CHOI-FM re Le Show Tard

QUEBEC REGIONAL PANEL
CBSC Decision 11/12-1808
September 18, 2012
G. Bonin (ad hoc), S. Charbonneau, M. Ille, T. Porrello

THE FACTS

Le Show Tard is a talk radio program hosted by Mario Tremblay and broadcast on CHOI-FM (Radio X, 98.1, Quebec City) Monday to Friday from 9:00 pm to midnight. On April 20, 2012 the host had as his guest psychiatrist Pierre Mailloux, better known as “Doc Mailloux”, to answer listeners’ questions.

A man phoned in to ask Mailloux for advice on dealing with his girlfriend, whom he was finding increasingly jealous and aggressive. In response to questions from Mailloux, the young man revealed that he and his girlfriend were both 21 years old, had been a couple for 10 years and had first had sexual relations at the age of 13.  Mailloux’s reaction to that information was the following (a more complete transcription can be found in Appendix A, in French only):

[translation]

Mailloux:           Ohhh, pathetic!  Wh-, what part of the tribe are you from?  Jesus!  You’re nothing more than animals!  That’s worse than Haiti!

Caller:               Yeah, unfortunately, [?] it’s, it’s [?] –

Mailloux:           Jesus!  As bad as Haiti, that’s pathetic!  Where the heck are you from?

Caller:               Ah, well, I’m from Quebec City!

[…]

Mailloux:           How primitive!  [sound of a telephone hanging up]  Yikes, they’re copulating but he can’t even come!

The CBSC received a complaint dated April 20 from a listener who characterized Doc Mailloux’s remarks as racist towards Haitians. CHOI-FM responded to the complainant on May 1, arguing that Mailloux had simply been critical of the young couple for having sex at such a young age and his references to [translation] “animals, tribes or Haiti were intended to be caricatural and focussed on animal instincts (urges) and disadvantaged, and, unfortunately, sometimes under-developed peoples.”  CHOI-FM insisted that Mailloux had not directly said that [translation] “Haitians were animals and, with all due respect, the comments, taken in context, do not have racist connotations”.  The complainant submitted his Ruling Request on May 2.  He indicated that he did not accept CHOI-FM’s rationale and that he still believed that Doc Mailloux’s remarks were racist.  (The text of all correspondence is available 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 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 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 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.

The Panel Adjudicators read all of the correspondence and listened to the segment in question. The Panel unanimously concludes that the broadcast breached all of the aforementioned provisions.

In fact, regardless of the broadcaster’s opinion, the Panel is of the view that the remarks made on air by Doc Mailloux to the effect that [translation] “Ohhh, pathetic! Wh-, what part of the tribe are you from?  Jesus!  You’re nothing more than animals! That’s worse than Haiti!” [emphasis added] when commenting on the fact that the two young people in question had sex for the first time at the age of 13 constitute abusive and unduly discriminatory content or comments based on race and national and ethnic origin in violation of the provisions of Clause 2 of the CAB Code of Ethics and Clause 2 of the CAB Equitable Portrayal Code.

One would be hard pressed to believe that these are mild references to the [translations] “urges” of “disadvantaged, and, unfortunately, sometimes under-developed peoples” as the station argues, and all the more so when these remarks come from a specialist in psychiatry such as Doctor Mailloux. Even though Doc Mailloux does not actually say “Haitians are animals”, that message is clearly implied, especially as he added for good measure [translation] “Jesus!  As bad as Haiti, that’s pathetic!  Where the heck are you from?”  These remarks are degrading and demeaning to people of Haitian origin and the Panel believes they constitute a negative portrayal of people of Haitian origin in violation of Clause 3 of the CAB Equitable Portrayal Code and a stereotyping and belittling generalization in violation of the provisions of Clause 4 of that Code.

Finally, the Panel concludes that, as a whole, the remarks made by Doc Mailloux in the April 20, 2012 segment constitute degrading content based on the race, national and ethnic origin of Haitians in violation of the provisions of Clause 7 of the CAB Equitable Portrayal Code.[1]

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, CHOI-FM sent a detailed response to the complainant, explaining its point of view.  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 Le Show Tard 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 and Equitable Portrayal Code in its broadcast of Le Show Tard on April 20, 2012. The program contained abusive and unduly discriminatory comments about a national and ethnic group contrary to Clause 2 of both Codes.  The comments also constituted an unduly negative, stereotypical and degrading portrayal of the group contrary to Clauses 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 decisions for other examples of comments that violated one or more of these same articles: CKVL-AM re the André Arthur and Martin Paquette Show (CBSC Decision 98/99-1184, February 21, 2000); 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 (Money) (CBSC Decision 05/06-1379, 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); and CHOI-FM re Dupont le midi (Haiti) (CBSC Decision 09/10-0854, September 23, 2010).