CKNW-AM re an episode of Adler on Line

BRITISH COLUMBIA REGIONAL PANEL
M. Loh (Chair ad hoc), G. Leighton, F. Riahi, J. Rysavy, M. Singh, S. Warren

THE FACTS

On weekdays, CKNW (Vancouver) broadcasts Adler on Line, an open-line radio program.  On October 18, from 2:00 to 3:00 pm, the topic of Adler on Line was the British Columbia teachers’ strike that was occurring at the time.  A transcript of the full segment of the episode dealing with that strike can be found in Appendix A.  Since it is quite long, only the most relevant parts are reproduced at this point in the decision. 

Adler:    The Canadian Taxpayers Federation has announced that it is coordinating a class-action suit against the union, the British Columbia Teachers Federation.  Sara MacIntyre is the regional director in B.C. of the CTF.  Their website is taxpayer.com, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.  Hi Sara.

MacIntyre:         Hi Charles.  Thanks for having me on.

Adler:    Suing the union?

MacIntyre:         You bet.

Adler:    Make the case.

MacIntyre:         Well, uh, BCTF once again, uh, out on, uh, an illegal strike.  Parents are left scrambling trying to find daycare costs.  Individuals are losing, uh, income and wages because they’re missing work looking after their kids.  And, you know, the BCTF needs to have a message sent to it.  Um, you know, parents and, and students aren’t pawns to be used in, uh, collective agreements.

Adler:    Are you suggesting that the courts cannot do the job and so CTF has to move in?

MacIntyre:         No, I mean, that avenue is available for the government to, to, uh, you know, uh, use the courts as an avenue to, uh, impose daily fines for the BCTF for each strike, illegal striking day.  But there needs to be an avenue for individual, um, British Columbians to hold public sector unions accountable.  I mean, they’re the ones that feel the pinch when they, teachers decide to stay out on the line, to defy the law and, and to act illegally.

[.]

Adler:    This is, uh, Brent with Sara MacIntyre who’s the B.C. Director of Canadian Taxpayers Federation.  Hi Brent.

Brent:   Hi, how are ya?

Adler:    What do you think?

Brent:   I, I think, quite frankly, the lawsuit is a little bit ludicrous.  And I appreciate the frustration some parents must be feeling at this, uh, illegal job action by teachers.  But my question to, uh, her – Sara, I think you said her name was – would be, how do we hold the government accountable?  She said in one of her sentences that the people, the B.C., the people of B.C. have to be able to hold the BCTF accountable.  And my question is how do we hold the government accountable?

Adler:    Let, let me ask you a question just before you ask the question.  Is that okay?

Brent:   Sure.  Yeah.

Adler:    Okay, okay, ’cause the premise to me is interesting.  Uh, is the government violating the law here?

Brent:   Well, that, that’s, morally I believe they are.  That’s an interesting argument.

Adler:    “Mora-“, hang, hang on.  “Morally” they’re, they’re avoiding the law?  You’re not a teacher yourself, are you?

Brent:   Of course I am.

Adler:    I, I’d hate to think that you’re teaching any of my kids.  “Morally” they’re violating the law?

Brent:   Well, you know what?  My, my –

Adler:    What does that mean, Brent?

Brent:   Pardon me?

Adler:    What does that mean, Brent?

Brent:   What that means is that the government knew this was coming down the pipe and they just rushed through it, legisla-.  They make the law and I, I’ve gotta believe that 42 thousand or 38 thousand, or what ever number is bantered around, of teachers believe that this law, that the Bill 12 they’ve done is incorrect.

Adler:    So if you don’t believe a law is good, you’re violating it morally and therefore, uh, that’s just the same as, as violating the actual law?

Brent:   No.  I think, I think you are, well, you mentioned your children, me teaching them, and I will say this to you:  I understand your point of view, but my point is that I am –

Adler:    Quit, quit, quit patronizing me with “I appreciate this” and “I understand that”.  Speak to the point. Either you’re violating the law or you’re not.

Brent:   Wh-

Adler:    Like, be a man, Brent.

Brent:   [laughs]  We’re obviously violating the law, but I think sometimes –

Adler:    Thank you.

Brent:   If, if you’re so caught up on that –

Adler:    Oh, oh, I’m sorry that I’m caught up in the rule of law.  I apologize.

Brent:   Well –

Adler:    I apologize for that.

