Cliptoman is a comedic talk show during which host comedian Mike Ward and his guests critique music videos. During the episode which is the subject of this decision, guests Cathleen Rouleau and Stéphane Fallu contributed their funny and/or sarcastic comments about the videos presented.
MusiquePlus broadcast the episode at 9:00 pm on November 7, 2012. It preceded the broadcast by a viewer advisory in video format only that read as follows:
Warning: This program contains material that may shock some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.
MusiquePlus did not, however, rebroadcast this advisory following each commercial break and did not broadcast any audio version of it. MusiquePlus also did not display a classification icon at the beginning of the program.
The theme of the episode was music from movies, so videos of songs from selected films were shown. The host and his guests made several comments of a sexual nature about the celebrities, the song lyrics and the contents of the videos. For example, during the song “Everything I Do (I Do It For You)” by Bryan Adams, Ward suggested that the singer probably wanted to show his “dick” to young people because he was wearing his raincoat like a flasher. During a Madonna video shown later in the program, Ward suggested that Mini-Me, the character in the Austin Powers movies, would have gotten lost in the singer’s vagina, where, he added, it was possible to see basketball players. There was also a video from the film Dirty Dancing featuring the actor Patrick Swayze who died of cancer in 2009. In this instance, Ward made the following comment: [translation] “I like Patrick Swayze. I really do. Good thing I’m not gay, because if I was gay I think I would dig him up and blow him.” In addition, the host, or his guests, used the English expression “fuck off” and the French word “hostie” at least once. (A more complete description and transcription can be found in Appendix A.)
That very evening, a viewer filed a complaint with the CBSC about this program, saying that it was [translation] “quite simply disgusting” because it is “a half hour of bitching about videos” without “any constructive comment” and just “direct insults aimed at the producers, the performers or the others appearing in the clips.” She indicated that each episode is full of the same type of comments and noted more particularly the comment about Patrick Swayze mentioned above. The complainant was of the view that this constituted a homophobic joke about a deceased individual, which she maintained was completely unacceptable.
MusiquePlus replied to the complainant in writing on December 10. In that letter, the broadcaster noted that [translation] “Cliptoman is meant to be a humorous and irreverent program designed to revisit and critique certain music videos under a specific theme in a light and comical fashion.” Although MusiquePlus mentioned that it broadcast a viewer advisory at the beginning of the program, it admitted in a separate letter addressed to the CBSC of March 7, 2013 that the advisory should have been provided after each commercial break and also in audio format. For her part, the complainant filed a Ruling Request on December 14. (The full text of all correspondence can be found in Appendix B.)
The Quebec Regional Panel examined the complaint under the following clauses of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics, Violence Code and Equitable Portrayal Code:
CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 1 – General Programming
Recognizing the varied tastes of the public it shall be the responsibility of broadcasters to so program the various stations, networks and services that, as far as possible, all groups of listeners and viewers shall have from these, some part of the programming devoted to their special likes and desires.
CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 2 – Human Rights
Recognizing that every person has the right to full and equal recognition and to enjoy certain fundamental rights and freedoms, broadcasters shall ensure that their programming contains no abusive or unduly discriminatory material or comment which is based on matters of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability.
CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 6 – Full, Fair and Proper Presentation
It is recognized that the full, fair and proper presentation of news, opinion, comment and editorial is the prime and fundamental responsibility of each broadcaster. This principle shall apply to all radio and television programming, whether it relates to news, public affairs, magazine, talk, call-in, interview or other broadcasting formats in which news, opinion, comment or editorial may be expressed by broadcaster employees, their invited guests or callers.
CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 10 – Television Broadcasting (Scheduling)
CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 11 – Viewer Advisories
To assist consumers in making their viewing choices, when programming includes mature subject matter or scenes with nudity, sexually explicit material, coarse or offensive language, or other material susceptible of offending viewers, broadcasters shall provide a viewer advisory
CAB Equitable Portrayal Code, Clause 2 – Human Rights
Recognizing that every person has the right to the full enjoyment of certain fundamental rights and freedoms, broadcasters shall ensure that their programming contains no abusive or unduly discriminatory material or comment which is based on matters of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability.
CAB Violence Code, Article 4 – Classification
Ratings Classification for Canadian French-Language Broadcasters
E – Exempt
Programs exempt from classification.
This classification applies to:
Exempt programming does not require an on-screen classification icon and broadcasters are not required to encode a rating into the broadcast signal.
The Panel Adjudicators read all of the correspondence and viewed the program in question. The Panel concludes that MusiquePlus breached Clause 11 of the CAB Code of Ethics by providing a viewer advisory in video format only and by failing to broadcast the advisory after every commercial break, but it did not breach any other provision.
