CJKR-FM re a radio contest (Nude Bicycle Riding)

PRAIRIE REGIONAL COUNCIL
(CBSC Decision 98/99-0476)
S. Hall (Chair), D. Braun (Vice-Chair),D. Dobbie, Vic Dubois, R. Gallagher, D. Ish

THE FACTS

As a part of “BJ and Hal's
Toughest Contest Ever”, on March 10, 1999, CJKR-FM (Winnipeg) promoted the
participation of a young Winnipeg woman in a nude bicycle ride from the
“centre” of Winnipeg at Portage and Main west to The Bay. A transcript
of the banter between the hosts and the “on-the-spot” reporter during
the stunt is provided in Appendix A. Those portions of the program which are
directly relevant to the Council's decision are referred to below under the
appropriate headings.

The Letter of Complaint

The following letter of complaint and
petition of 41 names dated March 15, 1999 was sent to the CRTC's Winnipeg
office which forwarded the matter in due course to the CBSC. Since it dealt with
two separate contests, the other of which is the subject of the Prairie Regional
Council's decision in CITI-FM re a radio contest (On-air Wedding) (CBSC
Decision 98/99-0477, November 18, 1999), the letter is edited to reflect only
the concerns relevant to the matter at hand.

The particulars of [the] contest areas follows;

– a woman was paid an amount ofprize money in exchange for riding, her bicycle naked along a major trafficroute early one weekday morning. This contest was held by Power 97 FM.

We, as individuals and as acollective group of West End Christian Community Church, take serious issuewith each of these poor excuses to boost ratings.

As for the second contest, held bythe competing radio station, Power 97 FM, it is also one that causes thewriters of this letter to express their discontent with how far thesestations will go to “gain a listener”. In fact, at least one ofthe writers of this letter has felt particularly offended with the countlessderogatory and sexual remarks about women made on Power 97 FM. It iscompletely tasteless and morally wrong to pay someone to do an embarrassingstunt such as the one performed by this woman. We are tired of women beingtreated as sexual objects, rather than people of equal value. Power 97 FMcontinues to perpetuate these negative stereotypical images of women, and itmust stop if there is to be any change in the way society perceives bothsexes.

We hope that this letter ofcomplaint will be the impetus for the CRTC to contact, investigate andreprimand both of the above stated radio stations. We also hope that youwill consider this not one letter of complaint, but many because of thecollection of voices behind it. We write for ourselves, and for the hundredsof other Winnipeggers who do not bother to write because they think it willnot make a difference. We hope they are wrong.

The Broadcaster’s Response

The President and General Manager
of CJKR-FM responded to the complainant's letter on April 8, 1999.

POWER 97 did not pay the womaninvolved in the bike ride on Portage Avenue on Wednesday, March 10th, 1999. Aswith the eighteen other contestants involved in “BJ and Hal's ToughestContest Ever” promotion, Ms. M willingly participated for “a chanceto win” the Grand Prize of $10,000. As quoted in The Winnipeg Sunon March 11th, Ms. M would, “do it again” given the opportunity.

Regarding POWER 97's programming, itis designed to appeal to a specific lifegroup known as the rock listener. Therock lifegroup tends to enjoy “entertainment with attitude” when itchooses a radio station. To this end, POWER 97 strives to provide it audiencewith a unique and creative presentation of music, personalities andpromotions. While it is difficult to comment on matters of personal taste ortolerance, we believe that POWER 97's programming is relevant and entertainingto its audience.

The complainant was unsatisfied with
the CJKR-FM's response and requested, on April 16, that the CBSC refer the
matter to the Prairie Regional Council for adjudication. Along with her signed
Ruling Request form, the complainant copied the Council on her letter of
dissatisfaction to the station's President and General Manager.

Thank you for your response letter,dated April 8, 1999. I also thank you for the clarification regarding thecontest: I understand that Ms. M was not paid in order to ride her bicyclenaked. I also understand she was a willing participant for a chance to winprize money, as were the other eighteen contestants.

