CJXY-FM re the Scott and Lori Show

ONTARIO REGIONAL COUNCIL
(CBSC Decision 96/97-0239)
A. MacKay (Chair), R. Stanbury (Vice-Chair), P. Fockler, T. Gupta, M. Hogarth, M. Ziniak

THE FACTS

CJXY-FM (Hamilton)'s afternoon drive show hosts are “Scott and Lori”. On June 17, 1997,
the co-hosts commented on the decision of a Southern Baptist convention to boycott the
Disney Studio for its relationship with the television series Ellen on the grounds that the
star of the show, both in real life and her on-air persona, was gay. Their brief dialogue on
the subject was as follows:

Lori: Yes, some Southern Baptists apparently think Mickey Mouse now has a pitchfork and
horns.

Scott: Oh my God.

Lori: Yeah, they're voting this week to boycott Walt Disney. All due to Ellen. Insert joke
here.

Scott: Oh, man.

Lori: Okay, that's all I need to say. Wackos.

The Letter of Complaint

On July 11, a listener sent a letter to the CRTC, which was, in the normal course,
forwarded to the CBSC. The listener said:

I object to the broadcast by the FM on-air personality LAURIE [sic] LOVE … of the words,
“What a bunch of wackos” …

What a bunch of wackos, was in reference to an American group of Baptist Christians and
was clearly in violation of the Cdn. Broadcasting Act section 3 (b), part 1.1. She expressed
her obvious contempt for both a definable religious group as well as a nationality.

[The Program Director], instead of immediately discussing with me–or more correctly
without the need even for a discussion–what kind of apology would be acceptable in light
of such an obvious insult, attempted to debate the laudability of her expressed opinion.
Amateurish, sophomoric and anti-Christian zealotry. This from the perspective of an
admitted non-Christian. In my opinion this type of comment is typical of the overall
sentiment of management and staff of this group of broadcast stations which apparently are
on a subtle and not so subtle mission to vilify those whose views differ from theirs. When
measured against a plodding yet steadfast series of broadcast perceptions and innuendos
this group of stations has not complied with their licensing agreement to act as responsible
and respectful leasers of the publicly owned airways. With the exception, of course, of the
doublespeak which they give to you. Apparently they quite enjoy wearing their egos on their
sleeves when it comes to oneway communication and the rare to nearly non-existent access
of their vilification targets to a microphone. Cowardly and convenient.

Which leads me to wonder why your offices license such stations. Is the tail wagging the
dog? The truth be known just how disingenuous are they when It comes to their perception
of the need to be licensed, to comply with the spirit of their license agreement, to
respectfully serve their entire audience and to respond without malice to public complaints
such as this?

Beyond whether or not the CRTC has the actual ability to demand better broadcasting,
broadcasters and formats, it seems clear to me that the voice of those insulted will become
heard in the very large and economically significant tourism cash registers of Ontario should
a license to allow and encourage through the inability to effectively correct such openly and
unabashedly defaming and vilifying remarks. The next time that you are in a store, a
restaurant or theatre for example and someone over the P.A. system calls your friends and
family 'a bunch of wackos' see just how warm and fuzzy that makes the money in your
pocket on its way to another more grateful, respectful and welcoming environment. And of
course Americans do know how to organize their displeasure should both Laurie Love and
CJXY feel uncompelled to express a genuinely contrite apology, at a time not buried deep
into the sleeping hours.

It is my hope that the CRTC guards carefully against this broadcast group's probable if not
certain attempt to adroitly divert the real issue of professional, responsible broadcasting into
a series of non-germane debates; because in the end proper broadcasting practices plays
[sic] no small part in the happier shopping and service [sic] from more abundant foreign
tourists an well as their local friends.

Unfortunately the price to individuals, like myself, who have sought to defend the better use
of our airways [sic] will certainly continue the tacit, off-air persona non grata response policy
of many broadcasters to set an example to the public at large to think twice before
considering interfering with their perceived divine right to as much as possible broadcast
their agenda.

Lastly, it is not my purpose to force anyone to hold my beliefs on this or any other matter.
Realistically their [sic] is no means for achieving such a dramatic change; regardless of
those who hold to tenets such as the combination of assiduity and brainwashing. It would
however serve as a giant step forward for these broadcasters–most especially
management–to understand exactly what a license to broadcast is really all about.

The Broadcaster's Response

The Program Director responded to the complainant on July 29. He said:

On Tuesday June 17/97, during a regularly scheduled portion of our broadcast day, our
afternoon drive hosts were talking about some currents [sic] events happening in and
around the entertainment industry. During this segment they made reference to one news
item from that day where “some Southern Baptists were boycotting Disney for their
relationship with 'Ellen'''. Our female host, Lori Love, then responded with one word
“wackos”.

