CJAY-FM re Forbes and Friends (Parody song re Chinese restaurant & Thai sex trade workers)

PRAIRIE REGIONAL PANEL
(CBSC Decision 03/04-0259)
D. Ish (Chair), V. Cownden, D. Dobbie, V. Dubois, J. Fong and R. Gallagher

THE
FACTS

The
November 5 and 6, 2003 episodes of the morning show Forbes and Friends,
on CJAY-FM (
Calgary),
parodied then current news reports. The
November 7 episode revisited the news story of the previous day without
parody this time.
 

On the first broadcast in question,
the hosts’ brief comments on the report that dog and coyote remains were
found in a freezer in an Edmonton Chinese restaurant were followed by a
parody song that implied that cat meat might be a menu item instead of the
chicken, beef, or pork listed there. This
parody song was dealt with by this Panel in CJKR-FM
re Announcer Comments
(CBSC Decision 99/00-0130,
May 5, 2000)
(the lyrics of that song, as well as all relevant transcriptions of the
November 5, 6 and 7 shows are reproduced in Appendix
A
to this decision).
 

On the broadcast that aired the next
day, the hosts presented a news story of a police raid on
Calgary
massage parlours believed to have been operating as common
bawdy houses. The police were attempting
to close
a trafficking
pipeline for Thai sex trade workers
. Charges
laid included conspiracy to procure a person to enter
Canada to work in a bawdy house, living on the avails of prostitution,
keeping a common bawdy house and participation in illegal drug-related activities.
The program host,
Gerry Forbes, introduced a parody skit
by saying that he actually had “a tape from inside the doors” of the massage
parlours targeted by the police raid, referred to as “rub ‘n’ tugs” by the
hosts. The skit went as follows (as
indicated above, a more complete transcript is available in Appendix
A
):
 

Song:

She’s a Singapore whore
A singing Singapore whore
Figuring out the words from her mouth
Is quite a friggin’ chore
Pay her a buck she won’t bore
She’s a Singapore whore
A thickly tongue, marbled mouth
Figgin’ Singapore whore

Announcer: Tonight on Singapore whore
Woman: That’s me. Hi, do you want to make
love to me in my ash?
Man: Um, what?
Woman: In my ash.
Man:
“Ash”? What? What’s that?
Announcer: That’s tonight at 8.
Woman: In my round inviting ash..
Man: Round.is something on fire? What.?
Woman: No, my ash, my supple round ash. My
J-Lo ash.
Man: Get
that thing out of my face. What
are you saying? I’m not paying for this.
Woman: Hit it, hit it. Hee hee hee. He’s so funny.
Man: Where is the door?
Gerry: Hit it!
Announcer: Tonight on Singapore Whore.
Gerry: Hey, if you don’t.
Woman: He’s so bashful!
Gerry: If you don’t patronize these places, this stuff doesn’t happen.
Jodi: Uh hum.
Gerry: That’s the key here.
Wicksie: Although
it sounds like they’re getting aggressive with it, don’t they?
Gerry: Hit it.
Jodi: Well. You go in because you’ve got an ache.
Wicksie: Because you’ve gotta which?
Jodi:

An ache
.

Wicksie: What? In your ash?
Jodi: No, in your.Oh, forget it.

The morning show crew again dealt with the prostitution ring story the
following day on November 7. The
discussion went in part as follows (a more complete transcript is available
in Appendix A):

 

Gerry:

7:16 now with Forbes and Friends and this
sex slave thing.
Jodi: Uh
hum.
Gerry:

[Whistles] Pretty sad stuff.

Jodi: It
is.
Gerry: It’s
amazing how many Rub ‘n’ Tugs we do have in town.
Wicksie: We
do have a few.
Jodi Didn’t
know.
[.]
Gerry: Now,
these are Thai people doing it to Thai people.
Wicksie:
Yeah.
Gerry: They’re bringing, they’re bringing, uh, Thai agents who’re sending
people here to be sex-slaves, so it’s really no better than what they
have over in
Thailand, in Bangkok.
Wicksie: That’s true.
Jodi: Well,
once they pay off their initial fee to get here.
Wicksie: 40
Grand.
Host: Isn’t
that brutal?
Jodi: Then
I think they’re allowed to be.
Gerry:
How
many rub ‘n’ tugs do you have to do for 40 Grand?
Jodi:
I
don’t know.
Wicksie: But
these people can’t even, can’t even speak English.
Jodi: I
don’t know what the going rate is.
Gerry: All
you need to know is “love you long time”, right?
Wicksie:

Right.

