Tosh.O is an American comedy program on which host Daniel Tosh presents video-clips taken from online sources and makes humorous comments about them. The Comedy Network aired a promotional spot for its broadcast of the program. The 10-second promo aired at 6:46 pm on August 6, 2011.
The promo began with Tosh saying, “Here’s something I’m sure we’ve all wanted to do”. There was then a video-clip showing a car driving fairly quickly through a crowd of bicyclists on a city street. Tosh then said “And that was the year a car won the Tour de France”. The promo concluded with words on the screen indicating the time at which The Comedy Network would be broadcasting the program.
On August 11, the CBSC received a complaint about the promo from a viewer who expressed concern that “There can be no reliable assurance that no one was seriously hurt under the circumstances and it is completely inappropriate to expect the audience to derive genuine amusement from this scenario”. The complainant suggested that the broadcast demonstrated an “appalling lack of judgment”. The Comedy Network responded to the complainant on September 20. Its letter explained that Tosh.O features “clips found on YouTube.com and which could also be featured on the nightly news. The producers of the series would not be allowed to use a clip that featured fatalities.” The station also pointed out that comedy is subjective and that it acknowledges that some irreverent humour is distasteful to some viewers. The complainant filed his Ruling Request on November 8 (the full text of all correspondence can be found in the Appendix).
The CBSC National Specialty Services Panel examined the complaint under Article 1.0 of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Violence Code which reads as follows:
Article 1.0 – Content
1.1 Canadian broadcasters shall not air programming which:
- contains gratuitous violence in any form*
- sanctions, promotes or glamorizes violence
(*“Gratuitous” means material which does not play an integral role in developing the plot, character or theme of the material as a whole).
The Panel Adjudicators read all of the correspondence and viewed the promo in question. The Panel concludes that the broadcast violated Article 1.1 of the CAB Violence Code.
Violence in Promotional Spots
The CBSC determined in a previous decision that the prohibition against gratuitous violence contained in Article 1.1 of the CAB Violence Code is not applicable to advertisements and promos because the short duration of such spots do not allow for a development of plot, character or theme. 1 In contrast, the prohibition against sanctioning, promoting or glamorizing violence, found in the second bullet of that Code provision, does apply to advertisements and promotional spots. 2
The Comedy Network’s Tosh.O promo was only 10 seconds long, but it contained a scene of obvious violence as the car ploughed through the crowd of cyclists. The National Specialty Services Panel notes that this was footage of a real incident that had occurred in Brazil in February 2011. According to reports, there were no fatalities, but as many as 40 people were injured. The Panel considers that the promo’s light-hearted treatment of the serious incident did sanction, promote or glamorize violence, particularly since Tosh stated “Here’s something I’m sure we’ve all wanted to do”. That phrase has the effect of validating and supporting the actions, contrary to Article 1.1 of the CAB Violence Code.
In all CBSC decisions, the Panels assess the broadcaster’s response to the complainant. The broadcaster need not agree with the complainant’s position, but it must respond in a courteous, thoughtful and thorough manner. In this case, The Comedy Network provided a reply to the complainant, outlining its view of the broadcast. The broadcaster fulfilled its obligations of responsiveness and nothing further is required in this regard in this instance.
Announcement of the Decision
The Comedy Network is required to: 1) announce the decision, in the following terms, once during prime time within three days following the release of this decision and once more within seven days following the release of this decision during the time period in which the promo for Tosh.O was broadcast; 2) within the fourteen days following the broadcasts of the announcements, to provide written confirmation of the airing of the statement to the complainant who filed the Ruling Request; and 3) at that time, to provide the CBSC with a copy of that written confirmation and with air check copies of the broadcasts of the two announcements which must be made by The Comedy Network.
The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has found that The Comedy Network violated the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Violence Code in its broadcast of a promo for Tosh.O. The promo aired on August 6, 2011. It contained an inappropriate scene of violence contrary to Article 1.0 of the Code.
This decision is a public document upon its release by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.
2 The Comedy Network re a promotional spot for The Roast of Joan Rivers (CBSC Decision 09/10-0259, October 5, 2010)