The Sexualization of Children during Morning Show Banter Breaches Code, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, February 23, 2011 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a segment broadcast during the CKIS-FM (KiSS 92.5, Toronto) morning show Roz & Mocha on August 13, 2010.  A complainant was concerned about an inappropriate conversation with a 10-year caller who had identified himself as “Noah”.  The complainant alleged that the hosts belittled his name, questioned his religion, colour and origin.  They then had a conversation regarding erections.  The Ontario Regional Panel found no breach regarding the human rights issue or the sexual comments, except insofar as they involved the sexualization of children.  It found a breach of the CAB Equitable Portrayal Code on that account.

Although the Panel found no Code breach regarding the human rights issues, it made the following observations regarding that issue:

When the hosts put the inappropriate question “Are you a white kid or a brown kid?”, Noah avoided the trap by replying, “Uh, I’m, well, I’m Canadian.”  Unable to resist an additional inappropriate observation, they concluded, “Okay, so you’re white.”  The Panel finds the hosts’ end of the commentary non-inclusive and insensitive.  Canada and its largest city are ethnoculturally diverse.  For the hosts to in effect draw the conclusion that the equation “Canadian equals white” is the rule, if ever it was, is no longer appropriate broadcast fare.  Moreover, such an observation coming from a powerful microphone risks desensitizing the public.

The hosts did make some jokes regarding the boy’s name, Noah.  The Panel found no breach in this regard:

In the matter at hand, the Panel does not find the humour the least bit pointed, heavy-handed or nasty vis-à-vis Noah.  At worst, they asked him whether others make “building an ark” jokes with him.  And when, in anticipation of the hypothetical fate-ordained 2012, the hosts asked whether they would be able to board the ark he and the other Noahs would build, he cleverly retorted, “[Yeah,] you guys get to be on the ark.”  Far from being critical at the caller’s expense, they observed, “You’re very articulate and well-spoken for a ten-year old.”

With respect to the discussion regarding erections, the hosts made puns on the word “ark / arc”.  The Panel did not find that the banter amounted to unduly sexually explicit material, but the Panel was troubled by sexual commentary relating to a child of 10.  Referring to previous decisions on the sexualization of children, the Panel concluded

that the hosts went beyond the mere reference to a private body part.  As in [an earlier Atlantic Panel] decision, the discussion was about a state of arousal.  In the Atlantic Panel decision, however, the dialogue was between the two hosts and the Panel still concluded that there had been a breach.  In the matter at hand, the discussion was not merely between two adult hosts, it was with a 10-year old.  The broadcast of this sexualization of the young caller, Noah, is also exploitative and in clear breach of Clauses 8(a) and 8(b) of the CAB Equitable Portrayal Code.

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.  Nearly 760 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