Brent:   That’s sad that you –

Adler:    All right, I know, I know it’s sad that I don’t agree with you.  [affects mock lisp] “That’s so sad and I empathize and I’m so sad”.  Hang on.  Let me just get you on with Sara MacIntyre and the two of you can, can talk.  Go, go ahead and ask your question of Sara about accountability of government and I’ll just listen to you.

Brent:   Yeah, exactly.  How do we hold accountable, how do we hold a government accountable when they pass a bill that a lot of people don’t agree with?

MacIntyre:         Well, Brent, you know, we had that opportunity May seventeenth when we had a general election here in the province.

Brent:   But that bill –

MacIntyre:         Um, you know, that, that’s, that exactly speaks to the issue:  Who is running this province?  Is it Jinny Sims or is it an elected government?  And not only that, I mean, when you violate a law, okay you may disagree with it, but, you know, you’re discussing it and comparing it as an unjust law and to the, to the works of Rosa Parks and Nelson Mandela like your leader Jinny Sims has.

Brent:   I didn’t say that.  I don’t agree with that.

MacIntyre:         It’s absolutely ludicrous.

Brent:   I would agree with you.  But my question, you still haven’t answered my question.  How do we hold the government accountable?  Now, the Bill 12 –

Adler:    Hang on, she did!  Hang on, Brent!  She answered!

Brent:   The bill, the bill –

Adler:    Brent, she answered!  Brent, she answered!

Brent:   The bill did not exist –

Adler:    Brent, are you stupid?!  She answered your question!  She said you have an election!  Do you understand what an election is?!  Do you understand what democracy is?!  Do you understand what the rule of law is?!  I’d like to sue your pants off!  If you’re teaching anybody!  Because if you’re teaching kids that it makes no difference whether you violate the law, if you’re teaching kids that when Sara MacIntyre says, yes, you hold a government accountable in a democracy with elections, if you’re teaching your kids that elections don’t matter, that democracy doesn’t matter, that the law doesn’t matter, then I’m sorry, Brent, you don’t matter!  You are the problem, Brent!  And the fact that you say, “Well, I kinda, kinda agree that, I kinda agree that the union leader maybe shouldn’t’ve said Sara Parks or Rosa Parks”.  That’s not the issue, Brent.  This is really serious.  You owe your students, not only showing up in the classroom, you owe them more than that.  You owe them the truth.  And if this is the nonsense that you’re giving them when you’re in the classroom, from my perspective, little old me, I hope you never go back to the classroom!  Now I’m gonna take a brief break here, have a glass of water and return at 800-665-2202. Because my fundamental question at this point is, Who misses Brent?  And why should we miss him?

[.]

Brandy [a teacher]:  In my classroom right now, in my classroom, I have 29 students and I do not have any social studies text books.  I have to photocopy everything for those 29 students because I have no text books.

Adler:    Brandy.  Brandy.

Brandy: I have kids sharing a desk.

Adler:    Brandy, I’m not saying that you don’t have points, I’m saying that in, in order to resolve all your points, it would take so much time, that what you’re essentially saying is that from now until time immemorial the schools’ll be shut down.  That’s why we have judges and laws.  Because we can’t have you staying out forever.

Brandy: So I’m just expected to work under these conditions and I’m expected – ?

Adler:    Right, you are!  And if you don’t want, and if you don’t want to work, somebody else ought to have the opportunity to work, Brandy.

Brandy: You know what?! I, I, I invite anybody to come into my classroom at any time and try to meet the prescribed learning outcomes and to try to do the job that I try to do every single day.

Adler:    Well, I, I –

Brandy: I invite anybody to come in and try –

Adler:    I ask you to go, I ask you to go to your classroom and invite as many people.  You have moral authority, by asking people to come into your classroom, if you go in.  But if you’re not going into your classroom, the idea that other people will be invited into your classroom is another hollow union talking point.

[.]

Adler:    Adler on Line on the Corus radio network.  You can log on to CharlesAdler.com.  We’re gettin’ lots of e-mail on this teacher business, pro and con.  Hi Braeden.

Braeden:           Hi.  I, I really think that this lawsuit is, is quite ridiculous.  I think a better, uh, a better spending of the Taxpayers Federation time would be, uh, really focussing its efforts on, on trying to get teachers, uh, back into the classroom.  And, unfortunately, I think the way both the government and the Teachers Federation have painted themselves into a pretty tight corner here, the best way to do that would be for the, the government to swallow its pride and, and get to the negotiating table.  I’m not a teacher.  I am a recent graduate of the system, though, and I realize that there’s some valid concerns. And the best value for the taxpayer here and for the voter, that, yes, they did elect, uh, the B.C. government, but they would get the best value for their vote and for their dollar if, I think, the government swallowed its pride and got some action here.

