Sportscaster’s Choice of Words Not in Breach of Broadcast Codes, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (disponible en anglais seulement)

Ottawa, February 7, 1997 -- The B.C. Regional Council of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the use of what one viewer termed “gutter language” in a BCTV (CHAN-TV) sportscast.

During an early evening sportscast, a sports reporter on BCTV commented on the state of play of the Vancouver Canucks, stating that fans were “sick and tired of the crap they’re dishing out”, and later added that, from the point of view of the team’s owner, the team should “get [its] ass in there”, repeating the word “ass” a few moments later in the sportscast. A viewer wrote to the CBSC to complain about this use of language, indicating that this “crude language is completely unacceptable and is setting a very poor example to the younger generation of B.C.” In its written reply to the complaint, BCTV acknowledged that there was no excuse for “gutter or crude” language on television, but recognized that the reporter in question was known to be outspoken and controversial. The viewer was unsatisfied with this response, and returned to the CBSC with a request that its B.C. Regional Council consider the matter.

After reviewing the tape of the sportscast and examining the correspondence, the Regional Council decided that the words used by the reporter were typical of sports broadcasting. Further, the words “crap” and “ass” (presumed to be the words that the viewer found objectionable) were, in the Council’s determination, part of everyday English vernacular -- even though, at one time, such words might have been considered offensive. Using the industry’s Code of Ethics and the CRTC’s Television Broadcasting Regulations as a guide, the Council felt that the words could not be considered sanctionable. Ultimately, in the Council’s view, the question was one of good taste. As the Council explained, “the words in question are not...attractive, articulate or perhaps even appropriate to the airwaves....They are not, however, in the view of the B.C. Regional Council, either obscene or profane, which is ultimately the test which the Regional Council must apply. To the extent that the question is one of taste rather than obscenity or profanity, the CBSC will not interfere with the broadcaster’s choice.” As a result, the B.C. Regional Council decided that BCTV did not breach the industry’s Code of Ethics.

The B.C. Regional Council is composed equally of broadcasters and representatives of the general public. The Regional Council Chair, a broadcaster, is Erin Petrie. The Vice-Chair, representing the public, is Monica Becott. Other public members are Catherine Murray and Robert Mackay (not present for the decision); while the other broadcasters are Susan Brinton and Gordon Vizzutti.

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