Gerry: And “up and down”.
That’s about it. But
it’s terrible that they’ll be doing this to these people.
Hosts:
Umm.
Gerry: Now they’re going probably all be deported
which is even worse.but, uh.
Jodi: Yeah,
they paid 40 Grand, now they’re deported.
Gerry: Stay
out of these places. That’s a dirty, filthy, yuk.
Wicksie: No
kidding.
Jodi: Imagine
who’s been there before you, umm, isn’t that lovely!
Gerry: Oh,
boy.
Lot of juice there! Anyway.
Wicksie:
What?
Jodi: Well,
you gotta think.
Wicksie: I
don’t wanna think about that!





 

On November 6, a listener who had complained
previously to the CBSC about ethnic slurs and whose complaints were the
subject of a previous decision involving the same broadcaster [see CJAY-FM Forbes and Friends
(Chinese Language “Translations”)
(CBSC Decision
02/03-1646, April 16, 2004
)] sent the CBSC the following message that
read in part (see Appendix B to this decision
for the full text of this and all other correspondence):

I have another complaint I must make regarding some of
the comments made by CJAY 92.1 FM, a radio station in
Calgary, Alberta.
[.]

 

The reason I am filing this complaint is that the Forbes and Friends morning
crew has once again found it appropriate to continue their array of ethnic
skits designed to mock and ridicule Asians in general. It seems that the morning crew has taken advantage
of current events and used that as an excuse to continue their campaign
of mockery and ridicule against Asians.
 

The following day, the complainant
sent another e-mail adding the broadcast date of November 7th
and providing more details concerning his complaint: The most pertinent parts read as follows:
 

My
concern is that Mr. Forbes and his coworkers have taken advantage of recent
events in
Edmonton and Calgary to continue a series of comments and
radio skits designed to humiliate and ridicule Asian Canadians. [.]

On November 5th Mr. Forbes
and the rest of the morning crew found it amusing that a Chinese Restaurant
in
Edmonton had the gutted carcasses of dogs or
coyotes in its freezer. As a dog owner and Chinese Canadian I am very sorry
and even embarrassed that this happened. Mr. Forbes and the rest of the
morning crew responded to this situation by playing an interesting radio
skit where they suggest all Chinese people eat dogs and cats. 

On
November 6th, Mr. Forbes found it amusing that several Thai sex
slaves were arrested in
Calgary. The song “Singapore Whore” was played
prior to a radio dialogue where an Asian prostitute offers to let a man
make love to her in her “ahsk” (ass). The rest of the Morning crew then
made rude comments of their own. My question to the morning crew: Do you
believe the existence of Asian sex slaves to be amusing? Are Asian women
whores to you?
 

Today
on November 7th at 7:15 a.m. Mr. Forbes, who found the topic of sex slaves
to be very funny yesterday called the incident involving Thai sex slaves
to be “sad”. This is an absolutely a pathetic attempt to redeem himself
for the stupidity he gleefully exhibited yesterday.
 

In
summary, it seems that CJAY 92.1 believes Asian people are dog eating freaks
and that the Asian women are whores who deserve to be ridiculed and mocked.

The broadcaster’s Vice President and
General Manager responded on November 26.
He said in part:
 

I
can assure you, Mr. Forbes and his coworkers have not “taken advantage
of recent events in
Edmonton and Calgary to continue a series of comments and radio skits
designed to humiliate and ridicule Asian Canadians.” As stated in my earlier correspondence, I would
like to reiterate that the programming in question is meant as comedy. CJAY
92 is a Rock radio station targeting and delivering [to] an audience of
adults between 18 and 49 years of age. Due to the nature of our format and
our audience, humour is found to be one of the main ingredients of the radio
station. The use of dialect voices and skits is by no means “meant
to mock or demean Chinese People or the Chinese language”. This is
subjective humour as is your interpretation.
 

In
closing I must absolutely disagree with your summary. Our offices and broadcast
facilities are located in the Asian community and many of our friends, clients,
listeners and neighbours are of Asian decent. CJAY 92 does not “believe
that Asian people are dog eating freaks or that Asian women are whores who
deserve to be ridiculed and mocked”.

The complainant was not satisfied with
the response and filed a ruling request on November 26, accompanied by further
comments. Among these he said:
 

[.]
Due to the brusqueness and asperity of this message, I have come to the
conclusion that further correspondence with CJAY 92.1 regarding my complaint
will be of little use. I am unsatisfied with the broadcaster’s response
and would request that the CBSC panel consider my complaint.
 

