Coarse Language on Radio and Unresponsiveness to Complainants Breach Standards, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, February 15, 2005– The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the broadcast of an episode of the Show with Dean Blundell on CFNY-FM in Toronto, on which actor David Carradine used coarse language in a gratuitous fashion.  Despite the complainant’s concern, the broadcaster’s Program Director replied that no such word had been used by the actor during the program.  After the complainant protested further, the broadcaster relented and admitted that the f-word had been used by David Carradine. 

The Ontario Regional Panel reviewed the previous decisions of various CBSC Panels and concluded: 

The use of the f-word by the guest David Carradine was gratuitous.  The broadcaster was responsible for avoiding such an occurrence, whether by tape delay or otherwise.  The failure to do so constitutes a breach of Clause 9 of the CAB Code of Ethics. 

On the issue of broadcaster responsiveness, the Panel found CFNY-FM in breach of CBSC membership requirements.  The Panel said: 

The CBSC considers that the dialogue between broadcasters and complainants is an extremely positive component of the self-regulatory process, to the point that it is in fact a membership responsibility of all CBSC broadcaster members.  In this case, the broadcaster’s response was a totally unjustified denial.  Although the complainant pointed to the very moment in the interview when the f-word had been used, the Program Director quoted selectively from the interview and then stated, “As you can see from the foregoing, at no time was foul language used in that Program.”  It was only the result of the persistence of the complainant, who reaffirmed what he had heard and pointed out how even the selectively expurgated transcript bore him out, that the Program Director was forced to admit what was plainly there for anyone to hear.  Although the CFNY-FM representative subsequently admitted that he had been incorrect, the Panel finds that the initial evasive response constituted a breach of the standard of responsiveness which all broadcasters are obliged, by their membership in the CBSC, to respect.  The failure to do so would have the effect of undermining the public’s confidence in the self-regulatory process.

Canada’s private broadcasters have themselves created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, gender portrayal and television violence by which they expect the members of their profession will abide.  In 1990, they also created the CBSC, which is the self-regulatory body with the responsibility of administering those professional broadcast Codes, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic practices first created by the Radio Television News Directors Association of Canada (RTNDA) in 1970.  More than 550 radio and television stations and specialty services from across Canada are members of the Council. 

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All CBSC decisions, Codes, links to members’ and other web sites, and related information are available on the CBSC’s website at www.cbsc.ca. For more information, please contact the CBSC National Chair, Mme Andrée Noël CBSC Executive Director, John MacNab