeah, I'm doin' it for on behalf of all the women who are too afraid to do so.
Lisa:     Okay.
Jeff:     Let's see what'cha got.
Caller:  Ooo, ooh, [clears throat] gotta clear the throat of frogs, ooh, uh, oh yeah, oh baby, uh, uh, ahh.  All right, now get off.  [Jeff & Lisa laugh]
Lisa:     Oh yes, okay “Beth”, that's the one, that's the one.  All right “Beth”, listen, we're gonna set you up with a copy of Dock Rock, summertime rock from some of the best classic rock artists.  That was fantastic.  [“Beth” giggles]
Jeff:     “Beth”, you're a bit of a dirty girl there “Beth”.
Lisa:     Mmmm.
Jeff:     I tell ya, it was, it was rather stimulating at first, but then that whole “get off” thing.
Lisa:     [laughs] It just didn't end nicely.
Jeff:     Bit of a downer, uh, no pun intended.

A listener wrote to the CRTC (which forwarded the complaint to the CBSC in due course) on the same date as the broadcast.  He stated:

This morning (July 31/02) during the morning show on Q104 (Halifax), the show had the public phone in and 'fake orgasms' on the air.  I feel that this might not be acceptable programming for that hour of the day (or at all), as young children could have been listening.

The station's Program Director responded to the complainant on August 23 (the full text of all correspondence can be found in Appendix B).  He explained that

Programming on Q104 is targeted primarily to an audience of adult males.  So, compared with most other local stations, you'll hear content from time to time that's less suitable for family listening.  Audience feedback has told us they enjoy the edgy humour, and irreverent attitude of the station, and we like to give the listeners what they want.  We also believe that the standards of good taste lie in the subjective listening of each individual, and invite those who feel that our programming is not to their tastes to switch to a station more appropriate to their needs.  However, with our broadcasting licence comes a great responsibility to the community, and we strive to adhere to community standards and the codes established by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters.

The Program Director also stated that “the content of that broadcast has already been the subject of some discussion here at the radio station.”  Apparently, the usual morning show host had been on vacation and a substitute was in place.  The Program Director informed the complainant that he had already suggested to the host that “having people call in simply to 'fake orgasms' seemed fairly blunt” and that the host had told him “he was looking for listener input that was more humorous than lurid.”  The Program Director stated that the “faking orgasm” concept is “on the border of what may be acceptable”, but that he “encouraged the morning show team to continue to rely on innuendo more than direct sexual references.”

The complainant wrote back to the CBSC on August 25 stating that he would like to pursue his complaint.  He pointed out that there is technology available to him on his television set which limits what his children can and cannot access.  He wrote that he takes “an active role in what [his] children watch on TV” and questioned whether he now has to monitor “the radio station channels which [his] children have their clock radios tuned to when they wake up in the mornings?”  The complainant did not feel that the explanation about a substitute host being in place that day was adequate and asked “was there also substitute management and programming directors also?”  He also suggested that the Program Director should “do more than 'encourage' his people to think about what they are saying and doing on air, and perhaps take a leadership role [.] and direct his people with an established set of guidelines of what is and is not acceptable.”

THE DECISION

The Atlantic Regional Panel examined the complaint under Clause 6, paragraph 3 of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' 1988 (CAB) Code of Ethics which reads:

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

The 1988 Code was superseded by a new Code of Ethics that came into effect on August 1, 2002, that is, the day following the challenged broadcast.  Consequently, it is the 1988 Code that the Panel is using to adjudicate this matter.

The Atlantic Regional Panel reviewed all of the correspondence and listened to a recording of the morning show.  It concludes that the broadcast does not breach the foregoing provision.

Sexual Content on Morning Radio

The various CBSC Panels called upon to adjudicate this issue have determined that sexual innuendo and double entendre on morning radio are not in breach of Clause 6, paragraph 3 of the CAB Code of Ethics but that sexually explicit content is not appropriate at times of the day when children might be listening.  In CHOM-FM and CILQ-FM re The Howard Stern Show (CBSC Decision 97/98-0001+, October 17-18, 1997), for example, the Quebec and Ontario Regional Panels jointly concluded that

descriptive opinion and comment [.] regarding the sex life of Stern and his wife [the use of vibrators on family holidays], details of which were broadcast during hours when children could be expected to be listening to radio is certainly not proper material for Canadian children.

In CFMI-FM re Brother Jake Morning Show (CBSC Decision 00/01-0688, January 23, 2002), the B.C. Regional Panel examined several episodes of the station's morning show.  In one of these, a co-host referred to his previous night's date on which the woman “starts to do this wild striptease” and “gets down to her thong”.  He then went on to explain how he threw “her on the workbench” where “she's goin' nuts grabbin' my nuts and I'm just thinking 'this is great!'”  The Panel decided that “Such material is unsuitable for times of the day when children could be expected to be listening, let alone when the hosts are fully aware that children are listening.”

Where, on the other hand, Panels have considered examples of content that was no more than sexual innuendo, they have ruled differently.  In the CFMI-FM decision, the B.C. Panel said:

The hosts frequently discuss and make jokes about masturbation, flatulence and bodily functions and engage in discussions about such matters as Jake in his boxer shorts, “blue angel” farts, and a 0-0 sports score as being “dog balls”.  Although potentially offensive to many listeners, in cases where such material is not sexually explicit, the Panel does not find it in breach of any broadcaster Codes.

In another CFMI-FM matter dealing with a sexual component in a contest, namely, CFMI-FM re Brother Jake Morning Show (Wake up Contests) (CBSC Decision 01/02-0875, January 14, 2003), the B.C. Panel dealt with two radio contests, one entitled “Wake Up Woody” and the other “Wake Up Wendy”.  Contestants had to use innovative sexual techniques to wake up their sleeping partner while the Brother Jake Morning Show crew listened on the telephone and broadcast the stunt.  The Panel concluded:

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.

In the present case the Atlantic Panel finds that there was no explicitness involved.  In the first place, the term “fake” was used repeatedly.  Not only was there no suggestion of reality, but there was also no detail or description of an explicit sexual act.  All the callers seemed to be providing their own take on the sexual silliness that characterized the “contest”.  At worst, the Panel finds that the material may be juvenile, tasteless or inappropriate, but there is nothing about the content that moves it from the inappropriate to the unacceptable.  In other words, even if children might have been listening (and the station's demographics do not suggest that this might have been the case), the subject matter would not have presented a problem.  The Panel finds no breach of the above-cited provision of the CAB Code of Ethics here.

Broadcaster Responsiveness

The CBSC considers the dialogue between the broadcaster and the complainant of sufficient importance that it is a responsibility of membership in the Council.  Consequently, it evaluates the broadcaster's responsiveness to the discontented individual in each of its decisions.  In the matter at hand, Q104's Program Director wrote a thoughtful and thorough reply to the complainant.  Nothing further 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.