CP24 is a 24-hour news station. In a segment that aired on September 10, 2014 at approximately 1:50 pm ET, reporter Nathan Downer interviewed former heavyweight boxing champion, Mike Tyson, and his promoter, Alex Choko, who were in Toronto to promote Mr. Tyson’s one-man show, “The Undisputed Truth”.
At the beginning of the interview, Mr. Downer referred to a meeting that had occurred between Mike Tyson and then-Mayor, Rob Ford. The interview proceeded as follows:
Downer: Now some of your critics would say, you know, there’s a race for mayor. We know you’re a convicted rapist, this could hurt his campaign. How would you respond to that?
Tyson: Hey, uh, I don’t know who said that. You’re the only one I heard say that. You know what I mean? And I don’t have no comment to that, you know, because it’s negative and you’re being negative. And I, I, I met, I met the mayor.
The interview continued for a brief period of time before Mr. Tyson started using profanities. He told Mr. Downer that he was “a piece of shit with that comment”. Mr. Downer was reactive and said “Hey. Come on. That’s.” Then, Mr. Tyson added: “No that was a piece of. So fuck you. That was a piece of shit”, to which Mr. Downer responded: “You know we’re on. We’re doing, we’re doing live TV.”
Mr. Downer’s comments aimed to remind Mr. Tyson of the inappropriateness of the use of such language on daytime television. In spite of this, Mr. Tyson clearly indicated his unwillingness to cooperate: “Hey, I don’t care. What are you gonna do about it?”
Mr. Downer chose, however, not to terminate the interview at that point in time. Rather, he tried to move on to another topic. This tactic did not prove to be successful. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Tyson went off again and told him he was a “rat piece of shit” and a “piece of shit”. Mr. Downer said “Ah come on, Mike” and finally decided to wrap up the interview and thanked his guests for coming in, to which Mr. Tyson responded “fuck you”. (The full transcript of the segment can be found in Appendix A.)
The CBSC received five complaints from viewers who noted that the live broadcast of this interview was unsuitable for daytime television, when children may be listening, due to the use of coarse language. Two of those complainants filed Ruling Requests. (The full text of the correspondence in those files can be found in Appendix B.)
The National Specialty Services Panel examined the complaint under the following clauses of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics:
Clause 10 – Television Broadcasting
Clause 11 – Viewer Advisories
To assist consumers in making their viewing choices, when programming includes mature subject matter or scenes with nudity, sexually explicit material, coarse or offensive language, or other material susceptible of offending viewers, broadcasters shall provide a viewer advisory
The Panel Adjudicators read all of the correspondence and viewed a recording of the challenged broadcast. The Panel concludes that CP24 did not violate Clause 11, but did violate Clause 10 by broadcasting coarse words during the day.
The main question raised by the broadcast was whether the interviewer should have concluded his interview after the first occurrence of foul language or if by changing subject and continuing the interview he was prudent enough, given the state of mind of the interviewee. By majority the Panel adjudicators found that the journalist should have wrapped up the interview immediately after the first occurrence of coarse language. One Panel Adjudicator was of the view that the interview could be continued but that the Broadcaster should have had measures in place such as a delay mechanism to edit any coarse language.1 All Panel Adjudicators conclude that the Broadcaster violated Clause 10 of the CAB Code of Ethics by broadcasting coarse language during day time.
The other question raised by the broadcast is the necessity for viewer advisories. The broadcaster admitted it did not air any advisories during the program or any kind of warning concerning the potential use of coarse language because “it did not expect that Mr. Tyson would respond to its reporter with profanities during a daytime live interview”.
The Panel Adjudicators agree with the broadcaster that it could not have anticipated the use of profanities by Mr. Tyson during a daytime live interview concerning his one-man show. Unlike mechanisms such as time-delay which should always be available, viewer advisories have to be planned ahead of time and inserted before the program even starts. The Adjudicators are of the view that this instance is quite different from the facts in decision in CP24 re 30th Annual Pride Parade2 where it was predictable that coarse language and potential nudity could occur. Therefore the Adjudicators conclude that the broadcaster did not violate the provisions of Clause 11 of the CAB Code of Ethics by not inserting viewer’s advisories before and during the broadcast.
In each CBSC decisions, a Panel assesses the broadcaster’s response to the complainants. The broadcaster need not agree with the complainants’ position, but it must respond in a courteous, thoughtful and thorough manner. In this case, CP24 provided a reply to the complainants, outlining its view of the broadcast. The broadcaster fulfilled its obligations of responsiveness and, subject to the announcement of this decision, nothing further is required in this regard in this instance.
ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE DECISION
CP24 is required to: 1) announce the decision, in the following terms, once during prime time hours within three days following the release of this decision and once more within seven days following the release of this decision during the time period in which the interview with Mike Tyson was broadcast, but not on the same day as the first mandated announcement; 2) within the fourteen days following the broadcasts of the announcements, provide written confirmation of the airing of the statement to the complainants who filed the Ruling Request; and 3) at that time, provide the CBSC with a copy of that written confirmation and with air check copies of the broadcasts of the two announcements, which must be made by CP24.
The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has found that CP24 breached the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics in the broadcast of an interview with Mike Tyson on September 10, 2014. CP24 broadcast coarse language during daytime hours contrary to Clause 10 of the Code.
This decision is a public document upon its release by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.
See also TSN re 2007 World Junior Hockey Championships (Interview) (CBSC Decision 06/07-0515, May 1, 2007), to the same effect. The CBSC does not dictate what measures broadcasters use to ensure that inappropriate content does not make it to air but notes that broadcasters are responsible for all content that is broadcast.