Your stated concern is with reference to Lori's comment “wackos” and it's [sic] direct
relationship to the Southern Baptist group. Having now gone over the tape it's my
interpretation the comment was not geared to or about the Baptists as a religious group, but
in fact pointed directly at the 'act' of boycotting Disney for their relationship with the 'Ellen'
situation. The fact this group were southern Baptists was irrelevant to the comment, they
could have been a group of business men from Alberta boycotting Disney and the comment,
taken in context, would still apply. As you know the Ellen show and subsequent media
attention has stirred a great debate on both sides of the border.

I don't believe we, as a licensee, have exposed any individual to hatred or contempt on the
basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age or
mental or physical disability. The comment was not with malice or intent to harm any
person or group but in truth a social comment on the state of this specific current event.

It's apparent these comments offended you and for that I apologize on behave [sic] of Lori
Love and the station. We are very aware of our public responsibilities and spend a great
deal of time making sure we're in compliance with the regulatory bodies and the general
public at large. Not everything we do will please everyone we serve but I can assure you
our staff respects the privilege granted us with our license and take very seriously anyone's
concern with our product. I can state without hesitation, 'We are not on any subtle agenda
against any group or moral social position.'

The listener was unsatisfied with this response and requested, on August 15, 1997, that
the CBSC refer the matter to the appropriate Regional Council for adjudication.

THE DECISION

The CBSCs Ontario Regional Council considered the complaint under the Code of Ethics
of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB). Clause 2 of that Code reads as
follows:

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 Regional Council members listened to a tape of the program in question and reviewed
all of the correspondence. The Council considers that the program does not violate the
CAB Code of Ethics.

The Commentary: Anti-Christian?

The complainant's letter contains considerable rhetoric; however, as to the issues which
concern the Council, he alleges that the host expressed “her obvious contempt for both
a definable religious group as well as a nationality.” He also used the terms “[a]mateurish,
sophomoric and anti-Christian zealotry” and “such openly and unabashedly defaming and
vilifying remarks” to describe the host's comments. He also portrays the “group of
broadcast stations [as] apparently [being] on a subtle and not so subtle mission to vilify
those whose views differ from theirs.” He concludes his letter with the comment: “Lastly,
it is not my purpose to force anyone to hold my beliefs on this or any other matter.”

Even if Lori Love's comments could be characterised as “amateurish and sophomoric” (the
CBSC does not, needless to say, arrive at any such conclusion), this would not render
them in breach of any Code. If there were, on the other hand, an “anti-Christian” aspect
to the comments, this might well constitute a Code breach. While the “religious” aspect
of the decision is dealt with immediately below, the Council believes it useful, on the anti-Christian point, to raise the decision of the B.C. Regional Council in the matter of CHAN-TV re Last Temptation of Christ (CBSC Decision 95/96-0011, December 18, 1996), in
which the complainant argued that the controversial Martin Scorsese film was a “disgusting
piece of religious hate material.” The Council held that:

The difficult matter to resolve in each case where such conflict presents itself is whether the
program in question amounts to the broadcast of abusive or discriminatory material or
comment. Furthermore, this measurement must made in the overall societal context, not
in the narrow context of the sensibilities of individuals.

It is abundantly clear in this case that the complainant found the depiction of Christ
questioning his faith and succumbing to temptation utterly unacceptable, even hateful.
While members of the Council understand the complainant's profound disagreement with
Paul Schrader's screenplay and Martin Scorsese's direction of the film and BCTV's
broadcast of that creative collaboration, they believe that the freedom of these cinematic
creators to express their view on such matters and the broadcaster's entitlement to air that
film are fundamental in our society. Their careful viewing of the lengthy film has led none
of them to consider that the filmmakers' approach was either flippant, casual or without
respect. Nor do they find in the film any negative attitude toward either Christians or
Christianity itself.

It is the view of the Council that the objectives of the film are not in any way inconsistent
with this direction nor that the film was in any way abusive or discriminatory toward
Christians or Christianity. The quest of both the book and the film is inquiring, probing, and
uncertain as to its conclusions. That it may not be the representation of the perspective or
understanding of all or even many Christians regarding Christ is possible. That fact does
not, however, make the perspective abusive, discriminatory or hateful. The Council
considers that the film was intended primarily to explore the question of moral doubt and
that it has accomplished this very effectively, even if it has not solved the religious mystery
of the substance of Christ.

The Commentary: Political or Religious?

