Arthur le midi is a talk show hosted by André Arthur. The broadcast of September 6, 2016 was the very first episode of the show on CFEL-FM (BLVD 102.1, Quebec City). The topic of the first segment was aviation security. At the end of the segment, Arthur said:
Before going to the real commercial break, we’re going to do a fake commercial break. Le Charbon Steak House is a remarkable place. It’s a very nice place. And you have for a limited time roast beef au jus at twenty-five dollars with the choice of soup or salad on Sunday. Sunday you must go to Le Charbon. And, to learn more, you can also go to the Facebook page for Le Charbon Steak House or CharbonBoucherie.com.
This live commercial message was immediately followed by a block of pre-recorded commercials.
Arthur then discussed, among other subjects, photo-radar, taxes in St-Augustin, the Videotron Centre and the Quebec City airport.
Towards the end of the program, Arthur provided his email address at BLVD, adding that he did not want people to write to him to share their opinions, but rather to provide him with facts and information. Then, he wrapped up the show by saying:
I think you’d be interested in finding out about the butchery of the nicest steak house in Quebec City, in the province of Quebec, maybe even in all of Canada. And that is Le Charbon, which is in the Gare du Palais. There is a flat-rate deal for take-out, for the flank steak for two. Thirty-four ninety-five gets you two Sterling Silver eight-ounce steaks, potatoes with red wine sauce and sausages. You can get take-out from either the Gare du Palais or Lebourgneuf locations of Le Charbon. And you can order online at CharbonBoucherie.com. So does that more or less conclude our show today?
On September 7, a listener complained about these two segments, alleging that Arthur had inserted an advertisement between news items while broadcasting ethics require the demarcation and separation of the two. The station responded on September 13, characterizing the presentation as a “live” advertisement and not an advertisement inserted between two news elements. The broadcaster also pointed out that Arthur had introduced the first ad by saying [translation] “we’re going to do a fake commercial break” and that the second had been read at the end of the program. In this sense, according to the station, [translation] “the separation between information and advertising was entirely clear during the program”. Nevertheless, the broadcaster committed to modifying the presentation of such messages in the future. The complainant submitted her Ruling Request on September 14, adding that Arthur was undermining the credibility of information and of journalists in airing these advertisements. CFEL-FM wrote back to the CBSC, reiterating that [translation] “we believe that any reasonable listener would not have confused the informational aspects of the show with the advertising.” (The full text of all correspondence is in the Appendix, available in French only.)
The French-Language Panel examined the complaint under the following provisions of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics:
CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 6 – Full, Fair and Proper Presentation
It is recognized that the full, fair and proper presentation of news, opinion, comment and editorial is the prime and fundamental responsibility of each broadcaster. This principle shall apply to all radio and television programming, whether it relates to news, public affairs, magazine, talk, call-in, interview or other broadcasting formats in which news, opinion, comment or editorial may be expressed by broadcaster employees, their invited guests or callers.
CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 14 – Advertising (Details)
b) Broadcasters shall ensure that advertising material within a newscast is clearly distinguishable from the news information adjacent to it. To this end, any commercial message broadcast within a newscast should not be read by the newsreader.
c) Broadcasters shall ensure that there is no influence by advertisers, or the perception of such influence, on the reporting of news or public affairs, which must be accurate, balanced, and objective, with fairness and integrity being the paramount considerations governing its reporting.
The Panel Adjudicators read all of the correspondence and listened to the challenged broadcast. The Panel concludes that there is no breach of the aforementioned provisions of the CAB Code of Ethics.
Newscasts, Public Affairs or Talk Shows and Advertising
First off, the Panel Adjudicators point out that newscasts should not be confused with public affairs programming or other types of talk shows. In this particular case, the newsreader Pierre Blais read the newscast at noon, just prior to the start of Arthur’s program. With respect to Arthur’s show, it is an opinion-based program dealing with current events. The Panel Adjudicators therefore conclude that there was no violation of Clause 14(b) of the CAB Code of Ethics.
On the question of whether the broadcaster violated Clause 14(c) of the code in allowing Arthur to do live advertisements within the context of his talk show, the Panel Adjudicators find that it did not. The live ad for a Quebec City steak house read by Arthur after the first segment was preceded by Arthur’s declaration that he was about to do a [translation] “fake commercial break”. Furthermore, it marked a break between his personal comments and the advertising. The second live ad was read after the end of the program. The Panel concludes that, in both instances, Arthur’s reading of these ads in no way influenced the subjects discussed during his program, namely taxes in St-Augustin, photo-radar, the Videotron Centre and the Quebec City airport. The broadcaster, therefore, did not violate the above-mentioned Clause 14(c).
The Panel would, however, like to remind broadcasters of the importance of maintaining a distinction and segregation between actual program content and sponsored content.
The Panel Adjudicators also conclude that the comments made by Arthur during his program, including the insertion of live ads following the first segment and the end of the program, in no way violated Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics regarding full, fair and proper presentation.
In all CBSC decisions, the Panels assess the broadcaster’s response to the complainant. The broadcaster need not agree with the complainant’s position, but it must respond in a courteous, thoughtful and thorough manner. In this case, CFEL-FM responded adequately to the complainant, summarizing its position with respect to the complaint and committing to pay more attention to this type of message in the future. The broadcaster fulfilled its obligations of responsiveness and nothing further is required in this regard in this instance.
This decision is a public document upon its release by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.
 See the following decisions for cases where the CBSC has found breaches in this regard: CFRB-AM re an episode of the Health Show (CBSC Decision 04/05-1171, December 15, 2005) and CHWO-AM re Sunday Showcase with Murray Segal (CBSC Decision 06/07-0999, April 14, 2008).