No Broadcast Code Violation for Tasteless WWE Bottom Line Segment, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, March 9, 2004 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning one of the segments broadcast on The Score's Monday WWE Bottom Line, a “best of” magazine-style program that features updates and scenes on recent wrestling matches and events in the WWE world. The CBSC National Specialty Services Panel found no violation of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' (CAB) Sex-Role Portrayal Code.

A viewer had complained to the CBSC about a clip that showed an announcer who was forced to kiss what appeared to be (from the digitally blurred image) the bare buttocks of the WWE's CEO. The complainant viewer felt that the scene was degrading and that it sent an inappropriate message to potential children viewers. Although the Panel did not dispute that the clip was in bad taste, it found that it did not rise to the level of a Code breach.

The word “degrading” will be dealt with separately in the following section.) Bad taste is not, however, a Code-related issue. In broadcasting, as CBSC Panels have often explained, the primordial applicable principle is that of freedom of expression. It is not, however, a principle without limitation. The various constraining principles are those enunciated in the laws and regulations enacted by Parliament and the CRTC and in the Codes created by the private broadcasters as a reflection of their common standards of acceptable content. Simple bad taste is not, however, a breach of Code or statute.

The National Specialty Services Panel examined the segment under the CAB Sex-Role Portrayal Code's General Principle (c) and Article 4 (Exploitation), which together require that broadcasters avoid airing content degrading to women, children, or men. The Panel explained that

degrading comments must be related to the “role and nature of women, men or children.” And the next sentence in the [Code] Article provides that “Modes of dress, camera focus on areas of the body and similar modes of portrayal should not be degrading to either sex.” In other words, it is of the essence of the Article that the comments must be generic, not individually focussed. They must go, in the first instance, to the “role and nature” of one of the gender groups or children or, in the second example, be degrading to the gender as a whole. Comments or actions which are (regrettably, on one level) merely humiliating or degrading to an individual qua individual, rather than as a member of the male or female gender, do not attract the application of the Code provisions noted above. They may be, as in this case, tasteless and crude but they are not in breach of the Sex-Role Portrayal Code.

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 520 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