CTV Toronto (CFTO-DT) & CP24 re promos for CHUM-FM

ENGLISH-LANGUAGE PANEL
CBSC Decision 16/17-0057+
2017 CBSC 4
April 20, 2017
A. Noël (Chair), J. Haskins, H. Montbourquette, L. Nagel

THE FACTS

In September 2016, a television promotional campaign for radio station CHUM-FM was airing on Toronto-based television stations CTV Toronto (CFTO-DT) and CP24. The campaign consisted of two spots, sometimes aired in immediate succession and sometimes separately.

In the first, a white male with long, dirty blonde hair and a beard is standing against a plain white background. He is lean and muscular, and wearing a short-sleeved, button-up shirt, dark brown pants and brown loafer shoes with no socks.  He says, “Have you heard 104.5 CHUM-FM lately?  It’s got all –“.  A female voice from off-screen says, “Shawn, can you lose the shirt?”.  Shawn looks down at his shirt, then looks up questioningly and says “Uhh, okay.”  A coloured bar test pattern appears briefly on screen, then the image returns to Shawn standing in the same position, but shirtless.  The song “Just Like Fire” by pop singer P!nk is playing in the background.  Shawn says, “Nothing but today’s best music on CHUM-FM –“; the female voice says “Cut!  The pants are too distracting.”  Shawn looks down at his pants, then looks up questioningly and asks, “So lose the pants?” to which the female voice responds affirmatively, “Uh huh”.

When the two parts were not aired immediately in sequence, the words “To be continued” appeared in the bottom left corner of the screen. When they aired together, the test pattern popped up on screen again.

The second spot then begins with Shawn, standing in the same position, wearing only his shoes. He is holding a small white card with the logo “104.5 CHUM FM” over his crotch area.  Shawn says, “The naked truth.  CHUM-FM’s where you’ll hear Bruno, P!nk, Roger and Marilyn –“.  The female voice cuts him off again to say, “Two-parter!  Need a smaller logo.”  Shawn responds “Smaller?” and she says, “Yeah”.  The test pattern appears again, followed by Shawn holding a smaller logo card over his crotch.  The song “This is What You Came For” by Calvin Harris and Rihanna is playing in the background.  Shawn says, “All stripped down to today’s best music on 104.5 CHUM-FM.”  The female says, “Great”, so Shawn smiles.  Then she says, “Now one without the logo” and Shawn frowns.  Large blue letters with a white box around them are superimposed beside Shawn which read “It’s the whole package”.

The CBSC received 11 complaints from viewers who found that the promos exploited and objectified the man. They suggested that, had the gender roles been reversed with a male telling a female to remove her clothing, the promos would never have aired.  Five of the complainants asked the CBSC to rule on the matter (all correspondence relating to those five files is in the Appendix to this decision).  The stations responded to all complainants, noting that they adhere to the relevant broadcaster codes and explaining that “Our determination of the image in question was that, while it may be deemed as distasteful to certain individuals, the context in which it was used did not violate any of the aforementioned codes.”

THE DECISION

The English-Language Panel examined the complaints under the following provisions of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Equitable Portrayal Code and Code of Ethics:

CAB Equitable Portrayal Code, Clause 4 – Stereotyping

Recognizing that stereotyping is a form of generalization that is frequently simplistic, belittling, hurtful or prejudicial, while being unreflective of the complexity of the group being stereotyped, broadcasters shall ensure that their programming contains no unduly negative stereotypical material or comment which is based on matters of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability.

CAB Equitable Portrayal Code, Clause 7 – Degrading Material

Broadcasters shall avoid the airing of degrading material, whether reflected in words, sounds, images or by other means, which is based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability.

CAB Equitable Portrayal Code, Clause 8(a) – Exploitation

Broadcasters shall refrain from the airing of programming that exploits women, men or children.

CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 3 – Sex-Role Stereotyping

Recognizing that stereotyping images can and do have a negative effect, it shall be the responsibility of broadcasters to exhibit, to the best of their ability, a conscious sensitivity to the problems related to sex-role stereotyping, by refraining from exploitation and by the reflection of the intellectual and emotional equality of both sexes in programming. Broadcasters shall refer to the Sex-Role Portrayal Code for Television and Radio Programming [since March 17, 2008, replaced by the Equitable Portrayal Code] for more detailed provisions in this area.

CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 10(e) – Television Broadcasting

Promotional material which contains sexually explicit material or coarse or offensive language intended for adult audiences shall not be telecast before 9 pm.

CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 13(a) – Advertising (General Principles)

Recognizing the service that commercial sponsors render to listeners and viewers in making known to them the goods and services available in their communities and realizing that the story of such goods and services goes into the intimacy of the home, it shall be the responsibility of broadcasters and their sales representatives to work with advertisers and agencies in improving the technique of telling the advertising story so that these shall be simple, truthful and believable, and shall not offend prevailing community standards of tolerability.

The Panel Adjudicators read all of the correspondence and viewed a recording of the challenged broadcast. The Panel unanimously concludes that there was no violation of Clause 10(e) of the CAB Code of Ethics regarding the scheduling of the promos.  The Panel was evenly split on the issues of stereotyping, exploitation, degradation and community standards of tolerability under Clauses 4, 7 and 8(a) of the CAB Equitable Portrayal Code and Clauses 3 and 13(a) of the CAB Code of Ethics.  With the Panel being evenly split, the conclusion is that there is no breach by either of the broadcasters.

Stereotyping, Exploitation & Degradation – Views of Panel Adjudicators who Conclude there is No Breach

These Adjudicators consider the promos to be light-hearted and humorous. The fact that the man gets almost naked is a visual pun related to the tag lines used to promote the radio station, namely, that there is “nothing on” CHUM-FM but today’s best music; that the station has the “naked truth” and “the whole package”, “all stripped down to today’s best music”.

These Adjudicators note that this case is similar to two previous CBSC decisions where no breach was found. The first was about another CHUM-FM promo from the 1990s featuring an unclothed man and woman at a bus stop, covered only by a briefcase and a large portable stereo, respectively.  The tag line of that spot was “CHUM-FM:  It’s all you need to put on”.  The CBSC acknowledged it was a tongue-in-cheek double entendre of the expression “to put on” the radio or the station, which did not offend prevailing community standards.[1]  The second decision was also about a television advertisement for a radio station.  In that ad, a young blonde woman in white tank top and panties was dancing provocatively to various rock songs.  Each musical excerpt accompanying her dancing had a body-related theme that led the camera to focus on the corresponding parts of the woman’s body.  For example, when the song “Legs” by ZZ Top played, the camera zoomed in on her legs.  The CBSC found no breach for exploitation in that case because the woman’s demeanour and dress were relevant to the context of the advertisement.[2]

While these Adjudicators acknowledge that some viewers might deem the promos to be in poor taste, they find that there is nothing lascivious in the female’s demeanour that would render her comments exploitative or degrading towards the man. Rather, her requests to Shawn to disrobe hint at her appreciation for his muscular physique.  These Adjudicators also note that the impact of the promos partly lies in the fact that traditional stereotypes are reversed, with the woman as the director “calling the shots” to correspond with her preferences.  These Adjudicators find no breach of any of the aforementioned code provisions.

Stereotyping, Exploitation & Degradation – Views of Panel Adjudicators who Conclude there is a Breach

These Adjudicators fully appreciate that the promos were meant to be humorous, light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek, and ironic. Indeed, these Adjudicators see no problem with the mere presentation of a semi-naked man to promote a radio station.

