CILQ-FM re Parody Skit

ONTARIO REGIONAL COUNCIL
(CBSC Decision 95/96-0218)
A. MacKay (Chair), R. Stanbury (Vice-Chair), R. Cohen (ad hoc), P. Fockler, M. Hogarth, M. Ziniak

The Facts

On June 10, 1996, CILQ-FM (Q-107, Toronto) aired a skit entitled “Bob the Fag Man” as
part of its morning show (at about 8:30 a.m.). The transcript of that part of the broadcast
follows.

Announcer: This program is funded by the British Arts Foundation.

Bob: Hello and welcome to Fag Talk, the program where we talk about fags, or as they are
called in America, cigarettes. I'm your host, Bob the Fag Man and we'll actually be holding
your calls today because I'd like to talk about sort of a sensitive topic for fag lovers – when
your fag loses its cherry. So now…

Announcer: Fag Talk is experiencing technical difficulties, please stand by.

Background music for several seconds.

Announcer: We now return you to Fag Talk, already in progress.

Bob: … and you got that fag all nice and hot again and ready to give a good suck. Well
that will do it for us today here on Fag Talk. But do join us again when we talk about fags,
or as they are called in America, cigarettes.

The Letter of Complaint

On June 12, 1996 a listener sent the following complaint to the CRTC which was then
forwarded by the Commission to the CBSC.

Ostensibly under the pretext of a discussion regarding British cigarettes (or “fags”) highly
offensive and stereotypical language was used with a view of mocking “fags”. As is well
known, the term “fag” is a term that is frequently used in a derogatory and demeaning sense
to refer to persons of a particular sexual orientation, namely, gay or homosexual men.

The various language and terminology used during the item in question were both offensive
and insulting and, in my view, were designed to ridicule that particular sector of society. It
is clear, now that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is prohibited by both the
Canadian Human Rights Code as well as the Ontario Human Rights Code, that such
language and such parodies have no proper place on the public airways.

The Broadcaster's Response

The Vice-President of Programming replied on behalf of the broadcaster by letter of July
17.

I've had the opportunity to review the programming of concern to you, a parody skit entitled,
“Bob the Fag Man” in which two British sounding television hosts discuss cigarettes on a
satirical talkshow. If taken out of context, the sketch could be considered offensive by
some.

The piece was produced in America by a company that provides comedy services to
stations on a subscription basis, of which Q-107 is a customer.

I'm convinced the individuals involved in making the decision to air the skit did so with full
intention of it being interpreted as satire by the audience. There was no intention on their
part to ridicule any segment of society as a result of its airing.

Having said that, your complaint is valid in terms of the sensitivities of some audience
members and we have no intention of disregarding those concerns. We have since decided
not to have a reoccurrence of this particular comedy feature on-air.

The complainant was unsatisfied with this response and requested, on September 6, that
the CBSC refer the matter to the appropriate Regional Council for adjudication.

The CBSCs Ontario Regional Council considered the complaint under the CAB Code of
Ethics
. The relevant clause of the Code reads as follows:

Clause 2 (Human Rights)

Recognizing that every person has a right to full and equal recognition and to enjoy certain
fundamental rights and freedoms, broadcasters shall endeavour to ensure, to the best of
their ability, that their programming contains no abusive or discriminatory material or
comment which is based on matters of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age,
sex, marital status or physical or mental handicap.

The Ontario Regional Council members listened to a tape of the broadcast in question and
reviewed all of the correspondence. The Council considers that CILQ-FM has not
breached the provisions of the Code of Ethics.

The Content of the Program

The CBSC has frequently dealt with the issue of humour generated at the expense of an
identifiable group. It has also dealt on numerous occasions with its determination that
“sexual orientation” is viewed by it as an enumerated ground in Clause 2 of the CAB Code
of Ethics
. There is not, in the circumstances, any need for the Ontario Regional Council
to add to this decision excerpts of those texts which can be easily found by a review of
those matters, which are a follows. In the case of sexual orientation: CHQR-AM re Forbes
and Friends
(CBSC Decision 92/93-0187, August 8, 1994); CJRQ-FM re Opinion Poll
(CBSC Deciion 94/95-0135, March 26, 1996); and CHCH-TV re Life Today with James
Robison
(CBSC Decision 95/96-0128, April 30, 1996). In the case of “ethnic” jokes:
CFOX-FM re the Larry and Willie Show (CBSC Decision 92/93-0141, August 30, 1993);
CHOG-AM re the Jessie and Gene Show (CBSC Decision 93/94-0242, November 15,
1994); CHUM-FM re Sunday Funnies (CBSC Decision 95/96-0064, March 26, 1996);CHFI-FM re the Don Daynard Show (CBSC Decision 94/95-0145, March 26, 1996); and CJOH-TV re Ellen (CBSC Decision 96/97-0095, May 8, 1997).

There is nothing complex about the matter under consideration here. The short skit in
question is intended as a parody. It plays on the double entendre of the word “fag”, which
is used primarily in Britain and its former colonies as a slang term for cigarette, and which
has a slang usage in North America to describe a gay man. The sole issue for the Council
to consider is whether or not this use of the term was abusively discriminatory vis-à-vis gay
men. In the view of the Council, it is not. While possibly an unflattering term, it does not,
in the Council's view, rank with certain racial or ethnic epithets (which it does not wish to
repeat here), particularly since members of the gay community use the word themselves
from time to time in a non-discriminatory fashion. At worst, “fag” could be considered to
be in poor taste, a matter on which the CBSC does not rule. In consequence, the Council
finds that there is no breach of the Code.

Broadcaster Responsiveness

The CBSC always recognizes the broadcaster's obligation, as a CBSC member, to be
responsive to complainants. In this case, the Regional Council considers that the
response from the broadcaster dealt fairly with the letter of complaint. Nothing more is
expected. Consequently, the station did not breach the Council's standard of
responsiveness.

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.