Former Open-Line Host’s Program in Breach of Code of Ethics due to Abusive Comments, Sexually Explicit Dialogue and Coarse Language, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, April 12, 2007 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released three (1, 2, 3) decisions concerning different episodes of the open-line program Doc Mailloux broadcast on CKAC (Montréal) on various dates in 2006 (March 27, April 4 and May 30).  In each case, the CBSC Quebec Regional Panel concluded that the challenged episodes were in violation of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics

Doc Mailloux was hosted by psychiatrist Pierre Mailloux and co-host Janine Ross, who took calls and discussed topics related to psychology, sociology and similar disciplines.  In the March episode, which dealt principally with the subject of money but touched on happiness, honour and other related issues, host Mailloux made nasty, prejudicial and racist comments about Cubans, Russians and Blacks.  The Quebec Panel found that “the comments of the host […] were blatantly abusive and discriminatory” and in violation of Clause 2 of the CAB Code of Ethics.  Mailloux also discussed sexual matters with a caller.  The Panel found that “those [sexual matters] that were described were utterly unnecessary to the issue being discussed.  They were gratuitously explicit and inappropriate for the time of day of the challenged episode.”  The Panel also concluded that the use of the words “hostie” and “fourrer” “fell squarely within the level of unduly coarse or offensive language” prohibited by Clause 9(c) of the CAB Code of Ethics

In the April episode, on which the question of the day was “Have you ever had to use a food bank?”, Mailloux referred to the plight of young blacks in the United States, as well as to Haitians.  Of the former discussion, the Panel concluded that there were no problems.  The Panel found 

that the discussion of the worsening situation of young Blacks in the United States was, on this occasion, handled factually, dispassionately and fairly.  Rather than drawing conclusions about the Black community, the host drew conclusions about the problems faced by the Black community.  While the underlying information resulting from the study was undeniably innately difficult or unpleasant, the host made no inferences about the community it related to.  His observations were, this time, without sweeping negative inferences; they were unprovocative.  They fell squarely within the limits of dialogue acceptable under the broad principle of freedom of expression. 

On the other hand, the comments about Haitians were “insulting, degrading and abusive, and in clear violation of” the Human Rights Clause of the CAB Code of Ethics.  The host had also used the word “crazy” to describe a female social worker simply because he disagreed with her approach and he suggested that such “idiocy” was typical of most women.  Consequently, the Panel concluded that Mailloux had “showed a level of disrespect and intolerance that was in violation of Clause 2.”  The Panel also decided that the use of the English word “fuck” during the episode breached the coarse language provision of the CAB Code of Ethics.  The complainant had also been troubled by the host’s reference to his own “apparent non-payment of taxes for 30 years.”  The Panel did not share those concerns. 

In the May episode, on which the question of the day was “Have you decided not to have children?”, host Mailloux made a series of comments about Quebec women that were found by the Quebec Panel to be unduly discriminatory. 

The following sweeping generalizations are obviously without foundation: [translations] “Women in Quebec are not properly brought up or educated if you will. The majority of them are very poorly brought up.”  The host returned to that theme at another point in the episode when he challenged his co-host: “Listen, have you ever seen a well brought up or educated woman in Quebec?”  Similarly, the broad accusation that one cannot say “No” to the “vast majority” of women in Quebec without suffering vengeful sexual reprisal is equally unduly discriminatory. […]  The general use of terminology such as “broads”, “wenches” and “shrews” reflects, particularly in the collective sense, a […] cumulative level of disrespect and intolerance that was in violation of Clause 2 of the CAB Code of Ethics and Clauses 2 and 4 of the CAB Sex-Role Portrayal Code

In discussion with two of the callers, the host also found a way to pass several minutes in discussion of explicit sexual matter, in violation of Clause 9(b) of the CAB Code of Ethics.  His use of the word “fuck” in that episode was equally in breach of Clause 9(c) of that Code.  The complainant also referred to the host’s crude comments about a previous decision of the CBSC (incorrectly identified by him as a decision of the CRTC).  The Panel did not find those comments in breach of the Code. 

The CBSC has said in previous decisions that broadcasters are free to criticize decisions of the CRTC, the Government, the courts and other such institutions that are in the business of developing policy and reaching conclusions about the rights of persons.  The appreciation of such questions falls squarely within the anticipated limits of the freedom of expression of all citizens.  This does not, however, mean that those who criticize are entitled to expect terminological shelter when their comments exceed the bounds of other codified standards.

In the matter at hand, it is certainly acceptable for the host to have been in total disagreement with the CBSC’s above-cited decision; however, what is regrettable is that this host apparently did not have the ability to express his disagreement in substantive or even literate terms.  The visceral reaction, [translations] “It was major damned bullshit” is hardly on the level of the explanation of the broadcaster’s breach in the first place.  And it was followed by an out-of-control reaction to the decision in the following language:  “So I say to the CRTC, my eye and up your anus.  Is that clear?”  Audiences deserve more.  On-air hosts have an obligation to manifest a certain level of aptitude before the powerful microphone that it is their privilege to employ.  While the foregoing comment is not equal to the responsibility of the host, the Panel concludes that it is inept and in the worst of taste but not sufficiently over the edge to be in breach of Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics

Due to the former CKAC’s host’s repeated disregard for the private broadcasters’ Codes, in order to remain a member of the CBSC, the broadcaster is required to provide a concrete indication of the measures which it intends to put in place to avoid further similar violations of the Codes.

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 600 radio and television stations and specialty services from across Canada are members of the Council. 

– 30 –

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