Mocking Comments about Asians in Violation of CAB Code of Ethics,

Ottawa, March 7, 2006 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning comments made on the program Fun Radio broadcast on CKOI-FM (96.9, Montréal).  One of the hosts made comments about Asian people, which a majority of the CBSC Quebec Regional Panel Adjudicators concluded were abusive and unduly discriminatory and thus in violation of the Human Rights clause of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics.  A minority of Panel Adjudicators, however, considered that the comments did not violate that Code provision. 

In a June 22, 2005 episode of Fun Radio, host and comedienne Cathy Gauthier did a segment on “things she was a bit ashamed to admit.”  Among other things, she admitted that she was unable to differentiate people of various Asian nationalities, more precisely, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans and Thais.  She then went on to make some mocking comments in a pseudo-Asian accent and to give “reasons” for which Asians were physically small in stature.  She also asserted that Asians would take over Canada by their numbers, so that “[translation] in a hundred years, the country will be called ‘Lakanadai’.” 

The Quebec Regional Panel examined the complaint under the Human Rights Clause of the CAB Code of Ethics which prohibits the broadcast of abusive or unduly discriminatory comment based on race or national or ethnic origin.  A majority of Quebec Panel Adjudicators concluded that the segment did violate that clause.  They did acknowledge that the host 

may have intended to tickle and not to bludgeon but they do not consider that intention to be material.  What matters, after all, is the way the comments are received by members of the audience.  A number of factors must be taken into account.  These include the naked words used, to be sure, but they also include the way they are put together, their tone and their impact on reasonable listeners. 

They then concluded: 

The majority […] find the co-host’s refuge in her own shame that she cannot tell Asians apart the springboard for her humour at their expense.  […]  The humour in the routine was not, in the view of the Panel majority, trivial or harmless.  Unduly discriminatory comments may take many forms.  These include derision, stereotyping and mockery, which were all present. 

A minority of the Panel Adjudicators, however, offered a dissenting view: 

Arguably, the comments reflect, not on Asians, the broadly identifiable group, but on the person observing that she cannot tell the difference between different Asian nationalities […].  She laughs at herself but not at the members of the various Asian communities to which she has referred […].

Canada’s private broadcasters have themselves created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, gender portrayal and television violence 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, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic practices first created by the Radio Television News Directors Association of Canada (RTNDA) in 1970.  More than 550 radio and 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