Host’s Use of Coarse Language in an Interview Inappropriate, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, April 14, 2005 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning an interview broadcast on the program L’Outaouais ce matin by radio station CJRC-AM in Gatineau. The CBSC Quebec Regional Panel found that the host’s aggressive use of an offensive phrase with his interviewee was in violation of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics.

On August 10, 2004, the host of L’Outaouais ce matin, Daniel Séguin, interviewed Patrice Demers, the president of Genex Communications. At the time of the broadcast, Genex Communications was the owner of a Quebec City radio licensee that had made headlines when the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) refused to renew its licence on grounds that had been understood publicly as resulting from the consistent broadcast of offensive, abusive or discriminatory content. On August 10, that radio station was holding a mass rally on Parliament Hill to protest the CRTC decision. Demers appeared on Séguin’s program to discuss the issue. The discussion about the CRTC decision, the protest and freedom of expression gradually became more heated, to the point where Séguin twice told Demers to “envoyer chier” ([translation] “fuck off”).

The CBSC received complaints about the coarse language and the behaviour of the host during the broadcast. The Quebec Regional Panel noted that Séguin was fully entitled to have a strong opinion on the subject, but that he had crossed the line by uttering coarse language directed at his interview subject. The Panel considered that

the bulk of the dialogue between Daniel Séguin and Patrice Demers was substantive and a valid interchange of perspectives on the issues […]. In the match-up, it is clear that Daniel Séguin was faring well and had the upper hand. It is particularly for this reason that the Quebec Panel does not understand why the host descended from the relatively high road to the level of a personal attack […]. In the entire dialogue, it is here and only here that the Quebec Panel takes issue with the broadcast of that morning. The Panel considers that the use of the [phrase “envoyer chier”] was overkill and, in terms of the broadcaster’s ethical obligations, unduly coarse and offensive, on the one hand, and improper, on the other. The Panel recognizes fully that Daniel Séguin wished to give Patrice Demers some of his station’s own medicine but this Panel did not find similar language acceptable in [a previous decision involving CHOI-FM as broadcaster] and it does not find it acceptable in the present case. It considers the use of the coarse and offensive language cited in this paragraph in breach of Clause 9 of the CAB Code of Ethics. It also considers that the use of such aggressive language to insult his invited guest was improper and in breach of Clause 6 of the Code.

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 550 radio and 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