French Swear Words Inappropriate During Daytime Radio, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, January 20, 2010 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the broadcast of coarse language during the programs Prends ça cool … and Deux gars le midi on CKRB-FM (103.5 Cool FM, St-Georges-de-Beauce, Quebec).  The CBSC concluded that the use of certain French swear words at times of the day when children could be listening to the radio violated Clause 9(c) of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics.

The CBSC received a number of complaints from one listener about the use of coarse language on various episodes of the programs Prends ça cool …, which aired from 6:00 to 9:00 am on weekdays, and Deux gars le midi, which aired at noon on weekdays.  Both programs were talk shows during which the hosts discussed currents events and other topics of interest and took calls from listeners.  In the context of different discussions, the hosts used the French words “tabarnac’”, “calice”, “chrisse” and “crissez-moi”.

The broadcaster indicated that the programs were intended to elicit emotions and provoke debate, and that coarse words slipped out on occasion, “as is the case everywhere else in radio.”  The CBSC’s Quebec Regional Panel reviewed five separate broadcast dates identified by the complainant.  It concluded that the airing of the words on four dates violated Clause 9(c) of the CAB Code of Ethics, which prohibits the broadcast of unduly coarse or offensive language.  The Panel found one instance, however, where one co-host had interrupted the other, which effectively prevented a coarse word from actually being broadcast.  The Panel found no Code breach in that case.  As the Panel said, “It is the broadcast, not the intention, that is required to constitute a breach of Clause 9(c).”

The Panel also commented on a defence raised by the broadcaster to the effect that other media outlets occasionally broadcast coarse language.  They concluded that this fact, even if true, does not provide CBSC member stations with a legitimate excuse to do the same.  The Panel explained:

 

There is […] a permissible range of animation, provocation and even showboating that goes with radio entertainment.  This does not, however, mean that there are no limits to what may be said in the pursuit of audience attention.  […]  The responsibility for the broadcast of inappropriate language is the broadcaster’s, whether the offending words are or are not those of their employees.  Nor is it a defence to acknowledge that there may be an inadvertent slip or that such “accidents” happen all over the place on radio.  […]  And there is no justification or defence in the broadcaster’s assertion that other broadcasters may be doing the same thing.

Canada’s private broadcasters have themselves created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, equitable portrayal, television violence and journalistic independence 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 and the pay television Codes, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic ethics created by the RTNDA – Association of Electronic Journalists in 1970.  More than 730 radio stations, satellite radio services, 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