Use of the F-Word and the Trivialization of Drunk Driving Require Post-9:00 pm Time Slot, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, February 14, 2007 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning an episode of an extreme sports magazine-style program called fatbluesky, aired by Global Television at 10:00 am; it included instances of the f-word and scenes of a man drinking beer while driving a speedboat.  The CBSC’s National Conventional Television Panel concluded that Global violated the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics for broadcasting the episode before the Watershed hour of 9:00 pm and for failing to include viewer advisories during the broadcast. 

The program fatbluesky was a magazine-style program targeted at young people.  It focussed on action sports such as skateboarding and extreme skiing and the related lifestyles and subcultures.  The episode that aired on Global on May 27, 2006 at 10:00 am featured a segment on a skateboarder.  At one point during the segment, the skateboarder was heard using the f-word.  Another segment in the episode focussed on a man who makes his living fishing.  He used the f-word repeatedly and was also shown driving his speedboat while continually drinking beer.  At one point he addressed the camera directly and encouraged the youth audience to behave like him.  The episode did not contain any viewer advisories. 

The CBSC received a complaint from a viewer who was concerned about the depiction of coarse language and unsafe behaviour in a program targeted at young people.  The broadcaster agreed that the episode had been inappropriate and pulled the program.  The CBSC Panel nonetheless reviewed the complaint under Clauses 10 and 11 of the CAB Code of Ethics, which require broadcasters to air adult material after 9:00 pm and to accompany such content with viewer advisories.  The National Conventional Television Panel concluded that the presence of the f-word rendered the program “intended exclusively for adults” and thus Global should only have aired it after 9:00 pm with appropriate advisories.  The Panel also determined that the depictions of drinking while driving constituted an adult theme and also should not have aired before 9:00 pm.  The Panel made the following comments: 

In the matter at hand, despite the fact that Joe, the irresponsible boat driver, at one point addresses the youthful component of the viewing audience […], the Panel considers that his outlandish and illegal antics driving a boat while drinking are utterly inappropriate for a non-adult audience.  That neither the producers nor programmers viewed Joe’s behaviour as problematic is evident in the fact that he was seen grinning and smirking each time he took a sip of his alcoholic beverage.  Moreover, there was no component of the program that served to point out that Joe’s behaviour was illegal and dangerous.  […]  While, arguably, the practice of drinking while driving is hardly a model for adults either, the Panel appreciates that adults have powers of discernment, which younger individuals may not.  What would disarm the youthful viewers still more is the trivialization of Joe’s boating practices.  All things considered, the Panel views the boating display in this episode of fatbluesky as an exclusively adult theme and one which ought not to have been broadcast prior to the Watershed. 

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 590 radio and television stations and specialty services from across Canada are members of the Council. 

– 30 –

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