Even though she willinglyparticipated, I do wish to clarify that this contest was conceived andpromoted by Power 97. Although we (as I speak on behalf of severalcomplainants) find much of your programming to be of ill taste, thisparticular stunt is exploitative and degrading. As a member of our society, I,and the other complainants, would like to see you try to uphold some sense ofmoral dignity.

We understand that Power 97 is tryingto “appeal to a specific lifegroup known as the rock listener”. Weobject, however, with your stereotypical definition of who would be interestedin the programming you offer. For one, many children and teenagers listen toyour station and we believe you have a responsibility to refrain fromreinforcing the negative attitudes that are already so prevalent in oursociety today. We know your programming to be particularly degrading towardswomen in a sexual nature, and therefore offensive. It is this degradation, aswell as the contest with which we take issue.

Additionally, the contest itselfbreaches Clause 11 of the CAB Code of Ethics: “All station contests andpromotions should be conceived and conducted in good taste, and particularcare should be taken to ensure that they are not likely to give rise to apublic inconvenience or disturbance.”

As a collective group, we also takeissue with the fact that Power 97 initiated a contest in which a person wasessentially “dared” to commit a public offence.

We believe that your radio stationconceived an inappropriate contest, and also conducted it in poor taste. Webelieve that a public apology is in order, as well as a promise to endeavor touphold the morals of our community and city by refraining from holdingcontests that are “likely to give rise to a public inconvenience ordisturbance”.

Lastly, as we are unsatisfied withyour response to the written complaint forwarded to you by the CBSC, we wishto inform you that we will be contacting the CBSC for a ruling request. Thankyou for your time and consideration on this matter.

THE DECISION

The CBSC's Prairie Regional Council
considered the complaint under the Clause 11 of the CAB Code of Ethics
and Clause 4 of the Sex-Role Portrayal Code Those clauses read as
follows:

CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 11

(a) Broadcasters recognize thatwhereas station contests and promotions are legitimate and useful methods ofattracting audiences, they should be conducted in such a manner that the costof any such contest or promotion is not excessive, particularly in relation tothe station's programming budget.

(b) All station contests andpromotions should be conceived and conducted in good taste, and particularcare should be taken to ensure that they are not likely to give rise to apublic inconvenience or disturbance.

CAB Sex-role Portrayal Code, Clause 4

Television and radio programmingshall refrain from the exploitation of women, men and children. Negative ordegrading comments on the role and nature of women, men or children in societyshall be avoided. Modes of dress, camera focus on areas of the body andsimilar modes of portrayal should not be degrading to either sex. Thesexualization of children through dress or behaviour is not acceptable.

The Regional Council members listened
to a tape of the program and reviewed all of the correspondence. The Council
considers that the program in question breaches the cited provisions of both of
the Codes mentioned above.

Contests

The CBSC has only considered the
Contests clause of the CAB Code of Ethics on one occasion prior to today,
when the Prairie Regional Council has been called upon to deal with two such
matters. It considers it useful to review the previous jurisprudence, which was
established by the British Columbia Regional Council. In CFOX-FM re Larry
& Willy Show (Bryan Adams Contest)
(CBSC Decision 97/98-0534, May 20,
1998), the Council dealt with a complaint concerning a contest which promised a
prize (excellent tickets to a forthcoming Bryan Adams concert) to the first
caller who could give the morning show hosts Bryan Adams' middle name.
Although not evident in the beginning, it soon became clear after a few
“unlucky” callers (with the correct answer) that the hosts were not in
fact looking for the pop star's real middle name; rather they were
looking for a “spoof” name, made up by them. The complaint came from
an aggrieved contestant, the one who first provided the “correct”
answer. That being the first review of Clause 11 of the Code of Ethics,
the Council's decision set out the general framework for considering
complaints under that heading. It stated:

While its wording is not asstraightforward as it might ideally be, Clause 11 does, in the B.C. RegionalCouncil's view, establish its general purpose in the opening words”whereas station contests and promotions are legitimate and usefulmethods of attracting audiences”. The Council understands those words asa general framework for contests and promotions, and the remaining principlesestablished in paragraphs (a) and (b) as examples of the legitimate methods ofconducting such contests and promotions. These include the requirement that: i)”the cost of any such contest or promotion is not excessive”; ii)”all station contests and promotions should be conceived and conducted ingood taste”; and iii) “particular care should be taken to ensurethat they are not likely to give rise to a public inconvenience ordisturbance.” In other words, the Council considers that the legitimacyand usefulness of contests must be evaluated by reference to those threeissues among others. The non-limitative nature of the list is, in theCouncil's view, reflected in the generality of the words chosen in theenumerated examples.

