Derisive Comment about Homosexuals Violates Broadcast Code, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, November 12, 2008 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning comments made on Champagne pour tout le monde broadcast on CKRS-AM (Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean) on February 19, 2007.  Host Louis Champagne made disparaging comments about homosexuals, which the CBSC found to be in contravention of the Human Rights Clause of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics.
During that episode of his morning show, Champagne conducted an interview with a representative of the Parti Québécois.  They discussed a variety of political issues relating to the PQ, particularly the party’s support in the local listening area.  Champagne questioned whether a party with an openly gay leader and other homosexual candidates would fare well in the region.  Referring to the blue collar workers in the region, Champagne questioned [translation] “do you really think that when you present them with another homosexual, you won’t be asked the question: ‘[…I]s the Parti Québébcois a club for fags?’?”  The PQ representative responded that the candidates’ private lives were not relevant to the campaign.

The CBSC received complaints from a number of listeners who were concerned that Champagne’s remarks were discriminatory.  Following a public outcry, CKRS’s parent company, Corus, gave Champagne a one-week suspension from the airwaves and required him to read an apology on air upon his return.  Nevertheless, one complainant requested that the CBSC investigate the matter further.

The CBSC’s Quebec Regional Panel examined the complaint under Clause 2 (Human Rights) of the CAB Code of Ethics, which prohibits the broadcast of abusive or unduly discriminatory material on the basis of, among other things, sexual orientation.  The Panel concluded that Champagne was fully entitled to question the PQ candidate about the receptivity of local voters to homosexual candidates, but that he crossed the line when he used the derisory term “club de tapettes” [“club for fags”].  The Panel explained its decision in the following terms:

The issue for the Panel has to do with the manner in which the discussion unfolded.  […]  It considers that Louis Champagne’s tone was “sneering, derisive and nasty”, hence in breach of Clause 2 of the Code.

As to the word “fag” [“tapette” in French] itself, the Panel considers that it balances tentatively on the fence, acceptable in some circumstances […], but totally unacceptable, when used in the aggressive, hostile manner of the February 19 broadcast of Champagne pour tout le monde, where its effect was spread more widely, and perhaps more derisively by reason of the broad stroke, in the characterization of the political party as a [translation] “club for fags”.

The Panel did, however, commend CKRS for its actions and efforts in resolving the matter since the station and parent company “agreed with the complainant, admitted the inappropriateness of Champagne’s comments, dissociated themselves from those comments, suspended the host for a week, generated an on-air apology from the host himself, and had its lawyers send the host a letter making its standards clear and requiring the signed acknowledgment of the host.”

Canada’s private broadcasters have themselves created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, equitable portrayal, television violence and journalistic independence 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 ethics created by the RTNDA – Association of Electronic Journalists in 1970.  More than 690 radio stations, satellite radio services, 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