Ottawa, April 20, 2017 — The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning television promotional spots for the radio station CHUM-FM which were broadcast in September 2016 on CTV Toronto and CP24. The CBSC’s Panel was evenly divided on whether or not the promos breached code provisions relating to exploitation, degradation and sex-role stereotyping.
The promos featured a muscular white male actor standing against a white background. At the beginning, he is wearing clothes, but a female voice from off-screen directs him to remove his shirt and then his pants so he is holding only a card with the radio station logo covering his crotch. The female voice then asks for a smaller logo card, which appears. She then asks for one take without the logo, at which point the promo ends. Throughout the process, the male is trying to deliver the station’s tag lines, “Nothing but today’s best music on CHUM-FM”, “The naked truth”, “All stripped down to today’s best music”, and “It’s the whole package”.
The CBSC received numerous complaints from viewers who felt that the promos objectified the man. They suggested that had it been a male director asking a female to undress, the television stations would not even have considered airing the spots.
The CBSC’s English-Language Panel examined the complaints under the Stereotying, Exploitation and Degradation clauses of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Equitable Portrayal Code as well as the Sex-Role Stereotyping and Advertising clauses of the CAB Code of Ethics. The Adjudicators who found no breach came to that conclusion because the spots were intended to be humorous, reversed historical stereotypes in that it was the female director calling the shots with a male actor, and there was nothing lascivious in the female director’s demeanour that suggested she was degrading the man. The Adjudicators who did conclude there were code breaches stated that there was clearly a gender power imbalance in that a female was directing a male to remove his clothing for no other reason than her own desire, and he seemed obliged to obey. Those Adjudicators stated that such portrayals are unacceptable regardless of which genders are in the dominant and subordinate positions.
With a split decision, the broadcasters are not required to announce the CBSC’s findings on air since there is technically no breach of any code.
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. Around 800 radio stations, satellite radio services, television stations and specialty and pay television services across Canada participate in the Council.
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