Coarse Language Should not Be Broadcast during Daytime Radio, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, Jun 7, 2006 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning comments made on the CJMF-FM (le 93.3, Quebec City) weekday morning show, Bouchard en parle. In addition to making comments about politics and freedom of speech, the host of the program also used coarse language. The CBSC Quebec Regional Panel concluded that the broadcaster did not violate the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics for the political comments but that it did violate Clause 9(c) of that Code for broadcasting coarse language during morning drive.

Bouchard en parle features discussions about current events, opinion segments and interviews. On November 3, 2005, Sylvain Bouchard made comments about left-wing politics and complained that they [the left] want to [translation] “quash any opposition”. He used the French swear word “tabernac’” as an interjection. He then went on to discuss freedom of speech and expressed his opinion that it was ridiculous to complain to the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission about the broadcast of the English swear word “fuck”.

A listener complained that Sylvain Bouchard had criticized the CRTC and used coarse language when children could be listening. The Quebec Panel examined the complaint under Clauses 6 and 9(c) of the CAB Code of Ethics. It concluded that CJMF-FM was entitled to broadcast M. Bouchard’s opinions on politics and the CRTC because criticism about political policies and institutions “fall within the ambit of freedom of expression”. The Panel also found no Code breach with respect to the word “fuck”: “It was not a usage of coarse language to describe a different subject but rather the word itself was the subject. In other words, he did not use the word; he was speaking about the word.” With respect to the word “tabernac’”, however, the Panel found a violation of Clause 9(c), which prohibits the broadcast of “unduly coarse language” during daytime radio. The Panel made the following comments:

[T]he use of the language was gratuitous. Not only was it unnecessary, it was irrelevant to the phrases it adorned. […] It is obvious that not all swear words will be problematic, even during times of the day when children could be listening. It is the view of the Panel that “tabernac’” and certain other words of the genre (which the Panel is not called upon to list in the circumstances under consideration) is one word which does fall on the list of words generally to be avoided in Francophone broadcasting.

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 590 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