The B.C. Regional Council was, in that
case, called upon to consider an issue (relating to fairness) which is not
directly relevant to the matter at hand. On that occasion, the B.C. Regional
Council added that the wording of the provision “suggest[s] that a notion
of 'fair play' should also be at stake in such contests or promotions.”
It considered that Larry and Willy' s “spoof contest” breached the
Code on that count. The Council stated that it had “little doubt that the
application of common societal standards would lead any fair-minded person to
conclude that the contest was … not legitimate to the consumer/listener.”

[T]he Council notes that the hosts'choice in setting up the contest as a joke is not the issue. There iscertainly no requirement that radio contests be serious. What is theissue is that the contest was conceived and conducted in such a way as to be misleading.Callers had a legitimate expectation that they would win the prize if theywere the first to answer the relatively easy question correctly (as stated bythe broadcaster, “It is fairly common knowledge that [Bryan Adams']middle name is Guy, since he performed under that name for a number of yearshere in Vancouver in his earlier career.”). In fact, the caller who wasfirst in providing the “correct” answer was not awarded the prize.The Council reiterates that it is not that the hosts sought a”spoof” middle name for Bryan Adams which offends the Code; ratherit is that the contest was conceived and conducted to make it look asif they would award a prize for a certain answer when in reality they didnot intend to do any such thing. Such a contest offends the generally acceptednotions of fairness and fair play and therefore cannot be said to be inconformity with the requirements of Clause 11 of the CAB Code of Ethics.

The Content of the Program

In CITI-FM re a radio contest
The Content of the Program
(On-air Wedding)
(CBSC Decision 98/99-0477, November 18, 1999), the decision
concerned the appropriateness of a wedding between two apparent strangers
held on air. As the Prairie Regional Council stated there:

In this case, at this time, the Prairie Regional Council considers that public order is not so disturbedor inconvenienced by this contest that it can find a breach of the Code.

The result in this case must however, be different. Not perhaps, as the complainant and co-petitioners might
wish, on the grounds of an absence of “moral dignity”, but rather on
the grounds of public disturbance or inconvenience. While the Council must
reserve its right to evaluate the circumstances of every different factual
pattern which might in future present itself, the Prairie Regional Council's
principal concern with this contest has to do with where it was held.
Nor, it should be added, has the Council inquired as to whether or not charges
were laid or ought to have been laid. That is not the CBSC's issue here. It is
perfectly obvious to the Council that a nude woman (or, the Council assumes, a
nude man) cycling down the principal avenue of one of the nation's largest
cities could reasonably be expected to constitute a distraction for drivers.
This is precisely what the codifiers must have had in mind when they drafted a
provision which stated that

particular care should be taken toensure that they [contests] are not likely to give rise to a publicinconvenience or disturbance.

It does not require great imagination
to understand that such a distraction on a major thoroughfare would in fact
cause that very public inconvenience or disturbance which was envisaged by the
codifiers. It would not, in the circumstances, even be unreasonable to be
concerned about the prospect of an accident intervening. Accordingly, the
decision to promote such a contest constitutes, in the view of the Council, a
breach of Clause 11(b) of the CAB Code of Ethics.

The Sex-Role Portrayal Issue

While the Prairie Regional Council is
uncertain of the precise nature of the promotion of “BJ and Hal's Toughest
Contest Ever”, it is prepared to assume, for these purposes, that the offer
by the station was for anyone who would ride a bicycle in the stated
location in the nude and that Leigh M volunteered, although any man might have
done so equally. Accordingly, there is not, in a strict sense, any problem in
terms of the Code with such an “equal opportunity” contest. The
Council has no knowledge of anyone else, perhaps a male contestant, having
volunteered for the stunt, thereby forcing the broadcaster to make a choice as
to who would ultimately perform the stunt for a chance to win the relatively
large sum of money. It is the case that the contestant who actually performed
the stunt turned out to be a “saucy”, “hot 18-year-old young
lady”, in the words of the hosts BJ and Hal.