The decision in this matter ultimately turns on the Council's understanding of the use by
co-host Lori of the term “wackos”. It is only if the epithet were directed at the Southern
Baptists by reason of their religion that the Council could find that the broadcaster was in
breach of the Code. If the epithet were, on the other hand, directed at the admittedly
religious group by reason of something other than their religion (race, national or ethnic
origin, colour, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental handicap
not being relevant to this matter), then the conclusion would likely be different. In the view
of the Council, the epithet was not directed at the religious group by reason of anything
other than the group's stated boycott of Disney by reason of their association with the
television series Ellen. That stance by the Baptists was, in the Regional Council's view,
an economic action regarding a political issue. There is, of course, no doubt whatsoever
regarding the entitlement of the Southern Baptists to hold and to express its views on
controversial matters of a political or publicly controversial nature. The point is only that,
if they choose to do so, they render themselves fair game on the public playing field of
political controversy. They cannot expect that they have the right to publicly express
controversial political opinions and to be sheltered by reason of the fact that they are a
religious group from the resulting fallout from the ideological seeds which they have sown.

Unless the complainant is raising an issue concerning the overall programming of CJXY-FM when he accuses the station group of being on a mission “to vilify those whose views
differ from theirs,” the Council can find no evidence of any such mission in the comments
of June 17. That being said, it is clear that the host's views regarding the Disney boycott
differ from those of the Southern Baptists whose views on that issue she was criticizing.
She is, however, undeniably entitled to differ on such a public issue from anyone else and
to express such a view on the airwaves
.

When the complainant concludes that “it is not my purpose to force anyone to hold my
beliefs on this or any other matter,” the Council is uncertain that he is being frank. At the
very least, it appears that he wishes to ensure that this radio host not be entitled to hold
and express a viewpoint different from that of the Southern Baptists, if not him as well, on
the matter of the Disney boycott.

Previous CBSC Decisions Applicable by Analogy

In partially analogous circumstances, the host in CKTB-AM re the John Gilbert Show
(CBSC Decision 92/93-0179, October 26, 1993) expressed his views regarding the
government's policy of bilingualism. The complainant objected to the remarks on the
grounds that they constituted comments which were “degrading to francophones.” The
Ontario Regional Council disagreed with the complainant. While the host's remarks were
incidentally related to French-Canadians, they were principally directed to bilingualism as
a policy. The Ontario Regional Council

considered that an opinion on the government policy of bilingualism constituted an opinion
on that issue and was not racially driven. Nothing can be more fundamental to the principle
of freedom of speech enshrined in the Charter than the entitlement of an individual to
express a differing view on a matter of public concern, including government policy.

Where, on the other hand, in CKTB-AM re the John Michael Show (CBSC Decision 92/93-0170, February 15, 1994), the Ontario Regional Council viewed a series of misstatements
of fact and inaccuracies regarding French-Canadians as being made to further
discriminatory objectives, they concluded that the broadcaster had breached Clause 2 of
the Code of Ethics.

[T]he Regional Council considered that the multiplicity of inaccurate statements of the host
were used by Mr. Michael to disparage or abuse the reputation of French-speaking
Canadians as a group or expose them to the contempt of other listeners. Consequently, the
Regional Council concluded that the statements collectively amounted to a breach of Clause
2 of the Code of Ethics.

Another decision of the CBSC which the Council considers applicable by analogy is that
rendered in CHOG-AM re the Jessie and Gene Show (CBSC Decision 93/94-0242,
November 15, 1994). On the program in question, the hosts had done a skit parodying
Member of Parliament Jag Bhaduria. They used re-worded Beatles songs sung with an
accent intended to resemble Bhaduria's. The Ontario Regional Council did not consider
that the parody fell afoul of the Human Rights clause of the Code of Ethics.

All members agreed that public figures, such as politicians, are often held up to criticism and
parody. Indeed, it is the most essential component of the principle of free speech that the
fullest criticism of political figures and political positions be permitted in a free society.
Provided that the satire or criticism is levelled at political persons on the basis of their
actions as public figures and not on the basis of their national or ethnic origin, it must be
permitted, if not encouraged. In this case, the Council agreed with the station that the
parody had been directed toward Mr. Bhaduria himself, and not toward Indian people as a
group.

The point of the foregoing decisions is that, in order to fall afoul of the requirements of
Clause 2 of the Code of Ethics, the challenged comments in those cases and in this must
have been abusively discriminatory with respect to one or more of the grounds established
in that clause.

The Broadcasters Response

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 issues raised by the complainant.
Moreover, the Program Director extended an apology on behalf of the host and the station
for the comments which offended the complainant, which he was not required to do.
Nothing more is called for.

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.