The tipping point for these Adjudicators is the fact that it is a female director ordering a male actor to remove his clothing; moreover, he appears reluctant, yet obliged to obey due to the power differential between their roles.  There is no real reason for the female to be asking the male to remove his clothing, other than her own desire to ogle his body.  In that sense, these Adjudicators consider that the female director, and thus the promos, are clearly objectifying and exploiting the man.  It is this element of instruction to remove clothing that differentiates these promos from the older CHUM-FM and The Wolf advertisements mentioned above.[3]  The messages regarding the “naked truth” and “stripped down” music available on CHUM-FM could have easily been achieved without the man being directed to remove his clothing.

In the view of these Adjudicators, there is clearly a gender power imbalance depicted in these promos and they consider that, at the present societal moment, such portrayals are unacceptable regardless of which gender is in the dominant or subordinate position. These Adjudicators conclude that the promos do violate Clauses 4, 7 and 8(a) of the CAB Equitable Portrayal Code as well as Clause 3 of the CAB Code of Ethics for the stereotyping, exploitation and degradation presented in them.  The content, therefore, also offends prevailing community standards of tolerability contrary to Clause 13(a) of the CAB Code of Ethics.

Scheduling of the Promos

The promos aired at various times throughout the day on both CTV Toronto and CP24. One complainant suggested that they were inappropriate for broadcast when children could be watching television.  The CBSC has consistently stated that, in the absence of depictions of sexual activity, images of scantily-clad or even fully naked individuals are acceptable for broadcast at any time of day.[4]  In this instance, all Adjudicators unanimously agree that the scenes of Shawn strategically covering his crotch area with the CHUM-FM logo were not sexually explicit in any way and did not need to be relegated to a post-9:00 pm timeslot under Clause 10(e) of the CAB Code of Ethics.

Broadcaster Responsiveness

In all CBSC decisions, the Panels assess the broadcaster’s response to the complainant. The broadcaster need not agree with the complainant’s position, but it must respond in a courteous, thoughtful and thorough manner.  In this case, Bell Media (the corporate owner of CTV Toronto and CP24) provided replies to all complainants, explaining why it believed the promos to be in full compliance with all broadcasting codes.  The stations thus fulfilled their obligations of responsiveness and nothing further is required in this regard in this instance.

This decision is a public document upon its release by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.

[1] CFTO-TV and CFMT-TV re Walk to Work Commercials (CBSC Decision 93/94-0015, June 22, 1994)

[2] CKCK-TV re an advertisement for “The Wolf” radio station (CBSC Decision 02/03-0609+, December 15, 2003); see also CITY-TV re a broadcast promo for SexTV (CBSC Decision 99/00-0133, July 6, 2000) for another case in which the use of a nude, but strategically covered, woman was not considered exploitative under the codes.

[3] In that sense, these promos are more similar to the broadcast examined in CJKR-FM re a radio contest (Nude Bicycle Riding) (CBSC Decision 98/99-0476, November 18, 1999) where male radio hosts made crude comments about a nude woman when it was completely unnecessary and irrelevant to the discussion topic.

[4] See CHRO-TV re Dead Man’s Gun (“The Mesmerizer”) (CBSC Decision 97/98-1208, February 3, 1999); TQS re Strip Tease (CBSC Decision 98/99-0441, February 21, 2000); WTN re the movie Wildcats (CBSC Decision 00/01-0964, January 16, 2002); Bravo! re the film Chippendales & the Ladies (CBSC Decision 01/02-379, September 13, 2002); Showcase Television re the movie Muriel’s Wedding (CBSC Decision 02/03-0882, January 30, 2004); TQS re an episode of Loft Story (CBSC Decision 03/04-0200 & -0242, April 22, 2004); TVA re a segment on an episode of Star Système (CBSC Decision 04/05-1319, September 9, 2005).

Appendix

The Complaints

The CBSC received 11 complaints about these promos. Of those, 5 complainants filed Ruling Requests.  Their complaints are reproduced immediately below:

File 16/17-0057

The following complaint was submitted via the CBSC webform on September 12, 2016:

Station Name:                     Chum FM

Program Name:      Commercial

Date:                          2016/09/12

Time:                          7:30 PM

Specific Concern:    The commercial shows a male standing describing the tv [sic, radio] station and a woman[‘s] voice in the background telling him to take his shirt off.  After he does, she demands he take his pants off.  This is sexual harassment and the commercial should be removed.

