On January 15, 2012, from 8:30 to 10:00 pm, TVA broadcast Juste pour rire: Le gala hommage à Denise Filiatrault. The program was an hommage to Denise Filiatrault, a Quebec actress and director. The hommage consisted of monologues, songs and comedy skits performed by Quebec stars who had worked with and/or been inspired by Filiatrault. Some of the performances included French coarse language, such as the words “calice”, “tabarnac’”, “chrisse” and “hostie”. TVA did not broadcast any viewer advisories during the broadcast.
The CBSC received a complaint, dated January 16, from a viewer who objected to the swearing in the program. TVA responded to the complainant on February 2. The broadcaster mentioned one sketch in particular, describing it as [translations] “a comedic number, presented by the comedians Les Denis Drolet” whose style is “humour of the absurd”. In the sketch, the Denis Drolets [translation] “were confused about the role each one was supposed to play in an imitation of the famous program Moi et l’autre. [...] Their swearing allowed viewers to understand the degree to which the characters were getting increasingly irritated with each other due to their misunderstandings.” TVA argued that [translation] “there was no offensive, discriminatory or defamatory language”. The complainant filed his Ruling Request on February 2 noting that [translation] “Maybe on a stage at a theatre where people have voluntarily paid to hear them, but on TV it is different as everyone can have access, even young children and this is completely unacceptable for such a diverse audience.” (All of the correspondence can be found in the Appendix, in French only.)
The Quebec Regional Panel examined the complaint under the following articles of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics:
Clause 10 – Television Broadcasting (Scheduling)
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 the program in question. The Panel concludes that TVA breached Clauses 10(a) and 11 of the CAB Code of Ethics.
The Panel Adjudicators viewed the program in its entirety. They note that this program was broadcast beginning at 8:30 pm and lasting until 10:00 pm on Sunday, January 15, 2012. The broadcast therefore began before the start of the Watershed hour. The program in question contained numerous monologues and sketches in which the protagonists used a considerable amount of French coarse language, namely, blasphemous terms. The Council has concluded in the past that a program in which the words “calice”, “hostie”, “tabarnac’” or “chrisse” are used (to name only a few) cannot be broadcast before 9:00 pm unless these words are edited out. In addition, the Council has determined that a program for which part is broadcast before and part is broadcast after the Watershed hour must respect the restrictions for pre-9:00 pm programming throughout its entire duration.
The Panel therefore concludes that the broadcaster violated the provisions of Clause 10 of the CAB Code of Ethics.
The Panel Adjudicators also noted that the program Le gala hommage à Denise Filiatrault, which contained coarse language, was not accompanied by any viewer advisories, neither at the beginning of the program nor coming out of commercial breaks. In the past, the Council has declared that programs containing coarse language must include viewer advisories, both at the beginning of the broadcast and coming out of each commercial break.
The Panel therefore concludes that TVA violated the provisions of Clause 11 of the CAB Code of Ethics.
The Panel reminds the broadcaster that it could have shown this program after 9:00 pm with the appropriate advisories or it could have broadcast it before 9:00 pm with the blasphemous terms blocked out. While these terms are in common usage in Quebec and they have largely lost their religious significance, they continue to offend some people, especially in the presence of children.
Lastly, the Panel notes that, because the program was a variety show, the broadcast did not have to be rated.
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, TVA wrote a detailed letter that explained its position regarding the program. The broadcaster fulfilled its obligations of responsiveness and nothing further is required in this regard in this instance.
Announcement of the Decision
TVA is required to: 1) announce the decision, in the following terms, once during prime time 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 Juste pour rire: Le gala hommage à Denise Filiatrault was broadcast, but not on the same day as the first mandated announcement; 2) within the fourteen days following the broadcasts of the announcements, to provide written confirmation of the airing of the statement to the complainant who filed the Ruling Request; and 3) at that time, to 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 TVA.
The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has found that TVA violated the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Code of Ethics in its broadcast of Juste pour rire: Le gala hommage à Denise Filiatrault on January 15, 2012. By broadcasting coarse language before 9:00 pm, TVA violated Clause 10 of the Code. By failing to broadcast viewer advisories, TVA violated Clause 11 of the Code.
This decision is a public document upon its release by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.