Joke about Fat Women Does Not Violate Code, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, January 23, 2013 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning TVA’s broadcast of Les galas “Juste pour rire” 2011: Le party à Mercier on May 13, 2012 at 9:30 pm.  The CBSC concluded that a joke about fat women did not violate any broadcast codes.

The program was a stage performance by comedian Jean-François Mercier who is well known for his caustic style of humour.  At one point, he told a joke about being set up on a blind date with a fat woman.  Mercier then singled out a large woman in the audience for not laughing at his joke.  The two exchanged insults before the woman stormed out of the theatre.  At the end of the show, the woman emerged from a giant birthday cake, demonstrating that she had been part of the gag all along.

A viewer complained that this joke belittled obese women.  TVA pointed out that Mercier described himself as fat and the large woman was in on the joke, so the content did not violate any codes.  The CBSC’s Quebec Regional Panel agreed with the broadcaster.  It noted that obesity is not considered a disability for the purposes of the Human Rights clauses of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Codes.  It also concluded that the depiction of fat women was not improper in any way since the woman was evidently a willing participant in the gag.

The Panel also noted that the program contained numerous instances of coarse language, but this was not problematic after 9:00 pm.  It could not comment on TVA’s provision of viewer advisories because the station had sent it copies of the program only, rather than the entire broadcast.  The Panel reminded TVA that official logger copies are required in future.

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 760 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