Insulting Comments About an Individual Violate Broadcast Code

Ottawa, September 6, 2012 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a segment broadcast on CJAB-FM (NRJ 94.5 FM, Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean, Québec).  The hosts made negative comments about the appearance of a female candidate on the singing competition reality show Star Académie.  The CBSC concluded that they were improper under the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics.

On March 5, 2012, the hosts of the morning show, 94.5 Le Matin, on the pop-rock radio station discussed the previous night’s episode of Star Académie and mentioned one particular competitor who was a tall black woman.  Host Richard Courchesne referred to her as “Chewbacca”, the big, hairy hominid from the movie Star Wars and also mentioned that other nicknames for the woman included “Big Mama”, “Fiona” (the fat, green ogress from the animated movie Shrek) and “Elle s’appelait Serge” (“She Was Called Serge” — a reference to a song about a transgendered person).

The CBSC received numerous complaints about the broadcast, but only one complainant filed a Ruling Request.  The complainant was concerned that the comments were racist, insulting, and demonstrated a lack of respect towards the woman.  The CBSC’s Quebec Regional Panel found that the hosts comments focussed on the woman’s general appearance rather than her race, so the comments were not discriminatory on that basis under the Human Rights clauses of the CAB Code of Ethics and Equitable Portrayal Code.  The Panel did, however, find that the comments were insulting, and unfairly ridiculed the woman, resulting in a breach of Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics, which requires the “proper presentation” of all opinion, editorial and commentary.

The CBSC did not require CJAB-FM to announce its findings on air because Courchesne had read a lengthy and sincere apology on air two days following the broadcast.

The CBSC was created in 1990 by Canada’s private broadcasters to administer the codes of standards that they established for their industry.  The CBSC currently administers 7 codes which deal with ethics, equitable portrayal, violence, news and journalistic independence.  Nearly 750 radio stations, satellite radio services, television stations and specialty and pay television services 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