Religious Program Did Not Contain Abusive Commentary or Violence, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, March 26, 2010 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the religious program Jack Van Impe Presents broadcast on Global Manitoba (CKND-TV).  A viewer complained that the program hosts promoted hate and fear with their predictions about the end of the world and argued that the program should carry a viewer advisory alerting parents to the violent and misleading nature of the content.  The CBSC reviewed two episodes of the program and found that they did not violate any broadcast codes administered by the CBSC.

Jack Van Impe Presents is an American program hosted by Jack Van Impe and his wife Rexella.  The program generally consists of Rexella reading the week’s news headlines, focusing on reports about world conflicts and military actions, followed by Jack quoting Bible passages which he suggests describe and predict those world events.  The CBSC’s Prairie Regional Panel reviewed two episodes of the program which had been identified by the complainant viewer.  In those episodes, for example, Rexella listed news stories about missile attacks in Lebanon and Syria.  Jack then quoted numerous Bible scriptures that mention conflicts in those parts of the world.  Jack also emphasized that the Bible predicts that all of these wars are a sign that Jesus will return.  They noted a newspaper article in which US President Obama had stated that “we will never be at war with Islam”.  Jack responded with “I can’t agree with that because we are already at war with Islam.  We are fighting them in Iraq, in Afghanistan.  Perhaps soon in Pakistan.  Perhaps very soon in Iran.”  He then went on to talk about comments made by Iranian President Ahmadinejad.

A viewer complained to the CBSC about Van Impe’s consistent message of hate, fear and doom, and specifically mentioned Van Impe’s reference to being at war with Islam.  The complainant also observed that the program is broadcast on Sunday mornings and suggested that children could be disturbed by Van Impe’s predictions about violence and the end of the world, so it should carry a viewer advisory.

The Prairie Panel examined the complaint under relevant clauses of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics, Equitable Portrayal Code and Violence Code.  The Panel found no breach of any Code.  The Panel observed that, while there were discussions of global conflicts, there was no actual violence in the program, so there was clearly no breach of the CAB Violence Code and no requirement that the program contain viewer advisories or only be aired late in the evening.  The Panel stated

 

[T]he biblical references to tribulation, catastrophes, horrendous wars, atomic (or nuclear) warfare, the end of the world, the new world order, terrorism, the blowing up of synagogues, cyber-warfare, and other cataclysmic events, which may invoke fear in some, do not constitute, in the sense of the Code, violence.

With respect to the complainant’s allegations of hateful comments about other groups, the Panel made the following comments:

 

[M]any religious adherents view their way as the best way, if not the only way.  They may even be strident about their own religion, but that entitlement affords them no licence to attack other religions on the airwaves to make their case.  The Panel concludes that that principle applies fully here.  There is no comment in either episode that comes close to offending the prohibition against the broadcast of abusive or unduly discriminatory comment in the Human Rights Clause.  Nor, given the Panel’s conclusion regarding the absence of attacks on any other religion, does it find that there is any breach of Clause 8 of the CAB Code of Ethics.  […]  The Panel takes no position on the factual basis of Christian or other beliefs.  […]  Religionists are entitled to believe in something and to proselytize, even on the airwaves.  […]

[…] Jack Van Impe’s observation during the May 31 episode that “we are already at war with Islam” […] may or may not be a correct or accurate characterization of the recent and/or current world order, but that does not make it discriminatory, much less unduly discriminatory.  There is no breach of Clause 2 on this account.  Nor does the Panel conclude that the May 31 observations constitute an attack on Islam, in terms of Clause 8.  Nor do Van Impe’s observations that “we” are fighting Islam, i.e. Islamic countries, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other Muslim nations referred to in that same monologue amount to an attack on Islam, the religion.  Even if the characterization in historical terms is not accurate (and the Panel expresses no opinion on this point), the Panel finds no contextual attack on Islam or its practitioners that would constitute a breach of Clause 8.

The Panel disagreed with the complainant’s assertion that Jack Van Impe Presents should be rated 14+ and pointed out that it is an information program exempt from classification. The Panel also observed that there is no codified standard that prevents Van Impe from selling his books and DVDs during the program, an activity about which the viewer also complained.

Canada’s private broadcasters have themselves created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, equitable portrayal, television violence and journalistic independence 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 and the pay television Codes, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic ethics created by the RTNDA – Association of Electronic Journalists in 1970.  More than 735 radio stations, satellite radio services, 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