Discussion about Race Relations & Riots in England Was Acceptable, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, June 20, 2012 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning comments made on Sun News Network’s ByLine with Brian Lilley.  The CBSC concluded that a discussion about the role of race in the 2011 England riots did not violate the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics or Equitable Portrayal Code.

The episode of the public affairs program was originally broadcast on August 9, 2011 and rebroadcast on August 13.  Lilley and guest commentator Michael Coren talked about the riots that were then occurring in and around London, England.  Coren argued that the riots were not motivated by poverty as some rioters claimed, but rather were related to the “gang culture” in predominantly black neighbourhoods.  When Lilley asked Coren about the fact that the rioters were communicating amongst themselves via digital mobile devices, Coren responded, “It’s not about BlackBerrys.  It’s about black thugs.”

The CBSC received a number of complaints about Coren’s “black thugs” comment and his overall view that the riots were caused by “black culture”.  Sun News argued that Coren was simply providing his opinion on a controversial political issue.

The CBSC’s National Specialty Services Panel examined the complaints under various provisions of the CAB Code of Ethics and Equitable Portrayal Code.  The majority of the Panel concluded that the discussion dealt with political and social issues and did not constitute abusive or unduly discriminatory comments about black people in general, nor did it contain unduly negative portrayals of that group.  There were, therefore, no violations of any Code provisions.  One adjudicator dissented because she felt that Coren had unfairly attributed all the blame for the riots to the black community.

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