File 16/17-0111

The following complaint was submitted via the CBSC webform on September 21, 2016:

Television or Radio Station:         CHUM-FM

Program Name:                  tv advertisement

Date of Program:                ongoing

Time of Program:               television commercial

Specific Concern:                Hi there,

I am writing to let you know that I just made an online complaint to Advertising Standards Canada.

I have actually never been moved to make a complaint about a television ad before but what I watched today on the Bell Media CTV network shocked and saddened me.

The complaint is regarding the CHUM FM “It’s the whole package” tv ad spots.

A series of 2 commercials that feature a long-haired muscular man named Shawn standing in a white room wearing a shirt, pants and shoes. He is taking about CHUM-FM and the female “director” off camera cuts in and asks him to “lose the shirt”.  The scene then cuts and resumes with Shawn now shirtless.  The female interrupts him again by saying “Cut!  The pants are too distracting” and tells him to “lose the pants”.  The first commercial ends with Shawn shirtless and the banner “to be continued” appears on screen.

The second commercial continues with the female director asking Shawn to remove all his clothing. When he is left naked and holding a CHUM-FM sign in front of his genitals, the female “director” then says that the sign is too big and distracting.  The scene cuts out to a now tiny sign covering just his genitals leaving the man visibly and uncomfortably naked.

Blatant sexual objectification is shameful [and] has no place in public advertising.

If the gender roles had been reversed I think there would be a firestorm. I have no idea how Bell Media advertising executives made the decision that running this type of backwards portrayal of sexual objectification in advertising can be okay.  Just what is exactly the point?

Shameful. That’s really all I can say.

I really would appreciate a response to help me understand the thinking behind the decision to run this puzzling ad campaign.

link to PART 1 video on Chum FM website:

http://bcove.me/324tnxn9

The second video of the naked man is not yet available on the web, only seen live on tv.

The CBSC informed the complainant that it requires specific dates and times of programming in order to pursue any complaint. The complainant wrote back on September 22 with that information:

I saw the 2 commercials air on CTV Toronto on Monday Sept 19th during the airing of The Social from 1pm-2pm.

Hope that helps.

File 16/17-0119

The following complaint was submitted via the CBSC webform on September 23:

Television or Radio Station:         CTV Toronto

Program Name:                  CHUM FM commercial aired on station

Date of Program:                Every day, most recently Sept 21 and Sept 22

Time of Program:               9:30 pm PST onward

Specific Concern:                Inappropriate ad being aired on this station by the radio station CHUM-FM.  Consists of naked man on advertisement holding only a sign for CHUM-FM radio station.  Completely inappropriate to be aired on this channel and during a news broadcast makes it even worse as families and children could easily be watching.

File 16/17-0137

The following complaint was submitted to Advertising Standards Canada (ASC) via its webform. ASC then forwarded the complaint to CBSC.

Advertiser:                CHUM-FM 104 radio station

Product/Service:     Radio station

Ad Language:                       English

Where Seen:            CTV

When Seen:              11:55 pm, September 13

Description of advertisement:

A man is standing alone talking about the music on CHUM-FM. A female director off-camera wants him to deliver his message again, but asks him to remove his shirt.  He does so, but then she says that his pants are distracting and he should do it again, but this time remove his pants.

Your concern:

In this day and age, there are deep concerns about objectifying women in the media. Sadly, it continues to this day, but I would like to believe that the media is getting better at addressing this issue.  What I don’t understand is why this doesn’t apply to men as well.  This ad clearly exploits this man sexually – had the roles been reversed and the male director asked a female actor to remove her shirt and pants, so as to better convey the advertiser’s message, I would suspect that this ad would have never met the light of day.  In fact, I would go as far to say that the ad agency that created it would be looking for a new client.

File 16/17-0138

The following complaint was submitted to ASC via its webform. ASC then forwarded the complaint to CBSC.