Adler:    You think the government has to swallow its pride.  Wh-, what about credibility here?  Is it credible to stay out of the classroom and to try to maintain that you’ve got some kind of moral superiority over Taxpayers Federation, uh, media, the government, anybody?

Braeden:           Certainly over the Taxpayers Federation, uh, –

Adler:    Really?

Braeden:           Not necessa-, maybe not over the government.

Adler:    Mm hm.

Braeden:           As you’ve mentioned.

Adler:    See, I think, I think, I think when you stay out, you’re a loser.  That’s all.  When you stay out, basically you’re saying that the law doesn’t matter.  If the law doesn’t matter, who cares about anything else you have to say?  It’s, it’s a credibility issue.  … Ya, ya hear where I’m comin’ from?

Braeden:           I, I absolutely hear where you’re coming from.

Adler:    It’s like, it’s like the teacher who said, it’s like the teacher who said, “I want people to come into my classroom”.  Well, fine, go back into the classroom and then you can invite people in.

Braeden:           Yes, and, but, see, what we have to remember is we can’t, you have to look at this holistically.  And I think the problem is we’re not doing that, especially in British Columbia.  And, yes, of course the teachers should get to work.  But there’s such a mistrust issue that they know that if they do they probably won’t get –

Adler:    You know what, Braeden?  Oftentimes I’ve worked at places where I didn’t trust my boss.

Braeden:           And that’s unfortunate –

Adler:    But I still had to, but I still had to –

Braeden:           I’m sorry you had that –

Adler:    It doesn’t, but it doesn’t matter – !

Braeden:           – very bad experience for teachers as well –

Adler:    Braeden, Braeden, life isn’t fair!

Braeden:           No, no, I’m very sorry it hasn’t been for you.

Adler:    Oh man, are you ever stupid.  I’m sorry, I’ve gotta tell you that.  And I’ve gotta tell some of the teachers that.  I mean, sometimes I can’t tell the difference.  Like, who’s the teacher and who’s the nine-year old here?  Life isn’t fair!  Life sucks.  And there have been times in my life when life sucked, but I still showed up.  If you don’t even show up, what does that make you?  Some kind of moral hero?  What, ’cause you’re walkin’ around with a sign?  ‘Cause you’re calling a talk show when you oughta be in class? Yeah, you’re a big hero.

[.]

Rick:     What, what I wanted to ask is, um, you’re a journalist, uh, I posed this to another fellow.  If, if you get the story of the decade based on protecting your source, um, and you wound up in a court, with the judge saying “I must know your source, sir”, what would you –

Adler:    Oh man.  You ought to get a life and get a job man.

The following complaint was sent to the CRTC on October 18, 2005 and was forwarded to the CBSC in due course (the full text of all correspondence can be found in Appendix B):

While it may be legal to verbally abuse callers to a talk show, is there not some legitimate level of concern over talk-show hosts who solicit people to call in, and then when they calmly state their opinion to yell at them, yell over their comments and call them “…stupid”?

Please review the Adler on Line show today, October 18th, at around 14:10 hours to 14:35 to see how a couple of intelligent teachers who called in were verbally abused.  He called two callers “stupid” today which is something disgusting to do to anyone with a different opinion.  Does this mean we can retort that he is a “pig”?????  Does CKNW encourage this kind of behaviour?  [.] 

On November 15, the Program Director of CKNW replied, in part as follows: 

In particular, your email sets out your concerns that some callers to the program were “verbally abused” and called “stupid” by the host.

The segment in question involved a debate about the illegal strike by the BC Teachers Federation and whether or not it was acceptable for them to be breaking the law, a question hotly debated on several CKNW talk programs.  During the segment, Mr. Adler did get quite animated and had some aggressive exchanges with some of the callers to the program.

We believe our programming is intelligent, sometimes irreverent, and offers free and open debate on diverse and often controversial issues.  These debates often use frank, everyday language consistent with local community standards, having regard to the generally recognized access to programming content available in the market and the demographic composition of the CKNW’s audience, which is predominantly adult.

[.]