 

THE
DECISION
 

The
CBSC’s Prairie Regional Panel considered the complaint under the Canadian
Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics.
The relevant provisions of this Code read as follows:
 

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 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.
 

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:
[.]
 
(b)     Unduly
sexually explicit material;

The Prairie Regional Panel Adjudicators
reviewed all of the correspondence as well as a recording of the challenged
broadcasts. While the Panel does
not find that the CJAY-FM broadcast in question was unduly discriminatory,
it concludes that it did breach the Code provision relating to the use of
unduly sexually explicit material.
 

Discriminatory Humour 

The Panel notes that the
parody song “The Cat’s in the Kettle” broadcast on November 5 has been considered
by this Panel in an earlier decision, namely,
CJKR-FM
re Announcer Comments

(CBSC Decision 99/00-0130,
May
5, 2000
)
. On that
occasion, the host had marked the alleged “anniversary” of a Chinese ban
on family pets by playing this same parody song. This Panel did not agree with that complainant’s
view that the broadcast was unduly discriminatory towards Chinese people.
In the Panel’s view, the commentary was directed
 

in small part on the Chinese Government
and in larger part on Chinese restaurants.
The Council does not view these as a commentary on the Chinese people
at all. Fundamentally, the combination plays on the
idea that, when you order a dish in a Chinese restaurant, you may
get cat rather than chicken, beef, fish or pork.

 

The foregoing “humourous” suggestion may be outrageous
or in bad taste. If the latter, it is, as the Council has often said, simply
a choice for the listener with the on/off switch. If the former, though, the Council notes that
there is no protection granted under the human rights provision of the Code
for a profession or an occupation and being a Chinese restaurateur,
or any other type of business person of any other ethnic origin, will not
entitle one to protection any more than being a policeman did in the case
of CKLZ-FM re Announcer Comments (CBSC Decision 94/95-0113, December
18, 1996).
 

The Panel took the proposition
further, stating that, even if the comments could be reasonably seen to
be discriminatory against Chinese people and not merely Chinese restaurateurs,
they were neither abusive nor unduly discriminatory. This case is no different. If anything, the comment here is even more directly
tied to Chinese restaurateurs (indeed, to a specific restaurant) than in
the earlier case.
 

Turning then to the November
6 broadcast and the “Singapore Whore” skit, the Panel finds that its humour-driven
basis is neither abusive nor unduly discriminatory (although it is considered
inappropriate for broadcast on another count, as discussed below).
First, the Panel notes that the skit focuses on
Singapore sex workers, who are not even of the same nationality as the women caught
up in the human smuggling enterprise in
Calgary. At that, the Panel does not consider that the
skit paints all Singaporean or Asian women, much less all Thai women, as
whores. The skit is only about those
women who work in the sex trade. There
is nothing in the skit which broadens the scope of any discriminatory comment
beyond the narrow confine of women sex trade workers.
 

Second, the humour of the
skit, which may well be in bad taste, is neither nasty nor bludgeoning to
use the criteria long ago established by the Ontario Regional Panel in
CHFI-FM
re the Don Daynard Show

(CBSC Decision 94/95-0145, March 26, 1996)
. The Prairie Panel finds those comments, which
it applied to its ruling on the present complainant’s complaint in CJAY-FM re Forbes and
Friends (Chinese Language “Translations”)

(CBSC Decision 02/03-1646, April 16, 2004),
applicable here. In that decision,
also rendered on this date, this Panel stated:
 

In the present
instance, the Panel concludes that the humour is neither deep nor cutting. It depends principally on the relatively light-hearted
technique frequently applied in cases of ethnically-oriented humour, namely,
the use of accents. While these are
generally employed so as to leave the impression that the person or group
that is the brunt of the “joke” is inferior, occasionally the issue is simply
that the person or group is different. The Panel believes that this is the case in
the matter at hand. The Panel considers
that the Chinese community is not belittled, mocked or marginalized. It is the object of humour, to be sure, but
not on the grounds of any alleged or even implied inadequacy, weakness or
failure.
In
a somewhat similar circumstance, in CFYI-AM
re Scruff Connors and John Derringer Morning Show

(CBSC Decision C01/02-279, June 7, 2002),
the Ontario Regional Panel
added that the “use of an alien accent will require ancillary demeaning,
degrading, harsh, nasty or negative commentary or association in order to
be found in breach of the Code.”
 

Accordingly, the Panel finds no breach
of the Human Rights provision with respect to the segments identified by
the complainant. The Panel does,
however, find that the segments are problematic for another reason.
 

