Humorous Reliance on Tragic Historical Events Is Improper, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, August 27, 2003 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning an episode of the American-originating show Loveline broadcast on CHMJ-AM (MOJO Radio, Vancouver), between 10:00 pm and midnight, on December 23, 2002. A complainant was offended by explicit references to application of the tragic events of the Holocaust in a humorous context. The CBSC's British Columbia Regional Panel concluded that the humour was improper.

The broadcast in question was a “best of” episode of the show in which the hosts took a call from a female listener, “Lorraine”, a telephone sex operator, who was seeking advice on how to make her callers stay on the phone longer (she earned nothing from calls less than 7 minutes). In a humorous manner, the hosts suggested that she slip “subliminal” words (such as “Holocaust”, “Vietnam”, and “cancer”) into her dialogue with the callers in order to dampen their ardour and prolong the calls. The caller failed to understand what the hosts were suggesting and, in fact, had never heard of the Holocaust. As a result of the female caller's inability to even recognize the historical event, the hosts made sarcastic comments such as “burn those Jews” and “gas 'em in the shower, baby”. One listener complained to CBSC that this broadcast was offensive, racist and ridiculed the Holocaust experience. The broadcaster responded that the Holocaust was used as a word reflecting unpleasant images and that the humour in the segment was solely related to the inability of the caller to understand what was suggested to her.

The B.C Regional Panel examined the complaint under the Human Rights Clause as well as Clause 6 of the CAB's Code of Ethics, which requires the “full, fair and proper presentation of news, opinion, comment and editorial”. On the human rights issue, the Panel found that the comments were not unduly discriminatory.

It does not find that any of the comments quoted above were advocating violence toward the Jewish population. It does not consider that any of those comments were directed at that identifiable group. It does not believe that there was any attempt to denigrate or insult Jews. In short, the Panel does not find a scintilla of racist commentary in the remarks of either the co-hosts or their celebrity guest.

On the other hand, it decided that the “humorous constructs erected here on the base of great tragedy,” namely, the Holocaust in this instance, constituted improper comments. The Panel stated that it

understands the intended humour in the ludicrous concept of the sexual purveyor 'subliminally' mouthing such words in the midst of her erotic discourse. It also understands the mockable inanity of the intellectually hapless Lorraine. When, however, the hosts progressed to the level 'Yeah, yeah, burn those Jews. Gas' em in the shower, baby,' they exceeded any reasonable level of propriety.

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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