The complainant, dissatisfied by the response, returned his Ruling Request on November 28 and supplemented it with the following comments: 

You seem to recognize that my complaint is about the verbal abuse of callers to the Adler show as laid out in my email of Oct. 18th.  However, you seem to have sent me a response of two full pages of boilerplate, which allowed you to dance around the specific issue of verbal abuse.  By definition (see below), Mr. Adler DID abuse the callers on the date and time in question, compounding this abuse, not with “animation” as might be associated with Bugs Bunny, but with loud shouting in an angry, bullying voice in order to discredit and perhaps intimidate and humiliate the callers!  How your letter could imply that this type of anti-social behaviour by one of your talk show hosts is somehow within the limits of “intelligent programming” is not only ridiculous but offensive to the sensibilities of anyone living in a civilized society.

Verbal abuse:    definitions:

insulting or coarse language:

the use of foul language, obscenities or demeaning talk directed at another

Outside of private talk radio, I cannot find another sector of society that excuses verbal abuse accompanied with angry, intimidating shouting, especially when the environment muzzles one of the parties (caller) and gives free rein to the other (host).  Verbal abuse is not acceptable in the home, not acceptable in the workplace, not acceptable in other businesses that deal with customers and not even acceptable on the street between strangers.  Family abuse statistics commonly lump verbal abuse in with physical abuse.  If for no other reason, it is in the best interest of society to condemn verbal abuse because it is often clear provocation for physical abuse.  We certainly don’t want to go there, now do we?

On the date and time in question Mr. Adler DID verbally abuse callers by shouting them down, shouting over their comments and calling them a derogatory name i.e. STUPID.  That is my complaint.  Since your previous response did not deal specifically with my complaint, I would like you to answer the following questions directly and to the point, in layman’s terms:

  1. Does CKNW support verbal abuse of callers to talk shows? YES or NO?

If YES to 1., to level the playing field, will CKNW talk show hosts be clearly instructed not to cut off or otherwise interfere with callers should they engage in similar demeaning, offensive labeling of talk show hosts?  YES or NO?

If NO to 1., please advise Mr. Adler that his behaviour is not acceptable, at least to this member of what you call “the marketplace” and I will continue to complain.

2. Does the Corus network have a policy of verbal abuse by their talk show hosts?

And, if we can get the CBSC to respond to the following:

3. Does the CBSC have a specific policy on verbal abuse by media talk show hosts? 

CKNW was not obligated to respond a second time to the complainant and did not do so.  The CBSC responded to the complainant, indicating that it would be reviewing his file within six months.  At the same time, it provided a brief summary of its position on open-line programs.  The complainant replied to that correspondence on December 5 with the following:

Thank you very much for your email.  It explains quite a bit already and seems like a very reasonable policy.  I will await your decision, but, of course, am disappointed in the 6 month waiting period.  What makes me really believe that this case is worth pursuing is the fact the callers spoke in very controlled reasonable fashion and in a very non-threatening way while the talk show host yelled at them.  No matter what the outcome, I would never like to be yelled at, drowned out and called “stupid” when I am having even a heated discussion with someone.  I hope most others think the same way and experience the same feelings of hurt at being verbally abused.

 [.]

THE DECISION

The B.C. Regional Panel examined the complaint under the following provision of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics:

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.

The Adjudicators examined all of the correspondence and listened to a dub of the logger tape of the pertinent part of the segment of that day’s episode.  The Panel has concluded that the broadcaster was not in breach of the foregoing clause.

The Nature and Limits of Open-Line Programming

The CBSC has long supported the principles of open-line radio programming enunciated in its decision in CKTB-AM re The John Michael Show (CBSC Decision 92/93-0170, February 15, 1994), where the Ontario Regional Panel stated that 

open line programs are a vital part of Canadian broadcasting.  They present an opportunity for lively public discussion.  They are timely.  They are, one might justifiably observe, an essential home of public debate in a free democracy.  They are also a locus for the expression of conflicting passions, which make for exciting radio.  […]  [The CBSC] is acutely conscious of the fact that open line radio does not come to the public without certain countervailing impediments and restrictions.  Freedom of expression in Canada, as guaranteed in Section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is not without limitations (see Section 1 of the Charter).  Freedom of expression in “the use of radio frequencies, which are public property and limited in number by the radio spectrum [is] subject to the requirement for programming of high standard.” (See Decision CRTC 90-772, at p. 6.)  It is that delicate role of weighing freedom and restriction, lively debate and imperturbable responsibility, which the host must play and which, when offence is declared by a listener, the CBSC must judge.

