CTV re W5 (Sexual Assault Drugs)

ONTARIO REGIONAL COUNCIL
(CBSC Decision 97/98-0542)
A. MacKay (Chair), R. Stanbury (Vice-Chair), R. Cohen (ad hoc), P. Fockler,M. Hogarth and M. Ziniak

THE FACTS

On December 30, 1997, CTV’s well-known public affairs program W5
aired a report on tasteless, colourless drugs suspected to have been used in many sexual
assault cases in Canada in the past few years. The 10-minute report included, among other
things, testimonials of two victims of these “rape drugs”. These interviews,
which are the only parts of the report which are relevant to the complaint, are
transcribed below.

“Susan”’s story went as follows:

Reporter:

A divorced teacher in her mid-forties, she was drugged and raped by aman she dated. A man she trusted.

Susan:

He was well-spoken. He was educated. He was attentive. He waseverything that a lady would want in a man.

Reporter:

There were no signals at all.

Susan:

There were no signals whatsoever.

            …

Reporter:

As for Susan the school teacher, she was horrified when she found outthat her drink had been spiked with a potentially lethal dose of Halcion.

Susan:

I made a couple of drinks, a couple of rum and Cokes.

Reporter:

She was at home watching videos with a man she’d dated twicebefore.

Susan:

It was when I turned my back, to put the Coke back that he had a windowof opportunity of about 8 seconds. And that’s when he put crushed Halcion in mydrink. I woke up later on to find out that I was being sexually assaulted.

Reporter:

She lapsed in and out of consciousness, too weak to put up a fight.

Susan:

I could hear him in the kitchen, he was rinsing out the glasses. Icould hear him at the front door. I could hear him leaving.

Reporter:

Last spring, Susan’s attacker, 55-year-old Edward Robinson,pleaded guilty to drugging and assaulting her. He got 14 years. It turns out he alreadyhad a record for using weapons to force sex on women. In the early 1970s he raped three ofthem at knife-point.

           …

Reporter:

How do you tread the fine line between being wary and not hating allmen?

Susan:

I find it very hard to trust men now. I have not made any new maleacquaintances since this happened to me two and half years ago.

Reporter:

Since this experience, you haven’t dated.

Susan:

Since this experience, I was traumatized to a point that I no longerwanted to live in my home. I sold my home; I bought another one.

“Jennifer” was a raped by a notorious serial rapist. Her
interview went as follows:

Jennifer:

I woke up with him on top of me with his face in my face.

Reporter:

Jennifer was 24 years old. A small town girl who had just moved toToronto. So she was thrilled when [the rapist’s ex-wife] invited her over forThanksgiving weekend. But [she] got sick so Jennifer ended up having a drink alone with[the rapist].

Jennifer:

I kind of thought something had happened but I wasn’t quite sure.

Reporter:

So, you weren’t positive you had been sexually assaulted.

Jennifer:

I hadn’t a clue. But, I had a clue later; I got pregnant.

Reporter:

An abortion ended the pregnancy but the emotional hell was justbeginning.

Jennifer:

I started becoming very bitter, very angry. Full of attitude,hostility, like defensive. Don’t go near me if you are a guy. Do not. … When Ifound out there were hundreds of girls, I became totally outraged. I felt filthy, dirty,you couldn’t scrub me enough. To know that I was connected to something so public. Imean here I am from a little, small town, that had picket fence, Mom and Dad, went toSunday school, and then, bam, I’m part of something vulgar and disgusting.

           …

Reporter:

It’s taken Jennifer seven years to come to terms with whathappened to her. She has a piece of advice that may give others a fighting chance.

Jennifer:

Trust your instincts, they are telling you be careful. I have learned,really to trust my gut. Those little voices inside your head, they are not crazy voices,they are saying “be careful”.

On December 30, 1997, a viewer wrote to the Secretary General of the
CRTC. In his letter, the complainant from Ottawa stated (in part):

I am writing to complain about aTV programme … broadcast at about 10:15 p.m. December 30th 1997 on channel 7(W5 on CTV, Rogers Cable). The programme segment dealt with a woman who had apparentlybeen drugged by a man and the interviewer asked how she could not “hate allmen”. This segment has several conflicts with your guidelines for televisionbroadcasts. This violates the equitable portrayal of gender by portraying all men as fairsubjects for hatred based on the act of one man. The interviewer presents an unfairstereotype and negative portrayal of men by implying all men (potentially) would use drugsto rape. W5 is supposed to be a news report but this interviewer redirected the topic froma serious topic, slanting it instead to her disturbed hatred of men. If we accept thiswoman suggesting hatred against all men as a valid response to a single injury, can weexpect CTV to have a Jew promoting hatred of all Arabs, or vice versa, or a Francophonesuggesting hatred of all English, or a visible minority suggesting hatred of all whites aspart of news? This CTV interviewer and thus her report is unbalanced, unfair, and carriesthe ideological baggage of hatred of men.

The Vice President and General Manager of CJOH-TV forwarded a copy of
the complainant’s letter and a copy of the CBSC’s letter to the Senior
Vice-President of CTV where W5 is produced. On February 5, 1998, the Vice President
and General Counsel of Baton Broadcasting replied to the complainant with the following:

This letter is in response to yourcomplaint to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission datedDecember 30, 1997. In your letter, you expressed concern over gender representation duringan episode of CTV’s W-Five broadcast on December 30, 1997 as well as Kellogg’sSpecial K commercial that ran during W-Five. We note that this is the second complaint youhave made recently to the CRTC about gender portrayal in CTV coverage.

