The Sexualization of Children on Radio Breaches the Broadcast Code, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, October 20, 2010 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning comments made about Justin Bieber fans on the CFNY-FM (102.1, The Edge, Toronto) morning show.  On October 20, 2009, the hosts of the Dean Blundell Show were discussing Twitter exchanges that Blundell had had with fans of the teen pop singer when the host made sexual references in relation to some of those young fans.  The CBSC concluded that the remarks violated Clause 8 (Exploitation) of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Equitable Portrayal Code which prohibits the sexualization of children in broadcasting.

Justin Bieber is a 16-year-old pop singer whose style appeals primarily to pre-teen and adolescent females, a style quite different from the alternative and hard rock music that are played on The Edge.  Apparently, Dean Blundell had posted comments on his Twitter page expressing his dislike for Bieber and implying, in vulgar terms, that Bieber was likely gay.  In response, over the following days, Blundell received numerous tweets from Bieber fans who defended the singer and insulted Blundell.  Blundell posted additional comments in response, some of which referred to incest.  In their on-air discussion of this matter on October 20, the co-hosts noted that the fans with whom Blundell had communicated were likely about 12 years old and they repeated a couple of the comments that Blundell had tweeted.  To a female fan, Blundell said he had tweeted, “Save your energy for puberty or to fend off your dad tonight while you’re sleepin’” and about the one male fan who had contacted him, Blundell said, “He’ll be chuggin’ before he’s 18 […] if he likes that music.”

A listener complained that the suggestions that the female fan would be a victim of incestual rape and that the male fan would become a male prostitute were totally inappropriate because they were directed at minors.  The station argued that the comments were not sexually explicit.  The CBSC’s Ontario Regional Panel agreed with the broadcaster that the remarks did not contain explicit descriptions of sexual acts, but it found that the comments inappropriately sexualized children contrary to Clause 8(b) of the CAB Equitable Portrayal Code.  The Panel stated:

The CBSC has found no justification for allegedly humorous references to children in sexual contexts, including those of the nature of sexual innuendo, double-entendres and inexplicit sexual comments that would not be problematic if the references were to adults.  […]  [T]he Panel concludes that the pre-pubescent reference, “Save your energy for puberty or to fend off your dad tonight while you’re sleepin’” was gratuitous, unnecessary and a clear violation of Clause 8 of the Equitable Portrayal Code.  The Panel also considers that the predictions that Josh, the youthful tweeter (they estimated his age as 12ish), will be “chugging” by the time he turns 18, are similar.  The Panel considers that these comments were just as gratuitous and unnecessary and were, consequently, equally a violation of Clause 8 of the 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.  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