CFRA-AM re The Lowell Green Show (“New World Order”) (CBSC Decision 95/96-0012, April 30, 1996), the Ontario Regional Panel spoke of the similarity of modern talk radio to the basic central city square notion of ancient Athenian democracy.  In that decision, the Panel also considered it appropriate to distinguish the various types of open-line programs available in the broadcast media, drawing those distinctions on the basis, principally, of the structure of the show and the style of the host.  On this subject, the Panel said:

Talk shows do not, however, come in a single flavour.  They may indeed not be easily pigeon-holed into a small number of categories, although they may be said to range from the type in which the audience plays the largest role (and the host the smallest) to that in which the host plays the largest role (and the audience the smallest).  Generally speaking, the goal of the host of the former type will be to define the subject and encourage callers to address that theme as articulately and effectively as possible.  The host will in a sense be more of a moderator and, while undoubtedly provocative from time to time, is not likely to be argumentative.  It is a “public forum” in the best sense of the term.

 In programs of the latter type, the host is less of a moderator and more of a participant.  He or she is likelier to be argumentative.  The views and opinions of the host become or are the focal point of the program; the callers merely provide a launch pad for more theatrical or aggressive antics on the part of the host.  It is less “public forum” than “public theatre”. 

In that analysis, the Panel was not opening the door to any approach to callers by the host; it was only categorizing them.  There are always, after all, limits to the possible approaches in the form of duties and responsibilities on the part of the broadcaster and,

wherever the open line program falls on the [above-referenced] spectrum, it remains the broadcaster’s responsibility to guarantee the “full, fair and proper presentation of news, opinion, editorial and comment” as provided in […] Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics.  No one style of host has more licence than another to abuse guests or callers.  No one type of host is entitled to ignore the broadcaster’s duty to ensure “full, fair and proper presentation”. 

CKTB-AM re the John Michael Show (Middle East Commentary) (CBSC Decision 01/02-0651, June 7, 2002), the Ontario Panel further refined its position on the role of the host.

The constant central figure does not simply play the role of referee, gingerly guiding the callers around the electronic forum into which they have stepped.  The verb which is the root of the French word for host, “animer”, gives a far better sense of the role of such a talk radio host.  It is to breathe life into, to communicate ardour, energy, enthusiasm, excitement, passion, to lead, to inspire.  Passions invite countervailing passions.  Emotion begets emotion.  Disagreement and unpleasantness are not strangers to the electronic forum.  It is here that more care must be exercised by the host.  While he and his callers are entitled to express opinions, it cannot be forgotten that not all opinions are equal.  The holder of the microphone and the related electronic controls has a distinct advantage, which must not be exercised irresponsibly.  At its best, talk radio must not be arbitrary or a one-way street.  Skilled practitioners of the art must be deft, not brutal.

It follows from the previous section of this decision that the Panel considers that the value of dialogue is important.  The Panel clearly accepts that some rough-and-tumble on the airwaves is acceptable but it expects that the value and virtue of open line radio is that it truly serves as a marketplace of ideas.  Thus, the excessive putting down of individuals or the threats to render half of the electronic boulevard of talk radio inaccessible to a caller by cranking down his or her input to inaudible levels exceeds the bounds of fairness.  The foregoing being said, the host is naturally entitled to such mechanisms in the case of obnoxious or unreasonable callers who themselves leave little room on that same boulevard for the host to participate.  As noted above, deftness, not brutality, should be the key.  Clever argument should be the host’s best tool, not the closing of access to persons who do not merit such cavalier treatment. 

How Far Can a Host Go?

As suggested in the second John Michael decision, there is also another issue that occasionally arises on talk shows, namely, the treatment of guests or callers to the program.  While, as noted there, “disagreement and unpleasantness are not strangers to the electronic forum,” there must also be limitations to how far the host can go.  Occasionally, for example, hosts have cut off callers, to the consternation of either the callers themselves or other listeners.  This will generally be a question of judgment left for the broadcaster or its host to assess.  Where, on one occasion, the host appeared to cut someone off on religious grounds, within ten words after the caller had identified herself as a Christian, the Panel considered that the broadcaster had gone too far and

had not only infringed her freedom of expression, but had also precluded the “free flowing expression of views of public concern” deemed essential to this type of programming.

On a couple of other occasions, hosts have directly insulted callers.  Where, for example, in CJRC-AM re an interview by Daniel Séguin on L’Outaouais ce matin (CBSC Decisions 03/04-2082 & 04/05-0023, April 4, 2005), the host had used the French expression “envoyer chier” [approximate English translation “fuck off”] during an interview on a morning radio program, to a guest, the Quebec Regional Panel considered that the host had gone too far.

