CANADIAN BROADCAST STANDARDS COUNCIL

BRITISH COLUMBIA REGIONAL PANEL

CFMI-FM re Brother Jake Morning Show

(CBSC Decision 00/01-0688)

Decided January 23, 2002

S. Warren (Chair), H. Mack (Vice-Chair), R. Cohen (ad hoc), G. Leighton, M. Loh

THE FACTS

The Brother Jake Morning Show airs on CFMI-FM (Rock 101, Vancouver) every weekday morning starting at 6:00 am. The program contains usual morning show fare, such as news, traffic and weather reports, and songs. In addition, Brother Jake, Marty Strong, Oly the Joke Guy and Corrie Miller discuss current events and other topics of interest, which are sometimes of a sexual nature. The hosts' patter, which is occasionally juvenile (examples being jokes about flatulence), also includes jokes with sexual innuendo or that make fun of particular groups, and comedy sketches of a similar nature. The program also features a "Kids' Joke Segment" during which children are invited to phone in and tell a joke. In the broadcasts reviewed for this decision, even these jokes tended to include sexual innuendo. Transcripts of some of the segments described can be found in Appendix A.

The CBSC received the following complaint, dated February 9, 2001, which stated in part (the full text can be found in Appendix B):

Our shop has had CFMI/Rock 101 on our music on hold for over 10 years. I have previously written the station and told them how disappointed I have been with their morning line-up with Bro. Jake, and that I like the music, but think Jake and his crew are pigs. My decision to not listen to the station personally in the morning had not yet affected my firm's music on hold, but it has today.

We are a unionized electrical manufacturing firm, and deal with the same like and kind. We are not easily offended, and on occasion, I would reluctantly add, are ruder and cruder than most people you would care to associate with.

I had a comment passed on to me today from one of my clients [...]. When I questioned him as to what he heard, he stated, "Some loudmouth jerk was going on about having sloppy-ass sex". (approx. 0835h). Not wanting to convey that image to my customers, I immediately pulled the radio plug, but needed for my own benefit to see what was on the station.

Upon tuning in on CFMI/Rock101 (approx. 0845h), I was entertained by an animated discussion on exotic bedroom toys from "The Love Nest". The discussion went on about ticklers and worms that the guy installed upon his "schmegle" (sic). The conversation further went on about ben-wa balls, where great lengths were expounded upon this topic - as if "he" was a hard working x-music director for this station and he was now working in a dark, deep, and wet place. I left listening to the station at this time, as I had to conduct business. Approximately 45 minutes later I had to drive about so I returned to CFMI/Rock101 where little had changed with the quality of broadcast taste. Banter was going on about sports with Neil McRae. Apparently he had got lucky the previous night, and Jake wanted to know how he was "doin' on the workbench"? Neil, trying to stay on course, stated that he knew his way around tools, to which Jake stated "I know ya' know tools, but I'm talkin' about woman [sic]." The conversation went on about the hockey (where the score was dog-balls, like the balls on a dog: 0-0) and basketball games. A guy phoned in and talked on the radio to Jake and Neil. I believe that this man was the coach for the Vancouver Gizzlies who stated on the air amongst other things, "in looking at picture of McRae in the paper, I didn't know that assholes had teeth," or something to that effect. At that time, I turned the radio off.

In discussions with my co-workers, earlier in the morning there were discussions on CFMI/Rock101 about shaving one's ass with almond-butter (approx. 0630). You know ...., we can do a lot better than this.

I believe that the media should do a better job at policing itself, because it has an influence on all the listenership, not just the target marketplace. CFMI/Rock101 does not direct its misplaced anal humor to those who take offence, yet it is the unsuspecting who usually do. The 20-30 year old listener probably could not give a rat's-ass about dildos and what people do with one's posterior, but somebody has to. I no longer will have to explain to my customers, let alone to a child, why the announcer was talking about sloppy-ass sex, and I don't think anybody else should either. I don't think the listeners of our city's radio stations should have to endure ass jokes, cowboy-dick, gays inserting rodents up mates' butts, or hot Dickens cider sketches (all of which I have heard on this show on this station). Brother Jake may think this is funny, but I think it is tragic and pathetic.

[...] I totally abhor government intervention, but in some cases, such as this one, I feel that if you cannot control your dog, then maybe the regulators can.

The station used to have class. The morning line up is 100% crass. Too bad ... I still like the music.

