Portraying Gays and Lesbians Inaccurately, Unfairly and Inappropriately Breaches Code, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, May 11, 2005 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a broadcast of the religious program John Hagee Today aired on CITS-TV (CTS) on September 17, 2004.  The CBSC Ontario Regional Panel concluded that the episode contained unduly discriminatory content on the basis of sexual orientation contrary to the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics.

John Hagee Today is a religious program hosted by American evangelist Pastor John Hagee.  In an episode entitled “Diamonds for Successful Living”, Hagee’s sermon addressed the lack of Christianity in the United States’ public school system.  He criticized the school system for allegedly banning Bibles, referring to “Winter Break” rather than “Christmas Break” and, in Hagee’s opinion, promoting homosexuality.  In his references to homosexuality, Hagee suggested that homosexuals “recruit” and “start brain-washing” children because they cannot have their own.  The CBSC received a complaint from a viewer who felt that these comments were hateful towards homosexuals.

The Ontario Regional Panel examined the complaint under Clause 2 (Human Rights) of the CAB Code of Ethics, which requires that broadcasters “ensure that their programming contains no abusive or unduly discriminatory material or comment which is based on matters of […] sexual orientation […].”  The Panel also examined the complaint under Clause 8 (Religious Programming), which requires that religious programs “shall not be used to convey attacks upon another race or religion” or other identifiable group.  Although the Panel acknowledged that CTS is fully entitled to air religious programming that opposes homosexuality, it concluded that certain types of comments, such as the above-mentioned remarks, are unduly discriminatory and in contravention of the Human Rights and Religious Programming clauses.  The Panel made the following statements: 

The Ontario Regional Panel accepts the principle that there are comments that although discriminatory, may be acceptable in the context of religious programming.  […]

In the present matter, the Panel understands the bias of Pastor Hagee.  It is obvious to any viewer of the program.  He stands resolutely against homosexuality.  That is clearly his right but he does not stop there.  […] [H]e pins on gays and lesbians a “gay agenda” and the “brain-washing” of children in the schools.  He accuses the “homosexual lobby [… of] pushing this curriculum.”  In other words, he has attributed to gays and lesbians “a malevolent, insidious and conspiratorial purpose, a so-called ‘agenda’”, […].  In this case, […] the Panel finds that such an attribution constitutes a breach of the Human Rights and Religious Broadcasting Clauses of the CAB Code of Ethics.

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