CKMM-FM re a song entitled “The Bad Touch”

PRAIRIE REGIONAL PANEL
(CBSC Decision 99/00-0521)
D. Braun (Chair), R. Cohen (ad hoc),D. Dobbie, V. Dubois, R. Gallagher and S. Hall

THE FACTS

On April 21 and 30, 2000 around 3:00 p.m. andon April 26 around 9:00 p.m., the complainant heard the playing of the song ” by the Bloodhound Gang onCKMM-FM (Winnipeg). The complainant added that she had not documented all the occasions onwhich she had heard it played by CKMM-FM but the indication was that she had heard it withsome frequency. The following lyrics from the song are the most pertinent insofar as thisdecision of the Council is concerned but the complete transcript of the song can be foundin Appendix A:

Sweat baby, sweat baby, sex isa Texas droughtMe and you do the kind of stuff that only Prince would sing aboutSo putyour hands down my pants and I'll bet you'll feel nutsYes I'm Siskel, yes I'm Ebert, andyou're getting two thumbs upYou've had enough of two-hand touch. You want it rough. You'reout of boundsI want you smothered, want you covered, like my Waffle House hashbrownsComequicker than FedEx, never reach an apex. Like Coca-Cola stock you are inclinedTo make merise an hour early just like Daylight Savings Time

Do it nowYou and me, baby, ain't nothin' but mammalsSo let's do it likethey do on the Discovery ChannelDo it again nowYou and me, baby, ain't nothin' butmammalsSo let's do it like they do on the Discovery ChannelGettin' horny now

Love, the kind you clean up with a mop and bucketLike the lostcatacombs of Egypt. Only God knows where we stuck itHieroglyphics? Let me be Pacific, Iwanna be down in your South SeasBut I got this notion that the motion of your ocean means”Small Craft Advisory”So if I capsize on your thighs high tide; B-5, you sunk mybattleshipPlease turn me on, I'm Mister Coffee with an automatic dripSo show me yours,I'll show you mine; “Tool Time” you'll Lovett just like LyleAnd then we'll do itdoggy-style so we can both watch “X-Files”

I learned these words from mynine year old son who had listened to Hot 103 FM.

t let himlisten to it anymore. Hot 103 is a very popular station among children in Winnipeg,although the station claims to target 18 to 34 year olds. The music album Hooray forBoobies which contains is being given away by the station ina contest but only those over the age of 18 are eligible to win the prize. If the materialis too mature for the under 18 group than why is this song being played when they can hearit?

daughter was on the kiddie shuttle bus on the way to daycareafter school when the song was played on Hot 103. She said the school bus driver changedthe station. This song has a very catchy tune that appeals to youth and they like to singalong but it is totally inappropriate material for children as YTV has stated. It isregularly played at times when children are listening to the radio. …

Although this radio station claims to target 18 to 34 year olds, anadvertisement on TV on Channel 8, May 10, at 9 pm by 103 FM had six year old childrenhelping to advertise what they are calling a public service announcement. …

The broadcaster’s Vice President of Programming responded to the complainant on May 24.She wrote, in part (the full text of the broadcaster's reply being in AppendixB):

I understand your opposition to this song, especially if your son is singing it (although you mentioned that he didnt knowwhat he was saying). I understand why the school would decide not to play Hot 103 during Phys Ed or in the school bus, for fear that this song might come on.

However, this song is extremely popular. I have had only two complaints about the lyrical content of , partly, I assume, because the lyricsare not easy to catch.

Censorship is a slippery slope for broadcasters to navigate. Freedom of choice means that a radio station can play , but alsothat people can choose to ban our station from certain venues. I do not believe that Hot103 should refuse to play a song that is being requested by listeners simply because somepeople dont like their children hearing it. Nor however would we justplay any song with any lyrics. Many, many songs, music videos, magazine covers, televisioncommercials, video games, even billboards contain images or messages that could beoffensive to an individual. To me it comes down to judging things on a case-by-case basis;to balance freedom of choice with sensibility; and to agreeing that media, teachers (andother authority figures) and parents influence children.

In any case, our decision in handling this highly requested song was toplay it, but not give away the cd to anyone under the age of 18. I believe this to be anastute decision.

Our listeners do include school age children but also include many college age students, and working professionals (as many of our promotions reflect; suchas our Friday office parties or the nightclub appearances that we do seven nights a week).We play Top 40″ music that appeals to a type of music lover, notan age necessarily.

