CHOI-FM re Dupont le midi (police)

quebec regional panel
CBSC Decision 12/13-1582
2014 CBSC 3
G. Moisan (Vice-Chair), J. Béliveau, G. Bonin (ad hoc), V. Dubois, M. Ille, T. Porrello

The Facts

Dupont le midi is a talk show broadcast on CHOI-FM (Radio X, 98.1, Quebec City) Monday through Friday from noon to 2:00 pm.  The program is hosted by Stéphane Dupont, Marc-André Lord, Marie-Pier Simard and Martine Albert who generally discuss political and social issues as well as current events.

On May 9, 2013, Dupont, Lord and Simard discussed a bomb threat that had occurred the previous Saturday (May 4th) at a very busy Quebec City flea market.  Stéphane Dupont had been at the venue on the morning of May 4 to host a charity benefit, and he lambasted the actions taken by the police that day.  He stressed that several police officers had been on site to evacuate both customers and merchants, but that they should have made more of an effort to trace the telephone call related to the threat.  His comments included the following:

[translation]

There were 15 cops there with their fingers up their asses!  […] Okay, you want us to take you seriously?

And you know, the guys, I’ve always gotten along very well with them, and I’m not talking to ordinary cops – they don’t make any decisions.  There were three, four, chiefs leaning on the four-by-four telling Newfie jokes.  […] I’m talking to you there, the supervisors, the decision-makers.  What did you do to trace the call?

So, there are people in the Quebec City police force who were asleep at the switch, who deserve a good kick in the ass in a manner of speaking.  They need a wake-up call at work – sitting in offices telling each other Newfie jokes.  Enough!

Did you get down there with the same speed, the same energy, to find out where the call came from and who was around there?  Zip!  They’re damned cowards!  And they’re useless!   As far as I’m concerned, those decision-makers of the Quebec City police who acted on Saturday morning, well, you should be ashamed of how you do your jobs!  You do a rotten job of ensuring people’s security.  You do a rotten job of taking your duties seriously!  You came into the Jean Talon flea market, eh, all of you wearing your chiefs’ coats and your shoulder stripes!  A bullshit bunch of police!  You went in there and then you turn around and tell me at 11:30 am [in a deep and serious voice] “Okay, I’m a police dog and I’m telling you that everything is safe!”  PISS OFF!  How did you manage to, hey, is there even one container at the Jean Talon flea market that isn’t shady? […] Is there even one container that isn’t shady?  Did you open them all, one at a time, you bunch of assholes?  No, eh?  Well, that’s why I have nothing but disdain for you and when you talk about security, well, you’re liars!  Because real security would mean arresting the asshole who made the call.  As far as that goes, you’re too scared.  You walk around in your clothes, your bulletproof vests, okay, why – to impress the girls, for what, eh?  And that’s not the, listen up you bunch of morons.  I’m not talking to the patrollers.  You know, there were, even two or three women patrollers who were there to direct traffic; they did their jobs.  They’re not the ones who decide to close the streets, that’s what the decision-makers do, the decision-makers.  The, the ones who run around in four-by-fours, unmarked or not, with their bulletproof vests and their white shirts and “we’ve got stripes” attitude!  Well, you’re liars because you did nothing to find out who or what it was.  It took, it took how long there?

Hey, they were all getting a tan, cruising all the women going by.  Wow, I just can’t get over it.  But when it comes to putting up yellow tape for example, and securing the scene, fuck off [???].  He’ll tell you “Yeah, but we took the dog around”.  Hey, the dog must have gotten out of there!

They were having a party around the trucks; it was shameful!  But that, that doesn’t have anything to do with the patrollers.  It was those so-called brains of the Quebec City police that acted this way.  And when we call them to ask questions, well no, that’s part of the investigation, part of the investigation.  Jeez.  Hey, when it takes them eight weeks to discover who called in the bomb threat, you’re not very serious as a police force.

Co-host Marie-Pier Simard pointed out that, in her opinion, the police had acted properly by evacuating the people in the area and searching it to find the alleged bomb.  She said to Dupont [translation] “You can’t tell them all to piss off for that” and added that she understood the owner’s decision to evacuate the premises.

