Comments about Welfare Recipients Did Not Violate Code

Ottawa, June 22, 2012 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a segment on Maurais Live, broadcast on CHOI-FM (Radio X, Quebec City).  Dominic Maurais, the host of the talk show, interviewed a politician from the United States about welfare reform.  An organization representing people on social assistance complained that the segment contained negative generalizations about that group.  The CBSC found no violations of any broadcast Codes.

On May 2, 2011, Maurais interviewed a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives about legislation that had just been passed in that state which prohibits welfare recipients from spending their benefits on unnecessary purchases.  Maurais conducted the interview in English and then his co-host J.-C. Ouellet summarized in French for listeners.  Maurais and Ouellet also expressed their own opinions during the broadcast, namely that they would like to see similar measures imposed in Quebec.  At some points, they did not clearly distinguish between their translations of the politician’s words and their own opinions.  After the interview, Maurais took calls from listeners about the topic.  One caller complained about the anti-social behaviour of welfare recipients.

The CBSC received a complaint from the Front commun des personnes assistées sociales du Québec, which alleged that the broadcast contained misleading and discriminatory comments about welfare recipients.

The CBSC’s Quebec Regional Panel concluded that the hosts could have made it more clear to listeners that they were adding comments of their own while summarizing those of their guest, but those additions did not distort the overall message.  The Panel also found that the negative comments about welfare recipients focussed on those who abuse the welfare system and did not generalize about all recipients.  The Panel found no violation of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Code of Ethics.

The CBSC was created in 1990 by Canada’s private broadcasters to administer the codes of standards that they established for their industry.  The CBSC currently administers 7 codes which deal with ethics, equitable portrayal, violence, news and journalistic independence.  Nearly 750 radio stations, satellite radio services, television stations and specialty and pay television services 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