Derogatory Ethnic Term Unacceptable, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, July 18, 2012 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the use of a racial term on the American radio program Tom Kent broadcast on CFXL-FM (XL 103 FM, Calgary).  The CBSC concluded that the broadcast of the term “chinaman” violated the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Equitable Portrayal Code.

The Tom Kent show consists of music and some talk.  On the February 10, 2012 episode, Kent spoke with a caller about a man who was planning a world record parachute jump.  The caller made the comment “when he splats on [the] ground, [people will] say ‘Well, it definitely wasn’t Superman’”. Kent then replied, “They’ll say it was that famous chinaman, Sum Dum Guy.”

A listener complained that the word “chinaman” is racist, offensive and unacceptable in the present day.  The radio station explained that the program originates in the United States, but agreed that the word is unacceptable on Canadian airwaves and gave assurances that it would be more careful in the future.  Canadian stations are responsible for all material that they air, regardless of its source.

The CBSC’s Prairie Regional Panel examined the complaint under the Human Rights clauses of the CAB Code of Ethics and Equitable Portrayal Code, which prohibits abusive or unduly discriminatory comment on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin.  It also examined the complaint under Clause 9(b) regarding Language and Terminology of the Equitable Portrayal Code, which requires broadcasters to avoid the use of derogatory language in references to individuals or groups based on race, national or ethnic origin.  The Panel concluded that the segment did not violate the Human Rights clauses because Kent did not actually make any negative comments about Chinese people.  The segment did, however, violate the Language and Terminology clause because “chinaman” has evolved to become an offensive and pejorative term.

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