Although his attack was harsh, [the host] Séguin’s target [the then owner of radio station CHOI-FM] was both present and a practitioner of the art of giving little or no quarter.  In the match-up, it is clear that Daniel Séguin was faring well and had the upper hand.  It is particularly for this reason that the Quebec Panel does not understand why the host descended from the relatively high road to the level of a personal attack using the expressions “[translation] I was really looking forward to […] telling you literally to fuck off” and “[translation] And it’s my turn to tell you to fuck off Mr. Demers, and I do so with pleasure this morning.”  In the entire dialogue, it is here and only here that the Quebec Panel takes issue with the broadcast of that morning.  The Panel considers that the use of the two foregoing expressions was overkill and, in terms of the broadcaster’s ethical obligations, unduly coarse and offensive, on the one hand, and improper, on the other.  The Panel recognizes fully that Daniel Séguin wished to give Patrice Demers some of his station’s own medicine but this Panel did not find similar language acceptable in CHOI-FM re Le monde parallèle de Jeff Fillion (CBSC Decision 02/03-0115, July 17, 2003) and it does not find it acceptable in the present case.  It considers the use of the coarse and offensive language cited in this paragraph in breach of Clause 9 of the CAB Code of Ethics.  It also considers that the use of such aggressive language to insult his invited guest was improper and in breach of Clause 6 of the Code.

Similarly, in CJMF-FM re an interview on Bouchard en parle (CBSC Decision 04/05-1852, February 3, 2006), the host of a morning show conducted a telephone interview with the Vice-President of the Quebec Association of Friends of Cuba about festivities the Association was holding in celebration of Cuban National Day.  The host strayed from that topic to challenge his guest on aspects of Cuba’s political system.  A heated debate ensued, with the guest making some negative personal comments about Bouchard.  Bouchard responded by calling his guest a “chien sale” [approximate English translation:  “dirty bastard”] and variations thereof.  The Panel considered that that language was in breach of the Code.

The host of a show inevitably wields the power of the microphone.  It is a mighty power.  With very rare exception, the broadcaster has a disproportionate advantage over the caller.  Knowing this, skilled and considerate hosts ought not to exercise that advantage unfairly or improperly.  The reasonable outside observer expects that they will be good with words and argument, and experienced enough to maintain their cool despite occasional setbacks with callers.  They ought, in other words, to be deft and relatively unflappable.  They ought to be able to so moderate their method, style, tone and language that they will not succumb to even the poor exercise of those very skills on the part of a caller or callers.

[…]

Sylvain Bouchard had insulted the caller directly and personally by saying “You are so twisted, you little bastard.  You are such a bastard.”  The subsequent comments cited immediately above were, in a sense, the icing on the cake.  The host had already classified the Vice-President of the Quebec branch of the Friends of Cuba as a “bastard”; he now accorded himself the opportunity of expressing that thought in other ways.

In the matter at hand, Charles Adler expressed a point of view on the B.C. teachers’ strike that could be characterized, applying a measure of British understatement, as unequivocal and aggressive.  Fair enough.  The host is also undeniably clever.  His stated belief in the rule of law and clear disdain for strikers disregarding the Legislative Assembly’s back-to-work legislation were forcefully put.  The Panel is, however, at a loss to understand why he descended to the level of personal insult, using words like “stupid” to characterize Brent and Braeden.  Was it better to say “Brent, are you stupid?! She answered your question” than to say, for example, “Brent, did you not listen to Sara MacIntyre?  She answered your question”?  Adler could have characterized ideas as stupid but people?  No need.  Not right.  It was, in the Panel’s view, unnecessary to pander to the bleachers.  It is fine to disagree with the callers and to argue with them but to be rude and insulting to them to that extent was unnecessary.  The deft gave way to the blunt.  On balance, the Panel concludes that the broadcast came close to the edge but did not, on this occasion, go over it.  While the Panel does not find that those insults constituted a breach of Clause 6 of the Code, it does regret that they were used.

Broadcaster Responsiveness

The CBSC always assesses the broadcaster’s responsiveness to the complainant, which is a responsibility of membership in the Council.  It expects that response to be thoughtful and focussed on the substance of the complaint.  In the matter at hand, the Panel considers that the response of the Program Director constitutes a sufficient reply to fulfill CKNW’s obligation of responsiveness on this occasion. 

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.