The complainant was dissatisfied with the station’s response and sent a thoughtful, carefully argued point-by-point rebuttal on June 19. Parts only of that letterare provided here; however, the complete text of that response is provided in Appendix Bto this decision.

The BadTouch or other pornographic material should not be played during times of the day whenchildren are most likely to be listening. Hot 103 has a large youth audience and is notbeing responsible to that audience. Considering their audience, they should show betterjudgement in the type of material they are airing. Radio stations have a huge amount ofinfluence in how children view music. I am aware that there are many questionable itemsbeing played but was particularly offensive because ofthe words and because of the catchy tune that appeals to young people.

The theme of The Bad Touch is pornographic and some of the words areexplicit. Two lines from the song include, ll feelnuts.

1. My young son picked up the words to this song and was singing it.The fact that he did not understand the words does not make it all right as [the VicePresident of Programming] suggests. Once kids hear the words they want to know what theymean.

2. That the radio station has had only two complaints about this songdoes not make it acceptable to parents. …

3. Censorship is being used as justification for playing pornography tochildren. I believe most people do not want their children to hear this song. … The factthat other venues play messages that could be offensive does not make it right for 103 toplay 4. [The Vice President of Programming] feels that it was an astutedecision to give away the CD only to people over the age of 18, but it is alright [sic]to play it to people under that age. I don

5. Hot 103's listeners include school age children. In fact 103actively recruits children. …

6. My dislike for this song is not the point. The point is Radio 103 isplaying pornography during times of the day when children are most likely to be listening.Radio stations are in a position of influence. Once a radio station plays the song itbecomes the norm. I was at the roller skating rink with my children when The BadTouch, theywere aware that the words are bad but because the radio station plays this song they alsoplay it. Movies are rated, why are songs not rated? Why is this type of music on duringthe day?

The radio station is a leader. They set the standard from which othervenues choose their music selections such as roller rinks, community centre youth dances,carnivals, etc. It is up to them to make reasonable choices for our children and youth. Wecannot stop our children from listening to a particular radio station because radiostations have such wide coverage. … We have come to the point where this type ofmaterial is coming at us from all directions and it is getting harder and harder todeflect.

It is recognized that thefull, fair and proper presentation of news, opinion, comment and editorial is the primeand fundamental responsibility of the broadcast publisher.

Television and radio programming shall refrain from the exploitation ofwomen, men and children. Negative or degrading comments on the role and nature of women,men or children in society shall be avoided. Modes of dress, camera focus on areas of thebody and similar modes of portrayal should not be degrading to either sex. Thesexualization of children through dress or behaviour is not acceptable.

THE DECISION

The CBSC’s Prairie Regional Panel considered the complaint under the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) Code of Ethics and its Sex-Role Portrayal Code. The relevant Code provisions read as follows:

CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 6, Paragraph 3

It is recognized that the full, fair and proper presentation of news, opinion, comment and editorial is the prime and fundamental responsibility of the broadcast publisher.

CAB Sex-Role Portrayal Code, Article 4 (Exploitation)

Television and radio programming shall refrain from the exploitation of women, men and children. Negative or degrading comments on the role and nature of women, men or children in society shall be avoided. Modes of dress, camera focus on areas of the body and similar modes of portrayal should not be degrading to either sex. The sexualization of children through dress or behaviour is not acceptable.

The Regional Panel Adjudicators listened to a tape of the song in question and reviewed all of the correspondence. The Panel is of the view that the song lyrics in question are not in breach of any Code provision.

A Previous Decision relating to “The Bad Touch”

As is the case with many songs whose lyrics “push the envelope”, recording studios areaccustomed to the need to furnish edited versions in order to ensure airplay, since manybroadcasters, sensitive to their listening audiences, will be unwilling to give anyairtime to the unedited versions of those songs. In the case of this very song, theOntario Regional Panel has already issued a decision, CIGL-FM re a song entitled ” (CBSC Decision99/00-0654, October 12, 2000). As that Panel said,

[I]t is not the intention ofthe Codes that any material broadcast by any private sector programming undertaking beexempt from consideration thereunder. Whether it is spoken word or set to music, the samerules apply. Music is, after all, no more or less a form of programming than otherdramatic, documentary, news or, indeed, advertising material, all of which must conform tothe terms of the various Canadian private broadcaster Codes.

The Council well understandsthe perspective of the complainant that, even if the version played was the editedversion, it exceeds the bounds of what ought to be broadcast.

