Religious Program Distorted Facts and Contained Abusive Comments about Homosexuals, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, December 8, 2010 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the religious talk program Word TV broadcast on CITS-TV (CTS – Crossroads Television Ontario).  The CBSC concluded that the program violated provisions of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics and Equitable Portrayal Code.

Word TV (previously called Word.ca) is a religious talk program hosted by Charles McVety, who discusses political issues and current events from an evangelical Christian perspective and sometimes has guests on the show.  The CBSC received complaints about the program’s treatment of different issues, such as homosexuality, Islam, Haiti and euthanasia.  The complainant felt that the program had included discriminatory comments on the basis of sexual orientation, religion and mental disability.

The CBSC’s Ontario Regional Panel examined the complaints under the Human Rights clauses of the CAB Code of Ethics and Equitable Portrayal Code, which prohibit the broadcast of abusive or unduly discriminatory comment about identifiable groups.  It also examined them under the Religious Programming Clause of the CAB Code of Ethics, which prohibits attacks on identifiable groups in such programming, as well as the Negative Portrayal Clause of the CAB Equitable Portrayal Code.

With respect to the comments about homosexuality, the Panel explained that the program was entitled to air objections to that practice generally, to government funding of gay pride parades and to changes made to an Ontario school curriculum that would include discussion of homosexuality.  When, however, the program suggested that homosexuals prey on children, it violated the Human Rights, Religious Programming and Negative Portrayal Clauses.  In the Panel’s words, “McVety may not like homosexuality.  That is his entitlement, but to leave the totally unsubstantiated impression that gay and lesbian adults have a predilection toward young, underage people is insidious and unacceptable.  In all, the Panel finds the McVety mis-characterizations as excessive, inappropriate, disparaging, and abusive […].”  The Panel also found that the program violated the Full, Fair and Proper Presentation Clause of the CAB Code of Ethics for dramatically distorting certain facts.  For example, McVety claimed that the Alberta and Ontario Human Rights Commissions have a 100% “conviction” rate, which is entirely inaccurate.  He also stated that “speaking out” against homosexuality is now a “crime” in Canada, which is also an inaccurate statement regarding the hate speech provisions of the Criminal Code.

McVety also discussed Islam and Muslims.  He talked about Biblical history relating to conflicts between Muslims and Jews, the role of the Grand Mufti during World War Two, the Fort Hood shootings, various terrorist attacks, and the Iranian president’s statements about the development of nuclear weapons.  The overall message was that Muslims could be a threat to Christians and the Western world, but the Panel found no Code breaches because there was repeatedly a distinction drawn between Islam and radical Islam.

With respect to euthanasia, McVety and his guest objected to a bill that would have legalized euthanasia that was then before the House of Commons.  They expressed their concern that the law would make it too easy for doctors to convince people suffering from mental distress to agree to assisted suicide.  The Panel considered that “it was entirely reasonable that they hold and broadcast an opinion on a matter of such societal importance, whatever their viewpoint.  Nor does the Panel consider that any of that discussion in any way disparaged persons on account of their disability.”

McVety also made some comments about Haiti and Haitians in the aftermath of the devastating January 2010 earthquake.  He encouraged viewers to donate to help Haitians in need, but also referred to the Satanism and the “deal with the devil” that he believed Haitians had made in the past.  The Panel again found no Code breaches, observing that “Those may or may not be correct appreciations, but the Panel doubts that they are easily assessable conclusions.”  The Panel concluded that “the expression of those opinions was made in a positive context and did not reach the level of abusive or unduly discriminatory comment based on religion, nationality or ethnicity.”

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 750 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