CKVR-TV re Toronto Raptors Basketball Game

ONTARIO REGIONAL COUNCIL
(CBSC Decision 96/97-0063)
A. MacKay (Chair), R. Stanbury (Vice-Chair), R. Cohen (ad hoc), P. Fockler, M. Hogarth, M. Ziniak

The Facts

At the start of its broadcast of a Toronto Raptors basketabll game against the Sacramento
Kings on November 26, 1997, CKVR-TV (Barrie)'s announcer stated that the Raptors were
on a 5-game losing streak, that “The Pack needs to put a win on the board,” and that the
Sacramento Kings were also on a 3-game losing streak. He then concluded by saying:
“And the cry in the Skydome is 'Bring down the Monarchy.'” Following about 35 seconds
of music, dance, cheerleading and basketball shots, there was a simulated scoreboard
lighting spelling out “Assassinate the Kings” at 7:01:33 p.m., which was visible for two
seconds.

The Letter of Complaint

On the following day, an Oakviille couple sent the following letter to the CRTC:

I have a concern about a program broadcast at 7:00 pm, on CKVR. This was a broadcast
of a Toronto Raptors basketball game. Raptors were playing the Sacramento Kings. During
the opening titles sequence I heard a voice-over mention the Raptors were out to
“Assassinate the Kings”. Although this “trash talk” is common in sports these days, for
people of my age the words “King” and “Assassinate” in the same sentence are associated
with the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis in 1968. Please review
the tape of the broadcast. There may have been other promo spots with the same offensive
message. This type of talk is not responsible broadcasting.

The Broadcaster's Response

The letter was forwarded to the CBSC, which in turn sent it to the broadcaster for reply.
The Program Manager of the station sent her response to the complainant on December
19. She said:

Your concern centered on a voice over during the opening of a Toronto Raptors basketball
game broadcast on Tuesday, November 26th. You suggested that the announcer stated that
the Raptors were out to assassinate the Kings. We checked the tape very carefully, and we
did not find the audio voice over that you mention. We did find a visual graphic that
included the above noted phrase. We apologize if you were offended, the copy was
undoubtedly intended to stimulate interest in the game and, we believe had no connection
whatsoever to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In hindsight, it may have
been an unfortunate turn of phrase to employ in this situation. We at CKVR Television
recognize our responsibility for all material that is broadcast on our station.

We have forwarded a copy of your comments to the Director of Communications of the
Toronto Raptors, whose responsibility is the broadcast of the games. We believe that the
Toronto Raptors should be aware of your concerns.

CKVR is a member of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council. In order to remain a
member in good standing we agree to voluntarily abide by the CAB Code of Ethics. We
recognize that our most valuable asset as a broadcaster is public respect which can be
maintained only with strict adherence to the highest possible standards of public service.

Clause 2 'Human Rights” of the Code of Ethics states:

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.

We do appreciate your concerns, but do not feel that the language in question was in
violation of the above clause of the Human Rights [sic]. Again, we apologize if you were
offended. We believe that the steps we have taken to bring this matter to the attention of
the producers of the telecast will serve to sensitize them to the importance of selecting
symbols and language that will be non-offensive.

The viewer was unsatisfied with this response and requested, on December 25, that the
CBSC refer the matter to the appropriate Regional Council for adjudication.

The CBSCs Ontario Regional Council considered the complaint under the Code of Ethics
and the Violence Code of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB). The relevant
clauses of those Codes 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.

Voluntary Code Regarding Violence in Television Programming, Clause 10.1:

10.0

VIOLENCE IN SPORTS PROGRAMMING

10.1

Broadcasters shall not promote or exploit violent action which is outside the
sanctioned activity of the sport in question.

The Regional Council members viewed a tape of the program in question and reviewed
all of the correspondence. The Ontario Regional Council considers that there is no breach
of either Code.

The Content of the Program

While the broadcaster was quite thoughtful in quoting Clause 2 of the Code of Ethics in its
response to the complainants, the Ontario Regional Council does not believe that it is
necessary for it to review that provision in order to arrive at its decision in this matter.
Fundamentally, it considers that the matter can be resolved by its determination of whether
the comment was “full, fair and proper” in terms of Clause 6, paragraph 3 of that Code.

The CBSC has, on previous occasions, observed that it always has an advantage vis-à-vis
viewers or listeners in that the Council members have the opportunity to have the logger
tapes in hand when they review the complaint files and arrive at their decisions. Audience
members, on the other hand, watch (or listen to) a program once and are forced to attempt
to catch a potentially offensive moment without the ability to rewind and review the material
several times.

In this case, the ability to do that would have resolved the matter immediately. The
viewers would have realized that, despite their (and society's) tragic association of the
word “assassination” with civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., the explicit reference
of the announcer 35 seconds earlier had been to the monarchy; 'Bring down the Monarchy'
were the exact words used. Apart from the fact that the Raptors were playing the Kings
of Sacramento, the only other “kingly” reference had been to the monarchy. As in the B.C.
Regional Council decision in CKLZ-FM re Announcer Comments (CBSC Decision 94/95-0113, December 18, 1996), the Ontario Regional Council members here believe that few
persons would have made the association made by the complainants in the light of the
references to the Sacramento Kings and the monarchy. However unfortunate the
juxtaposition of the words “Assassination” and “King”, the Council does not consider it
reasonable to hold the broadcaster liable for a breach of the Code.

Insofar as Article 10.1 of the Violence Code is concerned, the Council does not consider
that the broadcaster was either promoting or exploiting violent action in any way, much
less “violent action which is outside the sanctioned activity of the sport in question.”

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 Manager extended an apology for the comments which offended
the complainant, which she 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.