Advertiser:                CHUM-FM 104.5

Product/Service:     Radio Station

Ad Language:                       English

Where Seen:            Continuously on CP24 tv

When Seen:              Past two weeks

Description of advertisement:

The spot itself has a young actor (16-20 years of age) reading a prepared script from cue cards, taking direction from a male director at first. A female voice then is heard asking the actor to take his shirt off.  The actor attempts to start again, constantly being interrupted by the female asking him to take more clothing off until ultimately he is naked.  The female keeps asking for a smaller CHUM-FM sign that the actor is holding in front of him.  Ultimately he is naked and has a 4-inch by 5-inch cue card covering his balls.

Your concern:

I watch quite a lot of CP24 News throughout the day at work, and at home as it keeps me informed on traffic, weather and news. The radio spot in question is tasteless and goes against what I have taught my 20-year-old son all his life.  I have taught him to treat women with respect and dignity (with no objectification).  Similarly, I have taught him to be sensitive to others who are foreign, of colour, sexually confused, etc.  This spot would NEVER be aired today if it had a 16-20-year-old chesty actress in the role instead.  I am contacting you about this after great thought and am convinced that it is a damaging message to the young boys out there who repeatedly see the ad loop every hour.  I am exhausted by the political correct [sic] protocol that pushes the agendas and rights of every stripe, but does not include half of society (the male species).  Simply put, the ad would just be bad/campy in 1979.  In 2016, it is offensive, reverse-sexism that has no place on air (especially during daytime tv when young males & impressionable females are watching).  We would not accept it with a female actress; why is it okay with a male?

The CBSC informed the complainant that it requires specific dates and times of programming in order to pursue any complaint. The complainant wrote back on September 28 in two separate emails with that information:

Thank you for your quick response to this troubling situation. The ad was on heavy rotation on CP24 for the 2-week period previous to Sept. 24, which I noticed at home.  I was moved to lodge my complaint after seeing the ad several times on break September 21 between 9-10 am, as well as during lunch between 11 am and 12 noon.

Please feel free to contact me for any minutiae that will assist you in the review of this sexually exploitive message.

I just wanted to amend my time-line in regards to when I last saw the ad and lodged the complaint. Since the agency that I contacted responded at about 5:30 on September 21st, I believe that I saw the ads & lodged my complaint on September 20th (between 9-10 am and during lunch at 11 am-12 noon).  I believe that they responded 24 hours after my lodging the complaint (to the incorrect agency at that point).

Sorry for the inconvenience.

Broadcaster Response

Bell Media responded to all complainants with the same letter in October 2016:

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has forwarded your correspondence regarding the promo for CHUM-FM, which aired on CTV [CP24] September [##], 2016. We have reviewed the message in question and the scheduling of the message.

Before I address your specific concern, it should be noted that CTV follows the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics (herein referred to as The Code), Equitable Portrayal Code, Voluntary Code Regarding Violence in Television Programming and the AGVOT (Action Group on Violence on Television) rating classification system approved by the CRTC and used by Canadian broadcasters.  (If you would like to view the CAB codes, you may do so at www.cbsc.ca).

Creating a promotion for a radio station and determining the content for the promotion is a subjective matter. We want to be representative of the content of the station while being careful not to present content out of context.  Our determination of the image in question was that while it may be deemed as distasteful to certain individuals, the context in which it was used did not violate any of the aforementioned codes.

I can assure you we do take the content of our promotion messages seriously and I apologize if you were offended by this message. Your feedback is appreciated and we will take it into consideration as we move forward and promote our programming in the future.

Additional Correspondence

The five complainants submitted their Ruling Requests throughout October and each provided additional comments.

File 16/17-0057

I am not satisfied by the decision. If a woman was asked to remove her clothes for no reason other than to promote advertising, how is this not degrading to the actor?  And sending a message that is ok to degrade someone for commercial benefit.  I was offended by this commercial and the tone of the actor in the background was not acceptable.  This commercial should not be aired again.