Sexual Explicitness
in Radio Broadcasting
 

The comments of a sexual nature broadcast
on November 6 and 7 must be considered in light of Clause 9 of the CAB Code of Ethics, which prohibits the
broadcast of unduly sexually explicit content.
In addressing this subject, the Panel notes that, in another decision
taken on this date, namely, CJAY-FM
re Forbes and Friends (graphic discussion)

(CBSC Decision 03/04-0157, April 16, 2004),
it has considered
the meaning of “explicit” as used in Clause 9.
It stated there that
 

the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary
defines the aspect of “explicit” that is material to the Panel as “distinctly
expressing all that is meant; leaving nothing merely implied or suggested;
unambiguous; clear.” While there
can be no doubt that the use of the verb “rape” alone could be understood
as clear and unambiguous, it is not in this sense that the Panel understands
the codifiers’ intention in using the term “explicit”.
The Panel considers that the codifiers meant explicit in the sense
of graphic, full, expressing all that is meant, which is to say more than
the isolated verb could convey. Indeed,
it would make little sense for the use of a solitary verb, however unequivocal,
to fall into the “explicit” category. What
was intended was the unnecessary and excessive building upon that foundation,
the “unduly explicit” description of, in this case, sexual activity.
 In applying that understanding to the words “He
grabbed her by the neck with both hands, which is a foul, turned her around,
bent her over the chair and raped her,” the Panel considers that the broadcaster
has been “unduly sexually explicit”. Had the host limited his observation to the
fact that Bryant had raped the accuser, that would almost certainly have
presented no problem. He chose, however,
to convert the rape (if rape there was – this matter is still before the
Courts as of the date of this decision) into a four-step event, which exceeded
the bounds of Clause 9 of the CAB Code of Ethics.
 

In the matter at hand, the Panel notes that the November
6 broadcast contained repetitive references to anal sex. While a single reference might have been subtle
or might have led to a double-entendre, the repetition of those references
and the descriptors (“my round inviting ash”, “my round supple ash”, “my
J-Lo ash”) in “Singapore Whore” renders the potentially ambivalent term
“ash” quite clear and explicit.
 

In CJAY-FM re Forbes
and Friends
(joke songs and parody advertisement)
(CBSC
Decision 02/03-0674,
December 15, 2003),
in dealing with a song entitled “My Ex-boyfriend”, this Panel discussed
euphemisms for anal sex in the following way:
 

There may come a point
in metaphorical expression when the accumulation of individual metaphors,
any one of which might be sufficiently subtle to be excusable, that the
body of subtleties becomes unequivocally apparent.
That is the case with “My Ex-boyfriend”, which, line-by-line, finds
a different metaphorical treatment for sexual acts, principally of the anal
variety. Heard, or read, cumulatively,
they are, without doubt, explicit. They
are, moreover, unduly explicit and, as such, in breach of Clause
9(b) of the CAB Code of Ethics.
 

The
Panel considers that, in this case, some of the morning crew’s comments
regarding occurrences in common bawdy houses were unduly sexually explicit.
Specifically, the Panel notes the repetition of a prostitute’s invitation
to have anal intercourse with her as well as the comment “Imagine who’s
been there before you. Humm, isn’t
that lovely!” combined with the reply “Oh, boy.
Lot of juice there!” In the Panel’s
view, these comments constitute unduly sexually explicit content for morning
radio and are in breach of Clause 9 of the CAB Code of Ethics.
 

Inappropriate Humour 

In
CHMJ-AM re a segment
on Loveline
(CBSC
Decision 02/03-0459, July 22, 2003)
, the B.C. Regional Panel determined
that references to the Holocaust, while not discriminatory towards Jewish
people, were inappropriate for use as a humorous device.
That case involved a discussion with a phone sex operator who was
seeking a way to keep her clients on the line a bit longer. The hosts suggested a “subliminal” messaging
technique that would dampen the ardour of her callers. She was instructed to insert such words as “cancer”,
Vietnam” and “Holocaust” in her usual spiel.
When, however, she attempted to use the word Holocaust, it was clear
that she had no idea either of what the hosts were asking her to do or,
indeed, what the Holocaust was. The hosts made fun of the hapless phone sex
worker by further expounding on the Holocaust.
They stated things such as “Yeah, yeah, burn those Jews”, “Gas’em
in the shower” and “Send’em on a train to
Krakow.” The
Panel found no breach of the Human Rights Clause as the statements were
clearly not intended to discriminate against people of the Jewish faith
but the Panel did consider that the humour was sufficiently inappropriate
as to constitute a Code breach. It
stated:
 