After carefully reviewing Ward’s comments regarding Patrick Swayze, the Panel concludes that, while the terms used by Mike Ward were crude, they do not constitute “abusive or unduly discriminatory” comment with respect to sexual orientation under the terms of Clauses 2 of the CAB Code of Ethics and Equitable Portrayal Code. 1
Similarly, the Panel sees nothing in the comments made by the host and his guests that is particularly insulting to the celebrities they discussed. In fact, the CBSC has consistently ruled that broadcasters can make satirical or mocking comments about public figures without necessarily breaching the provisions of Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics. 2 Consequently, the Panel Adjudicators conclude that the remarks made by the host and his guests, while undoubtedly vulgar and in poor taste in the view of certain viewers, do not violate the Codes.
The Panel Adjudicators noted that the program participants used the expression “fuck off” and the term “hostie” at least once during the episode and these terms are considered coarse language that cannot be broadcast prior to 9:00 pm. 3 ; They also noted that the sexual content was not explicit but rather suggestive and could have been broadcast at any time of the day. 4 As Cliptoman is broadcast at 9:00 pm, in other words during the late viewing period, the broadcaster is considered to have complied with the provisions of Clause 10 a) of the CAB Code of Ethics with respect to scheduling of programs intended for adult audiences.
MusiquePlus broadcast a single viewer advisory at the beginning of the program in video format only. While satisfied with the wording of the advisory, the Panel concluded that the broadcaster did not meet the requirements of Clause 11 of the CAB Code of Ethics because the advisory should have been provided in both audio and video formats and should have been repeated after each commercial break. 5 The Panel Adjudicators note that in a letter it addressed to the CBSC on March 7, 2013, MusiquePlus itself recognized that it did not comply with the Code provision regarding viewer advisories.
Finally, the Panel observes that Cliptoman is a hybrid program combining a talk show and music videos which are both genres exempt from classification under Article 4 of the CAB Violence Code.
In all CBSC decisions, the Panels assess the broadcaster’s response to the complainant. The broadcaster need not agree with the complainant’s position, but it must respond in a courteous, thoughtful and thorough manner. In this case, the Panel Adjudicators note with satisfaction that the broadcaster admitted its error regarding the viewer advisories. The broadcaster fulfilled its obligations of responsiveness and, subject to the announcement of this decision, nothing further is required in this regard in this instance.
Announcement Of The Decision
MusiquePlus is required to: 1) announce the decision, in the following terms, once during prime time within three days following the release of this decision and once more within seven days following the release of this decision during the time period in which Cliptoman was broadcast, but not on the same day as the first mandated announcement; 2) within the fourteen days following the broadcasts of the announcements, to provide written confirmation of the airing of the statement to the complainant who filed the Ruling Request; and 3) at that time, to provide the CBSC with a copy of that written confirmation and with air check copies of the broadcasts of the two announcements which must be made by MusiquePlus.
The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has found that MusiquePlus breached the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Code of Ethics in its broadcast of the program Cliptoman on November 7, 2012. During that broadcast, MusiquePlus failed to present a viewer advisory with the frequency and form required by Clause 11 of that code.
This decision is a public document upon its release by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.
1 See the following decisions for other examples of comments that referred to sexual orientation: CHQR-AM re Forbes and Friends (CBSC Decision 92/93-0187, August 8, 1994); CFNY-FM re Humble & Fred (South Park Clip) (CBSC Decision 97/98-0615, July 28, 1998); and CHOI-FM re comments made during a segment of Le Retour de Radio X (CBSC Decision 08/09-0492, March 17, 2009).
2 SRC re Bye Bye 2008 (CBSC Decision 08/09-0620+, March 17, 2009) and CFRB-AM re comments made on The City with Mayor Rob Ford (CBSC Decision 11/12-1881 & -1942, December 21, 2012).
3 TQS re an episode of Scrap Metal (CBSC Decision 08/09-1711, August 11, 2009); TVA re La Série Montréal-Québec (CBSC Decision 10/11-0781, July 14, 2011); and TVA re Juste pour rire: Le gala hommage à Denise Filiatrault (CBSC Decision 11/12-0977, August 8, 2012).
4 Canal D re Festival Juste pour Rire and Comicographies Juste pour Rire: François Morency (CBSC Decision 02/03-0142 & -0143, July 17, 2003); TQS re the movie Film de peur (CBSC Decision 02/03-0940, April 22, 2004); SRC re Bye Bye 2008 (CBSC Decision 08/09-0620+, March 17, 2009); and TVA re Les galas “Juste pour rire” 2011: Le party à Mercier (CBSC Decision 11/12-2033, January 23, 2013).
5 TQS re the movie Film de peur (CBSC Decision 02/03-0940, April 22, 2004); TQS re two episodes of the program Sex Shop (CBSC Decision 03/04-0162 & -0320, April 22, 2004); TQS re an episode of Scrap Metal (CBSC Decision 08/09-1711, August 11, 2009); and Canal D re an episode of Sexe Réalité (CBSC Decision 09/10-1790, January 25, 2011).