The Programming Director of CFMI-FM responded to the complainant on April 3 with the following, in part (the full text can be found in Appendix B):

The Station targets adults 25 - 54, in particular, men. The Station's contest prizes often include packages provided by some of our key advertisement clients. It is a practice of the Program's hosts to describe the contents of the prize package, which is sometimes connected thematically with any upcoming occasion. On February 9th our client, The Love Nest had sponsored the prizes. As is usually the case, the Program's morning host described the contents of the prize package. The type of prizes offered that day were linked with Valentine's Day then coming up. We have reviewed this complaint with the Program's hosts to ensure product descriptions on air comply with all broadcast codes.

We regret that the content of the prize pack and the discussion of it by our hosts offended you. Many of the Station's listeners find the Program and the description of the prizes humorous. Humour and taste are extremely subjective elements and relative to the point of view of an individual.

You also object to the commentary about sports made by a caller later on in the Program. Given the core audience, the host of the Program often expresses strong opinions about sports. These opinions can be quite controversial and often result in strong reactions from our listeners, as was the case on February 9, 2001. However, please be assured that we do not condone foul language on air. As a member of the CBSC, we take all steps to abide by their Codes and have discussed this issue with all of the on air staff since this incident. We regret that the Program has offended you for that was not our intent.

The complainant requested that the matter be adjudicated by the British Columbia Regional Panel and sent the following letter on April 15:

As I received [CFMI-FM's] response letter on April 4th, I listened to the CFMI / ROCK101 morning broadcast for portions of the Jake morning show the next day, April 05, 2001. The following observations were made by myself during my on-again / off-again listening of this program. I believe the times noted are close to the moment of these occurrences.

I further feel, as before, that I must object to the content of the below noted issues, and wish for these new and further points to be added to my original complaint.

[The complainant then provided a list of segments that offended him and their approximate times.]

I cannot tell you or the CRTC as to exactly how disgusted I feel about these type of broadcast occurrences. These observations were made right after notice was supposedly given to on-air personnel on CBSC Codes and my listening for this brief period of time.

I believe that this station's policing of broadcast ethics is slim to non-existing, as CFMI / ROCK101 have shown no sign of remorse or change. [The Programming Director] must be aware of what his on-air people broadcast. [The Programming Director] appears to have tried to smooth my ruffled feathers with a smarmy letter and a fond thank-you for being a long time concerned listener, but it did not work because CFMI / ROCK101 did not change. If I heard a good quality clean-act show on April 5th, I probably would have let my CRTC complaint go, as all I was looking for was an in-house correction on CFMI / ROCK101 policies. As the management of this radio station appear to be financially successful with this type of venue, there seems to be little desire to change the format I initially objected to back in February. As a result, my stand has not changed either.

The complainant sent further correspondence on May 31:

Further to your letters of March and my responses of mid April, I wish to advise you that I have not had any further correspondence from you, the CRTC, or CFMI /ROCK101 with reference to my above noted file of complaint. I wish to further advise you that the Jake morning show on CFMI/ROCK101 is as bad - if not worse than it was as discussed in my previous correspondence.

I am constantly amazed that this man and his administrators allow for this crap to be still aired. I like the music, and the other DJs, but Jake Edwards, or whatever his real name is, is a loose cannon that must be tied down. I have got used to his base and anal "humour", where it no longer shocks me. Because of Jake's limited repertoire of "humour" I have heard most of his tapes and songs before. I now listen to him with the same fascination, as I would view a bad traffic accident. As I, on-again and off-again, listen to the radio between waking up and getting to work, I make mental notes of the topic and times of occurrence and dossier these in note format. I know that the radio station only has to retain their tapes for a certain number of days, and that some of these notes are probably now not provable. Nonetheless, please find attached a record of some of the recent comments, which I generally take offence to, as being unsuitable for public broadcast.

As a point of interest, I looked up the Corus Group on the net, and was amazed at the size and value of this enterprise. I was particularly interested to see that the basis of their market was family and children oriented broadcasts. It must be very disappointing for them to compromise their standards, to have a guy like Jake Edwards on the air, but ... money talks. The format of male oriented radio must financially work, as I understand that MOJO in Toronto is now going to have 7-24 broadcasts like the Bro. Jake show. I guess that money does come before ethics.

[The complainant provided a second list of offensive segments from the show from various dates.]

 

THE DECISION

The B.C. Regional Panel examined the broadcasts under the following provisions of the CAB Codes:

CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 6 (paragraph 3):

It is recognized that the full, fair and proper presentation of news, opinion, comment and editorial is the prime and fundamental responsibility of the broadcast publisher.

CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 2 (Human Rights):

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.

CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 15 (Sex-Role Stereotyping):

Recognizing that stereotyping images can and do cause negative influences, it shall be the responsibility of broadcasters to exhibit, to the best of their ability, a conscious sensitivity to the problems related to sex-role stereotyping, by refraining from exploitation and by the reflection of the intellectual and emotional equality of both sexes in programming.

CAB Sex-Role Portrayal Code, Article 4 (Exploitation):

Television and radio programming shall refrain from the exploitation of women, men and children. Negative or degrading comments on the role and nature of women, men or children in society shall be avoided. Modes of dress, camera focus on areas of the body and similar modes of portrayal should not be degrading to either sex.

The British Columbia Regional Panel reviewed all of the correspondence. For the purposes of adjudication the Panel members listened to tapes of the Brother Jake Morning Show broadcast on February 9, May 25 and May 31, 2001. The B.C. Regional Panel concludes that certain comments and audio sketches containing sexually explicit content broadcast on the Brother Jake Morning Show are in breach of Clause 6, paragraph 3 of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' (CAB) Code of Ethics because they were inappropriate for broadcast at a time of day when children might have been listening. The Panel also found that other jokes and comments, such as those making fun of particular ethnic groups, homosexuals, etc., and those containing more sexual innuendo than explicit descriptions, were in very bad taste, but not in breach of any broadcaster Codes.

Sexually Explicit Comments

A number of comments made by the hosts, as well as comedic taped sketches, were of a sexually explicit nature. For example, in the February 9th broadcast, the station was giving away a prize package with a Valentine's Day theme. The package included a variety of sex toys, which the hosts described in detail and to which they repeatedly made joking references during the rest of the show.

Another discussion that caused concern involved one male host's alleged sexual encounter on a workbench. The host described how his female date from the previous night "starts to do this wild striptease" and "gets down to her thong." He then went on to explain how he threw "her on the workbench" where "she's goin' nuts grabbin' my nuts and I'm just thinking 'this is great!'". The discussion continued for a few minutes during which time the host repeated how he put the woman on the workbench and "was just givin' it to her." At one point, one of the other hosts made the comment "You're a pig!".

One comedic sketch that contained sexual content was a clip of a woman with a Mexican accent in the throes of passion, shouting out things such as "Oh, the finger!" and "Oh, the tongue!"

The CBSC has dealt with sexually explicit radio content in previous decisions. One such decision was CHOM-FM and CILQ-FM re The Howard Stern Show (CBSC Decision 97/98-0001+, October 17-18, 1997). The Ontario and Quebec Regional Panels jointly concluded that Howard Stern's sexual discussions were inappropriate for broadcast at times when children could be listening. One of the dialogues cited in that decision involved Stern's account of his family vacation where his wife had forgot to bring her vibrators. The Panels stated:

[I]n the view of the Quebec and Ontario Regional Councils, descriptive opinion and comment such as that cited above regarding the sex life of Stern and his wife, details of which were broadcast during hours when children could be expected to be listening to radio is certainly not proper material for Canadian children. The Regional Councils also have no hesitation in concluding that Stern's language is not at all suitable at an hour when children could be expected to be listening to radio. Moreover, the issue of unsuitable language and the graphic discussion of sexual situations occurs with consistency, day in and day out on The Howard Stern Show.

[...]

In addition, therefore, to the other concerns expressed by the CBSC, it is its view that the time period in which The Howard Stern Show plays is entirely inappropriate and that the unsuitable language and graphic discussion of sexual situations which the CBSC found in the two weeks of episodes it reviewed will be repeated on a daily basis in future episodes, thus rendering the broadcasters carrying it in constant ongoing violation of the Code of Ethics.

The same issue arose again with respect to another episode of the same program. In CILQ-FM re The Howard Stern Show (CBSC Decision 97/98-0487, -0488, -0504 and -0535, February 20, 1998), the Ontario Regional Panel elaborated on the unsuitability of such subject matter for children:

Unlike the other breaches found in this matter, which would remain breaches of the Codes involved at any time of the day or night, the suitability of subject matter for children is a time-related issue. The aspects of the Stern Shows treated under this heading are unsuitable by reason of their ready accessibility by children rather than by reason of their nature. While perhaps not either pleasant or of broad social value at a late evening hour, their broadcast would not be challenged at that hour.

[...]

