Weekend Talk Show Did Not Promote Hatred But Should Not Have Contained F-Word, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, February 6, 2003 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning an episode of Warren on the Weekend, an open-line radio program broadcast by CKNW-AM, Vancouver. The British Columbia Regional Panel reviewed a complaint about a comment made by a caller to a talk show dealing with celibacy in the Catholic priesthood. After evaluating the tape of the episode, the Panel determined that the program was not abusively discriminatory but that the station should not have permitted the f-word to be uttered during the morning broadcast.

Warren on the Weekend is hosted by Peter Warren. His guests on the March 24, 2002 program were the General Secretary of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the spokesperson for Corpus Canada, an organization supporting the right of Catholic priests to marry or live with partners (whether on a heterosexual or homosexual basis). Both guests were provided equal time to state their positions on celibacy for priests and to answer callers' questions. The Panel found that the discussion was “balanced, reasonably friendly and remarkably free from hostility and even sharp argumentation.” Although Warren made it clear that the debate would not be turned into “an anti-Catholic tirade”, one caller managed to get on air and told the religious representatives to “f*** off.” A listener wrote to the CBSC complaining that this statement promoted hatred of Catholics and that the broadcaster should have edited out the coarse language. CKNW-AM explained that its new delay technology had failed on that particular day.

The BC Regional Panel examined the complaint under the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' (CAB) Code of Ethics. It concluded that the program as a whole was not abusively discriminatory towards Catholics; the one nasty call was “an isolated phenomenon and not in the least reflective of the tone of the program, which did not in any other sense promote bad feeling […] against the Roman Catholic community.” The Panel did, however, conclude that the broadcaster should have been more successful in editing out the f-word at that time of day, or, at the very least, if the equipment had malfunctioned, the program host should have commented on the inappropriateness of the word. CKNW-AM was found in breach of the Code on this account.

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