I will escalate this if need be; it was more than tasteless.

File 16/17-0111

In the letter of response, Bell Media determined the image in question was that, while it may be deemed as distasteful to certain individuals, the context in which it was used did not violate any of the CAB codes.

Please note, Clause 3 of CAB Code of Ethics states:

Recognizing that stereotyping images can and do have a negative effect, it shall be the responsibility of broadcasters to exhibit, to the best of their ability, a conscious sensitivity to the problems related to sex-role stereotyping, by refraining from exploitation and by the reflection of the intellectual and emotional equality of both sexes in programming.

Broadcasters shall refer to the Sex-Role Portrayal Code for Television and Radio Programming [since March 17, 2008, replaced by the Equitable Portrayal Code] for more detailed provisions in this area.

Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Equitable Portrayal Code (2008)

8. Exploitation:

Broadcasters shall refrain from the airing of programming that exploits women, men or children.

Having a “director” in a position of power instruct an obviously good-looking employee (male or female) to systematically remove clothing to a state of nakedness as part of their job as an actor, which happens to be an advertising campaign, is an example of sex-role stereotyping and exploitation.

In addition, the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards in the code of provisions states:

14. Unacceptable Depictions and Portrayals Advertisements shall not:

(b) appear in a realistic manner to exploit,

(c) demean, denigrate or disparage one or more identifiable persons,

(d) undermine human dignity

File 16/17-0119

The response from the broadcaster states “We want to be representative of the content of the station in the ad while being careful not to present content out of context”. From my perspective, you cannot justify that a man standing naked on screen has any context to a radio station at all.  If they were advertising a male strip club then the context would make sense as it would be directly related to the subject matter in the ad.  This is not the case in this ad as, aside from him holding a sign that says “CHUM FM”, the context of the commercial has no correlation or relation to the station in any way.  By their own admission, in the response Bell Media stated the ad was distasteful however did not state that they would take any steps to correct the issue with the exception that my feedback would be taken into consideration.

At the very least this commercial violates:

Clause 3 – Sex-Role Stereotyping

Recognizing that stereotyping images can and do have a negative effect, it shall be the responsibility of broadcasters to exhibit, to the best of their ability, a conscious sensitivity to the problems related to sex-role stereotyping, by refraining from exploitation and by the reflection of the intellectual and emotional equality of both sexes in programming. Broadcasters shall refer to the Sex-Role Portrayal Code for Television and Radio Programming [since March 17, 2008, replaced by the Equitable Portrayal Code] for more detailed provisions in this area.

and also:

Clause 13 – Advertising (General Principles)

(a) …and shall not offend prevailing community standards of tolerability.

File 16/17-0137

The broadcaster’s response is completely unacceptable. They admit that their ad can be deemed “distasteful to certain individuals” but choose to hide behind the fact that this ad does not violate any of the CAB codes.  I ask you this:  if the main character had been a woman and she was told to remove her clothing during this ad, would this ad have been approved for broadcast?  If the answer is “yes” then there is a real problem with the code and it should be changed so that neither sex is exploited in such a distasteful manner.

File 16/17-0138

I have read the response from a [Senior Vice-President] from Bell Media. I have found that he is perfectly comfortable with the sexually exploitive imagery being employed in the CHUM-FM commercials airing on CP24 (which is self-serving as Bell Media owns CHUM-FM too).  [The Senior Vice-President] is also comfortable that the commercial does not violate criteria found in the CAB codes of ethics, regarding to AGVOT, Equitable portrayal and violence.  I strongly disagree to [sic] [the Senior Vice-President]’s and Bell Media’s position that objectifying a (in this commercial’s egregious example of sexual exploitation of what clearly appears to be a teen) young male is perfectly acceptable.  I will look forward to providing further input to keep this demeaning and damaging (to today’s young male), as well as distasteful ([the Senior Vice-President]’s apt description) [ad] from being put back into heavy rotation.