During the show aired on May 15, the same hosts discussed the burglary of a Beauport eyeglass shop that had occurred a few days before.  Once again, Dupont criticized the way in which the police had done their work because, according to him, they did not arrive on the crime scene quickly enough, calling them [translation] “low-ranked white shirts” and complaining once more about the evacuation of the Jean Talon flea market the day of the bomb threat.

On May 23, Dupont and his team addressed another incident where Quebec City police headquarters had dispatched approximately twenty patrol cars after receiving a call from an individual who believed she had seen someone enter a building armed with a long gun.  The investigation subsequently revealed that it was only an umbrella.  The three hosts expressed their amazement at the fact that the police had sent such a large number of patrol cars for an umbrella.  Dupont asked Lord to play the recording of the 911 call on the air [translation] “to find out if you showed any judgement in dispatching 25 cars, the white shirts who decided to send 25 cars”.

In addition to the words used in the excerpts above, Dupont and his co-hosts coloured their comments with some strong profanity such as the French swear words “chrisse” and “sacrement”.  At one point, however, when Dupont uttered the word “chrisse”, Lord pointed out to Dupont that he had just sworn and the latter immediately apologized.  (Full transcripts of the three segments can be found in Appendix A, in French only.)

On May 28, the Service de police de la Ville de Québec (SPVQ) [Quebec City Police Services] filed a complaint with the CBSC alleging that Stéphane Dupont had made offensive comments about the SPVQ and its members and citing several examples from the above-mentioned broadcasts that it felt had [translation] “gratuitously tarnished” the reputation of its members.  Following discussions between CHOI-FM and the SPVQ, the two parties agreed that a pre-recorded apology by Dupont would be broadcast and that the text of that apology would be approved by the complainant prior to airing.  The agreement stipulated that the apology would be aired twice during the program Dupont le midi, just before the commercial breaks.

At 12:16 pm and again at 1:16 pm on June 13, CHOI-FM broadcast the following apology read by host Stéphane Dupont according to the pre-approved text:

[translation]

On May 9, I made offensive comments and remarks regarding the Quebec City police force when I called into question their actions at the time of the bomb threat at the Jean Talon market.  My comments and remarks were insulting and unfounded.  I therefore apologise to the SPVQ police officers for my behaviour and I regret and withdraw the comments and remarks I made concerning them.

However, CHOI-FM chose to air the two messages in the middle of the commercial break, whereas, according to the terms of the agreement, they were supposed to have been aired prior to the breaks.  Feeling that CHOI-FM had not fully complied with the terms of the agreement, the SPVQ filed a Ruling Request in which it noted [translation] “In fact, as the offensive comments against the SPVQ were made during the program, a period when listeners are attentive, the SPVQ totally disagreed with the fact that the apology was broadcast during commercial break when listeners do not pay as much attention.”

CHOI-FM sent a letter to the CBSC on November 5 explaining its point of view with regard to this file.  The station stressed that it was in the public interest to discuss these police actions on the air even though [translation] “it would have been wiser for the host to choose other terms”.  The station also noted that Dupont did not target the work of the patrollers, but rather that of the officers who took the decisions on how to manage the incidents in question. (The full text of the correspondence can be found in Appendix B, in French only.)

 

The Decision

The Quebec Regional Panel examined the complaint under the following clauses of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (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.

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.

The Panel Adjudicators read all of the correspondence and listened to the programs in question.  The Panel concludes that CHOI-FM did not breach Clause 6, but did breach Clause 9(c) by broadcasting coarse words during the day.

The Panel began by examining the hosts’ comments to determine whether the discussions constituted a full, fair and proper presentation of the events to which they referred.  It concludes that the comments made by the hosts in the three cases at issue did not violate Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics.  The Panel Adjudicators point out that hosts have the right to criticize the behaviour of public agencies, and even to do so aggressively. 1  They also note that the criticism was aimed at the police headquarters, i.e. the decision-makers, and not the whole of the SPVQ, and they consider that the disapproval expressed in this instance was therefore aimed at a small number of individuals and not the totality of the Quebec City police force.  Moreover, one of the female hosts voiced an opinion that differed from that of the main host when she indicated that, in her view, the police force was right to act as it did in the flea market incident.  The Panel Adjudicators therefore conclude that the station did not breach the provisions of Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics.

