Mild Sexual Discussion Not Problematic during Morning Radio, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, April 28, 2010 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a “Josie & The City” segment broadcast on CIHT-FM (Hot 89.9, Ottawa) on May 5, 2009 at 7:43 am.  The CBSC concluded that the brief discussion that touched on a sexual topic did not violate Clause 9(b) of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics.

“Josie & The City” is a recurring segment on the Hot 89.9 morning show, The Morning Hot Tub.  Josie and her co-hosts discuss entertainment news and celebrity gossip.  On the May 5 segment, Josie talked about the Oprah Winfrey Show and how it was featuring more sexual topics in order to boost ratings.  She stated that the “O” now stood for “orgasm” and mentioned a previous episode of Oprah that had been considered controversial because a sex therapist had suggested that young females be introduced to vibrators so that they don’t rely on males for pleasure.  Her male co-host joked that men cannot “shake that fast”.

A listener complained that he had been driving with his children, aged 13 and 10, when they heard this segment and that the adult nature of the content was unsuitable for morning radio.  He also suggested that radio stations air a warning to listeners before broadcasting this type of adult content.  The station responded that its target demographic is females 25 to 34, so some of their on-air conversations are not intended for children.  Hot 89.9 also pointed out that it does not usually provide warnings especially since much of the dialogue is unscripted.

The CBSC’s Ontario Regional Panel reviewed the complaint under Clause 9(b) of the CAB Code of Ethics, which requires that radio stations refrain from airing “unduly sexually explicit material” at times of the day when children could be listening.  Based on previous CBSC decisions, the Ontario Panel concluded that the brief dialogue about sexual topics on Oprah did not contain any explicit descriptions of sexual activity, so it did not violate the Code.  The Panel stated that it was

quite conscious of the fact that the discussion by Josie may not be free from embarrassment for a parent, who might wish to choose his or her moment to broach such matters with a child.  Nonetheless, the codified standards cannot be expected to sanitize the airwaves; they must balance the rights of those who speak and those who listen.  In this case, as noted above, the Panel is of the view that the challenged programming may be broadcast, even at a time of the day when children could be expected to be exposed to it.

The Panel also noted that, unlike for television, there is no Code requirement for radio stations to broadcast advisories before adult content; however, “[a]n informal, helpful, although not mandatory, advisory could benefit listeners such as the complainant in this instance.”

Canada’s private broadcasters have themselves created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, equitable portrayal, television violence and journalistic independence 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 and the pay television Codes, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic ethics created by the RTNDA – Association of Electronic Journalists in 1970.  More than 735 radio stations, satellite radio services, 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