The CBSC considers that the "proper presentation of [...] opinion [or] comment", in the case of children is a function of what is suitable for them and it remains the Council's view that the description of explicit sexual acts, abetted in these December and January episodes by explicit discussions of violent acts, constitutes improper comment and is in breach of Clause 6(3) of the Code of Ethics.

In the case of the Brother Jake Morning Show, the B.C. Regional Panel also finds the sexually explicit content in violation of Clause 6, paragraph 3 of the CAB Code of Ethics for the same reasons. In the matter at hand, not only might children have been listening when the remarks were made, but children were in fact invited to be listening and to participate in the "Kids' Joke Segment", which encourages children to telephone the station and recite a joke on air. The hosts then judge the jokes and reward the child who tells the best one. In those episodes reviewed, the young people identified themselves as being between the ages of eight and twelve. On the February 9th broadcast, this Kids' Joke Segment preceded the aforementioned "sex on the workbench" discussion by a mere seven minutes. Such material is unsuitable for times of the day when children could be expected to be listening, let alone when the hosts are fully aware that children are listening.

The Panel did not find, however, that these sexually explicit comments were in breach of Clause 15 of the CAB Code of Ethics or the CAB Sex-Role Portrayal Code. The comments were distasteful and inappropriate but not degrading or exploitative of either gender. The "sex on the workbench" discussion in particular was an unflattering description of an intimate act (vis-à-vis both genders), but the male host did not in any way directly insult the woman with whom he had had this experience. As the Prairie Panel said in CKX-TV re National Lampoon's Animal House (CBSC Decision 96/97-0104, December 16, 1997),

While the portrayal of the women in the film is not overly flattering, it cannot either be said that the portrayal of the men is any better or advantages them in any way. All in all, the presentation of almost every one of this group of young college people is as unflattering as one might expect from a film emphasizing the frivolous, narcissistic, often gross, occasionally disgusting portrait of college fraternity life which can best be characterised as high farce. The question of portrayal inequality does not come into play.

Other comments made by the hosts that were less explicit and/or consisted of innuendo were not found to be in breach of Clause 6, paragraph 3 of the CAB Code of Ethics nor of the clauses in the CAB Code of Ethics and the CAB Sex-Role Portrayal Code concerning exploitation. These instances included cases of innuendo, such as Jake's remark that he would like the female host to "hold my import"; euphemisms referring to masturbation; the hosts making fun of a newscaster for accidentally pronouncing the word "deck" as "dick"; and so on.

Comments about Identifiable Groups

The comedic sketches and remarks uttered by the hosts occasionally involve members of an identifiable group, such as gays or lesbians or individuals on the basis of their national or ethnic background. For example, one recurring segment features a character named Olaf who appears to have a Scandinavian accent. Olaf frequently mispronounces English words, which are intended to result in sexual double-entendres. It is a part of the back story that Olaf claims he is from the fictional region of "Humpmeanddumpmestein" rather than any real European country. Furthermore, no negative comments are made about Olaf. Whatever humour there may be appears to be intended to flow from Olaf's exaggerated lexical and syntactical errors rather than from any characteristics of the individual or his presumed national or ethnic background. Indeed, the hosts converse in an amicable way with the character and nothing in the episodes aims to generalize negatively about people from Olaf's presumed ethnic origin. In dealing with a parody of the former Member of Parliament Jag Bhaduria, which involved the mimicking of the politician's own accent, the Ontario Regional Panel ruled in CHOG-AM re the Jessie and Gene Show (CBSC Decision 93/94-0242, November 15, 1994):

Provided that the satire or criticism is levelled at political persons on the basis of their actions as public figures and not on the basis of their national or ethnic origin, it must be permitted, if not encouraged. In this case, the Council agreed with the station that the parody had been directed toward Mr. Bhaduria himself, and not toward Indian people as a group.

The B.C. Panel recognizes that the earlier Ontario broadcast involved a public figure; however, it is its view that the principle can be justifiably extended to fictitious individuals, provided always that the accent can be fairly understood as being a light-handed, non-malicious bit of humour. As the Ontario Panel also ruled in CHFI-FM re The Don Daynard Show (CBSC Decision 94/95-0145, March 26, 1996), which involved a Jewish mothers lightbulb joke, that joke,

while ethnically pointed, was neither demeaning nor abusive. It was told in the context of a series of light bulb jokes aimed at feminists, Marxists, surrealists, accountants, etc. It poked fun but did not bludgeon. It tickled but was not nasty.

Correspondingly, the Panel does not find that this representation of Olaf as a foreigner (or other segments featuring characters with Mexican, Spanish and other accents) was in breach of the Human Rights Clause of the CAB Code of Ethics.