In this case, thecircumstances are very different. While the Council agrees that the song makes severalreferences to sexuality, the Council is of the view that such references consist mainly ofinnuendo. The song playfully alludes to the sexual fantasies of the songwriterwithout explicitly describing them. In one such reference, the songwriter muses I got thenotion that the motion of your ocean means Small Craft Advisory. Thelyrics are far removed from the explicitness of the graphic descriptions which led to afinding of breach in the Howard Stern decision [CHOM-FM and CILQ-FM re theHoward Stern Show (CBSC Decisions 97/98-0001+ and 0015+, October 17 and 18, 1997)] or,although on slightly different grounds, the Boyz in the Hood decision [CIOX-FMre the song entitled (CBSC Decision 99/00-0619, October12, 2000)].

In the present matter, the Prairie Regional Panel, although impressedby the compelling arguments of the complainant, does not consider that they lead to theconclusion that there is a breach of any Code. The Panel understands and agrees with thereasonableness of the complainant parent's position that the song is not suitable for young children although itdoes not share her characterization of the song as “. Furthermore, it believesthat the station also understands the unsuitability of the song for young children. Thereis, after all, a reason for which the station itself agreed not to make the CDavailable as a prize to persons under the age of 18. There is a reason for which the VicePresident of Programming stated that she understood that “the school would decide notto play Hot 103 during Phys Ed or in the school bus, for fear that this song might comeon.” The clearexpression of those sensitivities by the Vice President of Programming does make the Panelwonder why the station might not have chosen to play the edited version of the song,unless, perhaps, they did not know that it was available.

of the song, as the VicePresident of Programming used the term is absolutely not an issue in defence of thematerial. As the Quebec and Ontario Panels said in CHOM-FM and CILQ-FM re the HowardStern Show (CBSC Decisions 97/98-0001+ and 0015+, October 17 and 18, 1997),

The globalization of the latetwentieth century village does not mean the abdication of the maintenance of orderwithin its Canadian borders. The existence of other standards in other partsof the global village cannot weaken the need to apply home-grown standards within theCanadian bailiwick. The bar should not be lowered in Canada just because it is set at alesser height elsewhere in the village. There is no need for the chain of vigilance hereto be as weak as its weakest links elsewhere. If, however, an alert to the re-definitionof principles is called for by what is created in other parts of the village, Canadianbroadcasters have consistently shown their willingness and skill to rise to suchchallenges.

a defence to the concernsof the complainant. The CBSC never deals with the application of the private broadcasters' standards on ahead-counting or polling basis. The issue for the Council is never “. The issue is notpopularity; it is substance.

In this case, the Prairie Regional Panel concludes that the materialdoes not pass from the inappropriate to the unacceptable. It is suggestive but notgraphically explicit. It does not, in the view of the Panel, socross the line which it is duty-bound to draw that it merits the curtailment of thebroadcaster'sfreedom of expression. This does not mean that, in the case of such song lyrics, asbroadcasters have so often done in the past, the broadcaster with the choice of asoftened version might not wish to be more responsive to concerns expressed by itsaudience. This could be achieved by the playing of the edited version, something which theOntario Panel commended CIGL-FM for doing for its Belleville audience, or by choosingtimes of day for the airplay of such material which might render such songs lessaccessible to a vulnerable audience.

[T]he Council applauds therecognition by recording studios and broadcasters to provide versions of songs which areacceptable to air and it encourages radio stations to continue their self-regulatorypractice of dealing cautiously with songs which they believe may be offensive for theiraudiences, taking into consideration the interests and the sensibilities of theiraudience.

In addition to assessing the relevance of the Codes to the complaint,the CBSC always assesses the responsiveness of the broadcaster to the substance ofthe complaint. While, as noted above, the Panel does not agree with the pertinence of acouple of the points raised by the broadcaster's Vice President of Programming, it is of the view that she has writtena careful and thoughtful response to the complainant. At the end of the day, it is thatattention which counts. The administration of Canada' standards has, as anintegral part of the process, the opening of the dialogue between the complainant and thebroadcaster. It is a communicative process which works in both directions. It works bestwhen the broadcaster clearly ” and responds to the complainant. The Panel believes that this letteris a good example of such a reply, despite the fact that, as is always the casewhen a matter reaches the level of Panel adjudication, the letter has not satisfied thesubstantive expectations of the complainant.