“Bob the Fag Man” Parody Not Abusively Discriminatory Says Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, August 25, 1998 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a skit entitled “Bob the Fag Man” broadcast by CILQ-FM (Q-107, Toronto) as part of its morning show. A listener complained that, although the term “fag” is a British slang term for “cigarette”, it “is a term that is frequently used in a derogatory and demeaning sense to refer to persons of a particular sexual orientation, namely, gay or homosexual men.” He found the use of the term in this skit “offensive and insulting [and] designed to ridicule that particular sector of society.”

The Ontario Regional Council considered this complaint under the human rights clause of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) Code of Ethics. While acknowledging that “sexual orientation” is a basis of discrimination prohibited by this provision, the Council concluded that no breach had occurred in this case.

... The short skit in question is intended as a parody. It plays on the double entendre of the word “fag”, which is used primarily in Britain and its former colonies as a slang term for cigarette, and which has a slang usage in North America to describe a gay man. The sole issue for the Council to consider is whether or not this use of the term was abusively discriminatory vis-à-vis gay men. In the view of the Council, it is not. While possibly an unflattering term, it does not, in the Council's view, rank with certain racial or ethnic epithets (which it does not wish to repeat here), particularly since members of the gay community use the word themselves from time to time in a non-discriminatory fashion. At worst, “fag” could be considered to be in poor taste, a matter on which the CBSC does not rule. In consequence, the Council finds that there is no breach of the Code.

Canada’s private broadcasters have created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, gender portrayal and television violence by which they expect their members will abide. They also created the CBSC, which is the self-regulatory body with the responsibility of administering those Codes, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic practices created by the Radio Television News Directors Association Canada (RTNDA). More than 430 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 World Wide Web at www.cbsc.ca.