Your specific concern regarding the W-Five report about rape casesinvolving drugs, was the use of the reporter’s question – how she could not”hate all men”. The actual question asked of one of the rape victims interviewedduring the broadcast was “How do you tread the fine line between being wary and nothating all men?” The subject replies: “I find it very hard to trust men now. Ihave not made any new male acquaintances since this happened to me two and half yearsago.” The purpose of the question was to determine the victim’s state of mind. Ithink everybody would agree that she suffered a severe trauma, as would any individual, bethey men or women, in like circumstances. Part of her trauma is that she generalized hernegative experience into a mistrust of all men. Her words, her demeanor, and the entiretone of the program suggests that such a generalization is tragic.

We wish to assure you that CTV has no intention of promoting orencouraging the “hatred of men” under any circumstances. In fact, we believethat the program represented men in a very positive light. A large part of the story infact dealt with a report on a woman who was drugged in a bar, but thankfully was notraped. Her boyfriend was responsible for ensuring her safety and was also instrumental ininitiating a campaign at McGill University to heighten awareness about this unfortunatephenomenon. The report also included an interview with a male doctor, who cautioned womento be examine early in cases of drug rape to ensure that detection is possible as thedrugs leave the body within 12 – 24 hours.

           …

CTV, as a member of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council is fullyaware of its responsibilities, and we believe we are fully compliant with all industrycodes including the CAB Voluntary Code on Sex-Role Stereotyping and the RTNDACode of Ethics, as well as the Broadcasting Act. We thank you for taking the time towrite with your concerns.

The complainant was unsatisfied with this response and requested, on
February 13, that the CBSC refer the matter to the appropriate Regional Council for
adjudication.

The CBSC’s Ontario Regional Council considered the complaint under
Clauses 1 and 2(c) of the CAB Sex-Role Portrayal Code. The texts of these clauses
read as follows:

Sex-Role Portrayal Code, Clause 1 (Changing Interaction)

Broadcasters recognize thechanging interaction of women and men in today's society. Women and men shall beportrayed, in programming, in a wide range of roles, both traditional and non-traditional,in paid work, social, family and leisure activities.

Guidance: The roles and opportunities for both sexes arebecoming more diverse due to such factors as the elimination of female-only and male-onlyoccupations, changing patterns of parenting and lifestyles. Women and girls should beportrayed in a range of roles as diverse as that shown for men and boys. Men should notalways be portrayed as the aggressor in personal relationships. Women and men should beportrayed as working together in circumstances where the “power” balance doesnot always favour the man by virtue of his position or personal attributes.

CAB Sex-Role Portrayal Code, Clause 2(c) (Diversity)

[c] Television and radioprogramming shall respect the principles of intellectual and emotional equality of bothsexes and the dignity of all individuals. Television and radio programming should portraywomen and men as equal beneficiaries of the positive attributes of family or single-personlife. Women and men should perform in a range of occupations and function as intellectualand emotional equals in all types of thematic circumstances. This should be the case forboth work and leisure activities requiring varying degrees of intellectual competence.

Guidance: Women and men should be portrayed as working toward acomfortable existence through mutual support, both economically and emotionally, and inboth public and private spheres. Despite the problems of societal systemic discrimination,television and radio programming should reflect an awareness of the need to avoid andovercome discrimination on the basis of gender.

The Regional Council members viewed a tape of the program in question
and reviewed all of the correspondence. The Council considers that the program in question
does not violate either of the foregoing provisions.

The complainant’s case seems to rest on two foundation stones;
first, that the statements he saw and heard are as he represents them; and, second, that
any negative statement made relating to men is, for that reason alone, gender-imbalanced
and in violation of the Sex-Role Portrayal Code. In order to support his position
that the report was “unbalanced, unfair, and carries the ideological baggage of
hatred of men,” the complainant alleges that the reporter asked “how she could
not ‘hate all men’.” The complaint strikes its first rocky shoal here for
that was not the text of the question. Without determining whether that question
might have been improper, the Council notes that the question actually put to
“Susan” was both balanced and reasonable, namely: “How do you tread the
fine line between being wary and not hating all men?”. How, in other words, does the
victim place herself on one side of the rather thin demarcation between the detached and
objective basis of care and wariness, on the one hand, rather than the understandable
subjective and personally bitter side, on the other? The Council finds that the question
as put was thoughtful and relevant in the context of this report and hardly in
contravention of any of the provisions of the Sex-Role Portrayal Code.

Moreover, the fact that some of the incidents depicted in the W5
report involved inappropriate, even criminal, actions on the part of some men did not in
any way promote or otherwise convey hatred of all men, contrary to what the complainant
appears to be alleging. Rather, the Council considers that the report aimed at attempting
to understand the feelings of women traumatized by this insidious pharmaceutical device
misused for the purposes of sexual assault. It is also clear, in the view of the Council,
that CTV went out of its way to ensure that the report did not reflect negatively on all
men by focussing on the campaign launched by a male McGill University student to
alert his fellow students to this dangerous drug.

Accordingly, as it did in CFRA-AM re Brian Henderson Commentary
(CBSC Decision 95/96-0234, May 8, 1997), the Council finds that “The complainant has
tried, without foundation, to build a case against this broadcast on the basis of gender
discrimination” and that “the complaint is utterly without substance.”

In addition to assessing the relevance of the Codes to the
complaint, the CBSC always assesses the responsiveness of the broadcaster to the
substance of the complaint. In this case, the Council considers that the
broadcaster’s response addressed fully and fairly all the issues raised by the
complainant. Consequently, the broadcaster has not breached the Council’s standard of
responsiveness. Nothing more is required.