Insulting Use of the F-Word on Air Violates Broadcast Standards, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, September 9, 2008 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a segment on Gilles Proulx’s Le journal du midi broadcast on CHMP-FM (98.5 FM, Montreal) on October 2, 2007.  During an early afternoon interview with the Assistant General Director of the Montreal Fire Safety Department, Proulx repeatedly used the English epithet “F**k you”, a comment that he directed at the firefighters of Montreal.  The CBSC concluded that the use of the f-word during a daytime broadcast and the insulting comment directed at a group were in violation of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics.

At the time of the interview, Montreal’s firefighters were engaged in a labour dispute with the City.  As an act of protest, the firefighters had allegedly sabotaged some fire stations so that their superiors would be prevented from entering the buildings.  Proulx argued that other professions and that he did not support the firefighters’ actions because taxpayers would then have to foot the bill for the damage.  In his dialogue, Proulx targeted the F-word at the firefighters.

The CBSC received a complaint from a firefighter who was offended by the comments.  The CBSC’s Quebec Regional Panel concluded that Proulx was fully entitled to express his opposition to the firefighters’ position in the labour dispute, but that he had gone too far by aiming his coarse language insults at the firefighters personally.  The CBSC also concluded that the use of the f-word during daytime hours violated the Code.  The Panel expressed its findings in the following terms:

 

The Panel draws a clear distinction between comments relating to policy matters, even those touching on individuals or groups and those that are directed at the individuals or groups on a personally insulting basis.  Thus, the Panel accepts the rough, possibly crude substantiation of the host’s position that “unionism must be revamped.”  They constitute a position he is entitled to take, even if he has gone over the top in his observations about the members of the firefighters union.  […]  The issue is not whether the host was right or wrong.  He had an opinion on the way union members operate in the labour-management conflict, in which conflict, as he observes, the public regularly pay the price.  The Panel supports his right to express those views, but they do not consider it a right without limitation.

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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