The Panel draws a significant distinction between its conclusion
in the previous section regarding the nature
of the hosts’ remarks about the Holocaust and their use of those references in their humorous dialogue. The issue in the previous section was racism.
The Panel found none. The issue here is the employment of the apocalyptic
historical event as a humorous crutch. The Panel readily understands the suggested
dampening effect of such non-risible concepts as cancer,
Vietnam (in reference, of course, to the 1960s
war) and the Holocaust on
Lorraine‘s yearning telephone clients. It equally understands the intended humour in
the ludicrous concept of the sexual purveyor “subliminally” mouthing such
words in the midst of her erotic discourse.
It also understands the mockable inanity of the intellectually hapless
Lorraine. When,
however, the hosts progressed to the level of “Yeah, yeah, burn those Jews.
Gas ’em in the shower, baby,” and so on, even in aid of their sarcastic
view of the ignorant “telephone actress”, they exceeded any reasonable level
of propriety. The laughter of the hosts directed at the notion
of the concentration camp trains and lethal “showers”, which combined to
exterminate six million Jewish persons, accentuated the inappropriateness.
 

The humorous constructs erected here on the base of great
tragedy constitute improper comment. The
broadcast of this segment of Loveline
constitutes a breach of the standard requiring the “full, fair and proper
presentation of news, opinion, comment and editorial.”
While some parallels can be drawn between thetwo cases, the Panel finds a material distinction between
the Loveline decision and the facts
of this case. First, in the Loveline case, the humorous device was clearly linked to the tragic
events of the Holocaust. The hosts
used real, morbid and painful Holocaust references in their attempt to carry
further the humorous situation created by the phone sex operator’s lack of
knowledge of the historical occurrence. In
this case, the humour and the tragedy are merely coincidental. The application of the Singapore Whore skit
may have been inspired by the sad current
Alberta events but it does
not use them as part of the humour itself.
There is, for example, no reference to sex-slavery in the skit in question.
The second important distinction relates to the on-air recognition
of the inappropriateness of the humour. The
Panel notes that, on the morning following the November 6 broadcast, Gerry
Forbes and his crew again dealt with the topical story of the sting operation
but this time commiserated with the Thai women who came to
Canada only to be forced
to work in the sex trade under slave-like conditions. There was no such follow-up broadcast in the
Loveline case. Quite the opposite, in the Loveline case, the
inappropriate segment had in fact been repeated as part of a “best of” episode.

 

All in all, the Panel does not consider that the skit
concerning
Singapore sex workers crossed
the line for inappropriate humour so as to constitute a breach of Clause
6 of the CAB Code of Ethics. That being said, the Panel urges broadcasters
to exercise care and sensitivity in developing humour based on tragic events,
no matter how topical the stories may be.
 

Repetitive Nature of the Broadcaster’s Breaches 

This is not the only time that CJAY-FM has been found in breach with respect
to sexually explicit content. See
the decision taken on this date by this Panel in
CJAY-FM re Forbes and Friends (graphic
discussion)
(CBSC Decision 03/04-0157,
April 16, 2004) for the Panel’s decision concerning the repetitive
nature of these breaches.
 

Broadcaster Responsiveness 

In all CBSC decisions, the Regional Panels assess the broadcaster’s responsiveness
to the complainant. Although the
broadcaster need not agree with the complainant, it is expected that its
representatives charged with replying to complaints will address the complainant’s
concerns in a thorough and respectful manner. In this case, the Panel finds that the broadcaster’s
response was, in this regard, entirely appropriate. While it did not satisfy the complainant (which
is always the case for complaints requiring adjudication), the Panel is
satisfied that it addressed the specific points brought up by the complainant.
The Panel considers that CJAY-FM has met its CBSC membership obligations
with respect to responsiveness.
 

CONTENT
OF THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE DECISION
 

CJAY-FM
is required to: 1) announce this decision, in the following terms, once
during prime time 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 morning show Forbes and Friends is broadcast;
2) within fourteen days following the broadcast of the announcements, to
provide written confirmation of the airing of the announcements to the complainant
who filed the Ruling Request; and 3) at that time, 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 CJAY-FM.
 

The
Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has found that, in its broadcast of the episodes of the Forbes and
Friends
morning show of November 6 and 7, 2003, CJAY-FM has breached
a provision of the Canadian Association of Broadcaster’s Code of Ethics. In repetitively referring to specific sexual
acts during those broadcasts, CJAY-FM’s programming was unduly sexually
explicit and was aired in breach of Clause 9 of the CAB Code of Ethics.

 

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