While, consequently, the Council can
make no finding as to the creation of the concept itself of the stunt
under the Sex-Role Portrayal Code, it has considered how the stunt unfolded,
as attested by the logger tapes. In the Council's view, the dialogue between
the “on-the-spot reporter” and the in-studio hosts raises some
concerns with respect to the “negative or degrading comments on the role or
nature of women”. There are a couple of examples in the several minutes of
dialogue, beginning with the first exchange:

Host 1: It is 10 to 8, I think we’re just about ready to do Leigh M [the cyclist].

Host 2: We sure are.

Host 1: So to speak. [Both laughing] I was ready at 6:00 this morning to do that. [Laughing].

It continues:

Host 1: Now Leigh’s going to … Has Leigh got her clothes off yet?

Chuck: Leigh’s got her clothes off. Sweet Jesus!

Host 1: I know, I know. Man I wish I was there, damn it.

Chuck: I’m biking right beside her.

Host 1: How does she look?

Chuck: Right now? Hold on, I’m done. [Laughing]

Chuck: Well, we are approaching a red light so we’re going to pull up beside some cars right now.

Host 2: You have her sit straight up on that saddle, buddy, when you stop. [Laughter]

While the examples do not approach the
level of those in the Howard Stern Shows which were the subject of CBSC
decisions in CHOM-FM and CILQ-FM re the Howard
Stern Show
(CBSC Decisions 97/98-0001+ and
0015+, October 17 and 18, 1997) and CILQ-FM re
the Howard Stern Show
(CBSC Decision
97/98-0487, 488, 504 and 535, February 20, 1998), they do reflect a demeaning
and degrading attitude toward women. While the CBSC has not rendered a decision
against any broadcaster with respect to nudity on television in the case of any
of the broadcasts hitherto presented to it, Clause 4 also provides that
“camera focus on areas of the body and similar modes of portrayal should
not be degrading to either sex.” The Prairie Regional Council understands
that the principle established in Clause 4 is not meant to be restricted
to television; the operative word is “focus”, supported by the
addition of the phrase “similar modes of portrayal”. This is clearly a
case in which BJ, Hal and Chuck were focussing on Leigh M's state of
undress and making comments degrading to her as a woman. The focus of the stunt,
which, as the Council has noted above, ought not to have taken place on a public
street at all, could simply have been that someone was doing this bicycle ride,
naked, at a rather inclement time of year, that people were reacting, that horns
were honking, that the police had gotten involved, and so on. There was a story
to tell, even one to perhaps have an on-air laugh over with respect to the
extent that someone was prepared to go to have a chance to win $10,000, but the
broadcasters did not stop there. They talked about “doing her”,
utterly without justification; they focussed on how she looked rather than what
she was doing; they wanted her to “sit straight up on that saddle” in
order, evidently, to “show her wares”. Consequently, the Council finds
the station in breach of Clause 4 of the Sex-Role Portrayal Code.

CONTENT OF THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE DECISION

CJKR-FM is required to announce this
decision forthwith, in the following terms, during prime time and, within the
next thirty days, to provide confirmation of the airing of the statement to the
CBSC and to the complainant who filed a Ruling Request, on behalf of her and her
co-petitioners.

The Canadian Broadcast StandardsCouncil has found that CJKR-FM has breached provisions of the CanadianAssociation of Broadcasters Code of Ethics and the CAB Sex-RolePortrayal Code. The Council found that, in CJKR's contest promoting anude bicycle ride by a young woman on a main Winnipeg thoroughfare on March10, the broadcaster gave rise to a public inconvenience or disturbance,contrary to Clause 11 of the CAB Code of Ethics. The Council alsoconcluded that various comments made regarding the naked cyclist weredemeaning and degrading to women, contrary to Clause 4 of the CAB Sex-RolePortrayal Code.

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