However, the Panel notes that the language used, notably by Dupont, was unduly coarse.  The CBSC has often dealt with the use of blasphemous or scatological terms on the air, concluding that the use of certain words such as the French terms “chrisse”, “calice”, “tabarnac’”, “hostie” and “sacrement”, and “va chier” as well as expressions like “fuck” and their many derivatives used during the day when children may be listening constitute unduly coarse language in violation of Clause (c) of the CAB Code of Ethics. 2

In this case, the wide array of blasphemous or scatological expressions used by the hosts, as well as their abundant use in the May 9 and May 23, 2013 program segments transcribed at Appendix A, are only too clear to the Panel Adjudicators.  Consequently, the Panel concludes that the station breached the provisions of Clause 9(c) of the CAB Code of Ethics for using unduly coarse language on the air during daytime hours.

 

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, the Panel Adjudicators note that the complainant and the station had come to an agreement with respect to settling the complaint.  That is the desired objective when the CBSC complaints process is launched.  But, since the station did not comply with the terms of that agreement in its entirety, by airing the apology during the commercial break rather than prior to that break as it had undertaken to do, that settlement was null and void and the intervention of a CBSC Panel was required.  The broadcaster 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

CHOI-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 Dupont le midi 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 CHOI-FM.

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has found that CHOI-FM breached the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Code of Ethics in its broadcasts of Dupont le midi on May 9 and 23, 2013.  CHOI-FM broadcast coarse language during daytime hours contrary to Clause 9(c) of the Code.

 

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

1 CJRC-AM re an interview by Daniel Séguin on L’Outaouais ce matin (CBSC Decisions 03/04-2082 & 04/05-0023, April 4, 2005); CJMF-FM re an interview on Bouchard en parle (CBSC Decision 04/05-1852, February 3, 2006); CKNW-AM re an episode of Bruce Allen’s Reality Check (CBSC Decision 05/06-0651, May 9, 2006); CHMP-FM re a segment on Le Journal du midi (CBSC Decision 07/08-0553, April 7, 2008); Sun News Network re The Source (Chiquita Banana) (CBSC Decision 11/12-0847+, June 13, 2012).

 

2 CHOI-FM re Le monde parallèle de Jeff Fillion (CBSC Decision 02/03-0115, July 17, 2003); CJRC-AM re an interview by Daniel Séguin on L’Outaouais ce matin (CBSC Decisions 03/04-2082 & 04/05-0023, April 4, 2005); CKOI-FM re comments made on Y’é trop d’bonne heure (CBSC Decision 04/05-0891, September 9, 2005); CJMF-FM re comments made on an episode of Le trio de l’enfer (CBSC Decision 04/05-0761, October 24, 2005); CKAC-AM re an episode of Doc Mailloux (CBSC Decision 05/06-0642, February 3, 2006); CKAC-AM re an episode of Doc Mailloux (Adolescent Sexuality) (CBSC Decision 05/06-1104, June 30, 2006); CKAC-AM re an episode of Doc Mailloux (Money) (CBSC Decision 05/06-1379, December 11, 2006); CKAC-AM re an episode of Doc Mailloux (Financial Difficulties) (CBSC Decision 05/06-1405, December 11, 2006); CKAC-AM re an episode of Doc Mailloux (Childless by Choice) (CBSC Decision 05/06-1671, December 11, 2006); CKAC-AM re Doc Mailloux (six episodes) (CBSC Decision 06/07-0168 & -0266, August 23, 2007); CHMP-FM re a segment on Le Journal du midi (CBSC Decision 07/08-0553, April 7, 2008); CKRB-FM re Prends ça cool … and Deux gars le midi (CBSC Decision 08/09-0689 & -1228, August 11, 2009); CHOI-FM re Dupont le midi (suicide) (CBSC Decision 08/09-2041 & 09/10-1462, September 23, 2010); CHOI-FM re Dupont le midi (community organizations) (CBSC Decision 08/09-1506, September 23, 2010); CHOI-FM re Dupont le midi (Haiti) (CBSC Decision 09/10-0854, September 23, 2010); CHOI-FM re Dupont le midi (figure skating) (CBSC Decision 09/10-1257 & -1260, September 23, 2010).