Song Lyrics Promoting Violence Breach Broadcast Code

Ottawa, June 14, 2005 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the song “Kill All the White Man” by punk band NOFX broadcast on CJKR-FM (Power 97, Winnipeg) in November 2004.  The Prairie Regional Panel concluded that the song was not abusive or unduly discriminatory on the basis of race but that it did promote or sanction violence contrary to the terms of the industry Code of Ethics

The song contains, as the title suggests, the refrain “Kill All the White Man”, as well as lyrics such as “The white man come to pillage my village” and “He rape my people as he rape my country”.  A listener complained that the song was racist.  The Prairie Panel examined the complaint under the Human Rights clause of the CAB Code of Ethics, which requires that broadcasters ensure that their programming does not contain any abusive or unduly discriminatory material which is based on matters of race, and the Radio Broadcasting clause of the CAB Code of Ethics which requires that broadcasters ensure that their programming does not contain any material that sanctions or promotes violence.  The Panel concluded that the song did not violate the Human Rights clause because it was basically the song creators’ legitimate political criticism of what they saw as the imperialistic policies of the white establishment but the Panel did conclude that the broadcast did violate the Radio Broadcasting clause because it proposed killing as a solution.  The Panel also commented that its findings relate only to the broadcast of the song on radio and not to its availability for sale elsewhere.  The Panel explained its position: 

[N]either the fact that the comments are made by white entertainers about white imperialists nor their self-critical nature either justifies or exacerbates the comments.  The creators’ racially self-critical comments are fair enough.  No breach of any Code provision would occur on that account.  Nor does any Code-related predicament arise from the speculative prediction that “We will be rid of him, soon come the day.”  The Panel finds no breach of the Human Rights clause in the words of the song.

While the Panel finds no Code breach in the words cited above, it concludes very differently with respect to the exhortation “Kill all the white man” for purposes of the radio broadcast of the challenged song.  The Panel’s observations are made with respect to the broadcast of the song and not in any way with respect to its availability for sale elsewhere.  The Panel’s concerns relate solely to the standards it is responsible to apply pursuant to the various Codes it administers on behalf of private broadcasters.  In this connection, it relies in particular on the language contained in Clause 9(a) of the CAB Code of Ethics, which provides that “particular care shall be taken by radio broadcasters to ensure that programming on their stations does not […] sanction, promote or glamorize violence.”  The “solution” to the ills described above is “Kill all the white man.”  Moreover, if the sentence is not in and of itself sufficiently unequivocal, the line is repeated no less than 23 times. […] The Panel concludes that, although the underlying political message of the song is in keeping with the goals of the principle of freedom of expression, its proposed solution is in breach of Clause 9(a) 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