Homosexuals were also the subject of many taped audio sketches during the shows reviewed. In one such sketch, the "Gay James Bond" spoke in a stereotypically effeminate voice in "trying" to seduce his enemy, "Mr. Blowfellow". Although this sketch, and others like it, presented stereotypical images of homosexual males, the Panel does not consider that they constituted abusively or unduly discriminatory comment with respect to this identifiable group on the basis of their sexual orientation. In CILQ-FM re Parody Skit (CBSC Decision 95/96-0218, May 8, 1997), the Ontario Regional Panel was called upon to deal with a skit entitled "Bob the Fag Man". The Panel found no breach:

There is nothing complex about the matter under consideration here. The short skit in question is intended as a parody. It plays on the double entendre of the word "fag", which is used primarily in Britain and its former colonies as a slang term for cigarette, and which has a slang usage in North America to describe a gay man. The sole issue for the Council to consider is whether or not this use of the term was abusively discriminatory vis-à-vis gay men. In the view of the Council, it is not. While possibly an unflattering term, it does not, in the Council's view, rank with certain racial or ethnic epithets (which it does not wish to repeat here), particularly since members of the gay community use the word themselves from time to time in a non-discriminatory fashion. At worst, "fag" could be considered to be in poor taste, a matter on which the CBSC does not rule. In consequence, the Council finds that there is no breach of the Code.

In all, the Panel concludes that the comments and segments involving identifiable groups in the Brother Jake Morning Show episodes reviewed were not abusively or unduly discriminatory and thus not in contravention of Clause 2 of the CAB Code of Ethics.

Matters of Taste

The B.C. Regional Panel views much of the content of the Brother Jake Morning Show as juvenile, sophomoric, locker room-style and in poor taste. The hosts frequently discuss and make jokes about masturbation, flatulence and bodily functions and engage in discussions about such matters as Jake in his boxer shorts, "blue angel" farts, and a 0-0 sports score as being "dog balls". Although potentially offensive to many listeners, in cases where such material is not sexually explicit, the Panel does not find it in breach of any broadcaster Codes. As the Quebec and Ontario Regional Panels stated in CHOM-FM and CILQ-FM re The Howard Stern Show (CBSC Decision 97/98-0001+, October 17-18, 1997),

Many of the complaints received regarding The Howard Stern Show related to questions of taste. Stern was accused of being offensive, vulgar, adolescent, rude, unsuitable, outrageous, sick, tasteless and so on. [...] The Quebec and Ontario Regional Councils are, however, agreed that, under the present Codes, matters of taste must be left to be regulated by the marketplace. Such choices remain those of the listener. This is the time when the on/off switch is the listener's coping mechanism. Unless comments made by a broadcaster are of a nature to breach the provisions of one or more of the Codes, the CBSC will not judge them one way or the other.

The foregoing remarks on the episodes of the Vancouver radio show currently under consideration, even if in poor taste, are not sufficiently sexually explicit to be found in breach of Clause 6, paragraph 3, of the CAB Code of Ethics.

BROADCASTER RESPONSIVENESS

In all CBSC decisions, the Regional Panels assess the broadcaster's responsiveness to the complainant. Although the broadcaster need not agree with the complainant, it is expected that its representatives charged with replying to complaints will address all the complainant's concerns in a thorough and respectful manner. In this case, the Panel finds that the broadcaster's response was, in this regard, entirely appropriate in that it addressed the specific points brought up by the complainant. The Panel considers that CFMI-FM has met its responsiveness responsibilities of CBSC membership.

ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE DECISION

CFMI-FM is required to: 1) announce this decision, in the following terms, once during peak listening hours within three days following the release of this decision and once more within seven days following the release of this decision in the time period in which the Brother Jake Morning Show is broadcast; 2) within fourteen days following the broadcast of the announcements, to provide written confirmation of the airing of the announcements to the complainant who filed the Ruling Request; and 3) to provide the CBSC with that written confirmation and with air check copies of the broadcasts of the two announcements which must be made by CFMI-FM.

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has found that CFMI-FM has breached the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Code of Ethics during the Brother Jake Morning Show on February 9, May 25 and May 31, 2001. The episodes included sexually explicit material which was broadcast at times of the day when children could be expected, and were encouraged by the broadcaster, to be listening, contrary to Clause 6, paragraph 3 of the Code of Ethics which requires that broadcasters ensure the proper presentation of opinion and comment.

This decision is a public document upon its release by the Canadian Broadcast Stand