Verbal Attacks against Appeal Court Justice Were Inappropriate, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

 Ottawa, May 23, 2007 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning an episode of L’Avocat et le diable broadcast on TQS.  The subject of the May 31, 2006 episode of the open-line program was a decision rendered by the Quebec Court of Appeal on the lower court sentencing of a pedophile.  The hosts and callers criticized the justice who had written the majority decision, which had the effect of reducing the sentence.  The CBSC’s Quebec Regional Panel concluded that some of the remarks made about the judge violated the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics and Violence Code.

The hosts of L’Avocat et le diable expressed their view that Justice Lise Côté’s decision was incorrect and suggested that she be resign or be forced to step down.  They and their callers referred to her as “crazy”, “dishonourable”, “a disgrace” and went so far as to suggest that she endure a similar sexual assault.

The CBSC received a complaint from a viewer who was concerned that these comments were unacceptable for broadcast.  TQS argued that the hosts were simply playing “devil’s advocate” by criticizing the decision of the Court of Appeal.  The Quebec Panel, however, agreed with the complainant.  While it acknowledged that broadcasters may criticize government and judicial actions and decisions, it concluded that the level of personal attacks on Justice Côté violated the “full, fair and proper presentation” clause of the CAB Code of Ethics.  TQS also violated the CAB Violence Code because one of the hosts advocated that [translation] “the judge should get raped and see how that is.”  The Panel expressed their decision in the following language:

The Panel reiterates its support for the principle that criticism of such policies is fundamental to the democratic process and that fair discussion of the controversies that may flow from such determinations is equally basic.  […]  It does, however, expect that such comments, opinions and criticisms will be ad rem and not either ad hominem or ad feminam, as they were in the matter at hand.  […] [T]he Panel considers that certain of the comments sanctioned or incited violence.  […]  These comments take the personalized observations to an even more unacceptable extreme.

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 600 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