Song with Gay Theme Not In Violation of the Code of Ethics, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, January 6, 2004 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a song aired on CFMI-FM’s Brother Jake Morning Show between 7:00 and 8:00 am on March 17, 2003.  A listener complained that the song implied that its subjects were either the clergy or, at least, Irish Catholics seeking inappropriate sexual relationships with young men.  The B.C. Regional Panel disagreed.  It found that there was no such content in the song itself and, consequently, that there was no breach of Clause 2 (Human Rights) of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) Code of Ethics.

The song in question, performed live on the station on St. Patrick’s Day by a singing group known as the Sons of Indecency, dealt with the lifestyle of two gay men and included some reference to sexual matters but none relating to religion on any level.  On the issue of human rights, the B.C. Regional Panel concluded the following:

A review of the actual wording of the song, however, reveals no language reflecting any of the concerns which were the underpinning of his [the complainant’s] two letters.  There simply is not any religious issue in the song.  It refers to two guys who are themselves gay.  They are not looking for anyone else, young or otherwise, since they live together in an apartment.  The word “Madonna” clearly refers to the singer and not, by any stretch of the imagination, to the Virgin Mary.  Nor is that word connected to the use of the word “immaculate”, which describes, to all appearances, the condition of their apartment.  In fact, there is not a single reference, either explicit or implied, to priests or religion anywhere in the song.

It follows from the unequivocal wording of the song that there is not even an issue to treat under Clause 2 of the CAB Code of Ethics.

On the issue of sexual content, while finding an undeniable reference to sexual matters in the song, the Panel found “that the two comments are quite subtle and far from explicit.  They might, in the view of the Panel, even be sufficiently obscure to pass under the radar of many persons.”  It did not find, therefore, that they were sufficiently explicit to fall afoul of the provisions of the Code.  They did not, in other words, “constitute a description of overt sexual acts of such a nature as to be in breach of Clause 9(b) of the 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 530 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