Directing Coarse Language at Individuals in Breach of Code,Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, December 6, 2005 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the broadcast of comments made on the CJMF-FM (93.3, Quebec City) afternoon programme, Le Trio de l’enfer.  During the episode of December 17, 2004, there was discussion of the state of radio in Quebec City, in the context of which the resignation of Robert Gillet and the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement (BBM)’s methodology were discussed.  A listener complained that the hosts had used the term “trous de cul” to refer to competitive Quebec City radio hosts André Arthur and Jeff Fillion, that their comments regarding Robert Gillet’s offences were trite and had diminished the significance of the crimes, and that other comments were also not of “high quality”. 

The Quebec Regional Panel noted that that CBSC Panel had previously decided that Arthur and Fillion had themselves used offensive language on-air in dealing with competitors.  It nonetheless concluded: 

It goes without saying that the fact that those hosts used insulting, nasty, crude and offensive comments about other persons in no way justifies any broadcaster in airing such language about them. […] In the present matter, the Panel […] finds the epithet personally directed, nasty and insulting.  It is in breach of [Clauses 6 and 9 of the CAB Code of Ethics]. 

The Panel also found that the use of the f-word by one of the hosts was 

in breach of the same Code provisions, although not for the same reason.  The language was unduly coarse and offensive and was used at a time of day (the after-school period) when children could be expected to be listening to the radio. 

The Panel found that the comments regarding the BBM data and the behaviour of Robert Gillet were not in breach of the Code of Ethics.  With respect to the latter comments, the Panel found 

nothing inappropriate in the observations of the hosts on this subject.  Alain Laforest was very clear in saying that he did not approve of what Gillet had done; however, he was equally unequivocal in saying that he disagreed with the outcome of the court decision.  What is particularly important, though, is that he did not do so in a disrespectful way; he rather explained dispassionately that he considered that the accused was not in a position of authority vis-à-vis the victim, a material issue from his perspective.  Whether or not he was right in law is not the issue.  He provided his justification for his point-of-view and was neither inflammatory nor sarcastic in his expression of disagreement.  Moreover, it was not even the principal thrust of his extensive comments on the subject of Gillet, which were directed at the latter’s attempted comeback in the broadcasting area.

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 550 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