1960s “Crooners” Style Spoof Song Is Unduly Sexually Explicit, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, February 4, 2004- The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a spoof song aired on CFBR-FM, aka ‘The Bear’ in Edmonton, at approximately 11:15 am on February 22, 2003. A listener complained that the song was too sexually explicit for that hour, on the one hand, and that it was degrading to women, on the other. The Prairie Regional Panel found that the parody song was in breach of Clause 9 (Radio Broadcasting) of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) Code of Ethics, which requires that programming contains no unduly sexually explicit material; it found no breach of Article 4 of the Sex-Role Portrayal Code.

The parody song in question dealt with oral sex and was rather descriptive. On the issue of explicitness, CBSC Panels have previously established that, while unduly sexually explicit material is unacceptable radio fare, mere sexual innuendo will not be in breach of the Code. In the matter at hand, the Prairie Regional Panel compared the challenged song to previous programming and concluded that

On the issue of explicitness, the present song is easier to characterize. It is not metaphorical or built on innuendo, whether isolated or accumulated. It is obvious. It is explicit. It is, in the Panel’s view, unduly explicit and, consequently, in breach of the requirements of Clause 9(b) of the CAB Code of Ethics.

On the issue of sex-role portrayal, on the other hand, the Panel did not find a breach of the Code; it explained the difference between the two conclusions in the following way:

The Panel wishes to make it clear that the one is quite distinct from the other; in other words, a finding that material broadcast is sexually explicit does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that it is either exploitative or demeaning. In the matter at hand, the oral sexual activity described is a mutual act and one which, in the view of the Panel, is not in principle demeaning to either partner to the activity. In other words, in ordinary circumstances, it is neither demeaning nor exploitative. If anything, the soft crooning style of the presentation takes the performance even further away from any sense of the imposition of unequal power in the relationship.

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