Dialogue about “Hunting Hindus” in Breach of Human Rights Clause, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, May 14, 2002 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a morning show dialogue about “hunting Hindus” that was aired on CKTF-FM (Gatineau) during the program Les méchants matins du monde. The CBSC Quebec Regional Panel found it to be in breach of the human rights provision of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' (CAB) Code of Ethics.

The human rights clause of the CAB Code of Ethics reads

Recognizing that every person has a right to full and equal recognition and to enjoy certain fundamental rights and freedoms, broadcasters shall endeavour to ensure, to the best of their ability, that their programming contains no abusive or discriminatory material or comment which is based on matters of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, [sexual orientation], marital status or physical or mental handicap.

The segment in question involved a discussion between the program's hosts and a fictitious frequent caller named “Robert”. “Robert” explained to the hosts how he goes about “hunting Hindus”. The Panel concluded that, although the segment was apparently intended to be funny, there was no doubt that, in this instance, the humour had crossed the line of acceptability on Canadian airwaves:

[T]he Panel considers that the comments directed at Hindus with respect to their alleged habits, practices and conventions have unquestionably gone too far. The jokesters did not “poke” fun; they bludgeoned. They did not “tickle”; they were nasty. They did not joke with Hindus; they laughed at Hindus; they made fun of Hindus. They demeaned and denigrated the objects of their “humour”. This was “grit your teeth”, “cringe in discomfort” mockery; it had no cuteness or levity to offer.

[…]

While the Quebec Panel does not for an instant believe that the sketch was intended as incitement to violence, it does consider that the hunting metaphor was, if anything, inflammatory in the circumstances.

The Panel did not, however, find that “Robert's” comments about his wife, which included referring to her as “big mamma” amounted to sexism in violation of the above-mentioned human rights clause, or any of the other clauses concerning exploitation and sex-role portrayal.

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 500 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