Comments Encouraging Physical “Delivery of a Message” by Youthful Hockey Players In Breach of Code of Ethics, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, March 14, 2005 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the broadcast by CHEX-TV (Peterborough) of a comment by Gary Dalliday, one of its sportscasters, which touched on an earlier on-ice incident that had resulted in a “cheap shot” being taken against one of the Peterborough Petes hockey players. He said:

Now, if any of the Petes players are looking in right now, here’s a little message for you. Guys, I love you all, I want you to do well and I know how hard you work and I’m not here to promote violence, but … when somebody takes a cheap shot at the heart and soul of your team, somebody has to and should’ve stepped up and, well, as my good friend Roger Neilson would say, deliver a message, and I think you know what I mean by that.

The Ontario Regional Panel considered that the remarks were in excess of the private broadcasters’ test of broadcasting only the “proper presentation of […] opinion, comment and editorial”. The Panel said:

Whether the commentator meant to say what he did say or not, his words and tone did not leave any sense of equivocation. He began with the unsubtle rhetorical device of setting up a straw man: “I’m not here to promote violence, but …”. It is a way of both defining what one is about to say and trying, at the same time, to avoid responsibility for what is to follow. The sportscaster then said, clearly referring to what had happened to one of the Peterborough Petes hockey players, “somebody has to and should’ve stepped up …”. Then, to have the effect of ensuring that no-one would misunderstand where he was going, he capped off the advice with “somebody has to […] well, as my good friend Roger Neilson would say, deliver a message, and I think you know what I mean by that.” The ending is a Monty Pythonesque “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” in nature. It was, the Panel considers, a poor attempt to say something without saying it. It did not achieve that goal.

Bottom line, the Panel’s understanding of the exhortation is this. If Gary Dalliday did not intend his comments to appear to encourage some form of retaliation, he could have chosen a more benign formula. There is no end of less suggestive expressions that he might have selected. He might, for example, have said something like, “Play harder, guys. More determination. More resolution. Win one for the Gipper.” He did not do so. He left a different kind of message. In the view of the Panel, it did not meet the private broadcasters’ test of “proper presentation of […] opinion, comment and editorial” and, in consequence, was in breach of Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics. Moreover, it was a message targeted, he ought to have foreseen, at young players. (Not only do young people generally admire hockey heroes, but the age limits of eligibility in the Ontario Hockey League, in which the Peterborough team plays, are 16 to 20.) The youthful market for Mr. Dalliday’s remarks implies that even more care ought to have been taken with his choice of words in what has been, some might say, a delicate time in terms of hockey culture.

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