Buckcherry Song Distasteful but not in Breach of Code, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, October 19, 2011 - The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the broadcast of the song “Crazy Bitch” by Buckcherry on CKQB-FM (106.9 The Bear, Ottawa).  A listener complained that the song was offensive to women.  The CBSC concluded that the broadcast did not violate the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics.

The song was played just after 5:00 am on March 14, 2011.  The chorus contains the lyrics “You’re a crazy bitch/But you f**k so good, I’m on top of it/When I dream, I’m doing you all night/Scratches down my back to keep me right on”.  Other uses of the f-word, present elsewhere in the original song, were edited out in the version broadcast on that date.
The listener complained that the song contained derogatory language towards females and suggested that the meaning of the song was that women only have value if they are good in bed.  The station argued that the song contained subject matter which was distasteful but not discriminatory.

The CBSC’s Ontario Regional Panel examined the complaint under the Human Rights Clauses of the CAB Code of Ethics and Equitable Portrayal Code, both of which prohibit abusive or unduly discriminatory content on the basis of sex or gender.  It also examined it under the Language and Terminology Clause of the latter Code, which prohibits the use of derogatory or inappropriate language in reference to sex or gender.

The Panel reviewed some of the CBSC’s previous decisions involving the word “bitch” and concluded that the use of the word in the song “Crazy Bitch” did not reach the level of abusive or unduly discriminatory comment as the song only referred to one particular woman rather than generalizing all women as “crazy bitches”.  The Panel made the following comments:

While the Panel is troubled by the continuing lowering of the bar for coarse language, on this occasion, the Panel has determined that it has not yet evolved to the point that the word “bitch” has become a word in per se breach of the Human Rights Clauses of the CAB Code of Ethics and the Equitable Portrayal Code.

The Panel recognizes, however, that the complainant was also concerned about the context in which the term was employed in this particular song.  She asserted that the message of the song was an objectification of women, in her words, that “a crazy bitch remains useful as long as she is good in bed.”  The Panel does not agree with that interpretation; it does not consider that the expression “crazy bitch”, as used in the song, is aimed at womanhood in general.  First, the expression was singular, rather than plural, throughout the song, which suggests that the songwriter was not attempting to label all women as “bitches” or “crazy bitches”.  Second, the actual wording makes it appear likelier that the description was targeted at a single individual, whether a fictional character created for the song or indeed inspired by the exploits of an actual celebrity (the song is rumoured to have been based on the well-publicized 2003 Paris Hilton sex tape).  The song clearly recounts a very specific viewpoint of, and experience with, an individual woman rather than any sort of generalization based on gender.  While the Panel fully appreciates that the complainant might even find that such a usage is offensive, the conclusion of the Panel, as suggested above (adapting the very words used in one part of the complainant’s letter), is that it was distasteful but not rising to the level of the breach of a codified standard. 

The Panel also observed that the f-word had been edited out and that the sexual exploits were not described in unduly explicit detail, with the consequence that the broadcast did not violate Clause 9 (Radio Broadcasting) of the CAB Code of Ethics.

Canada’s private broadcasters have themselves created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, equitable portrayal, television violence and journalistic independence 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 and the pay television Codes, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic ethics created by the RTNDA – Association of Electronic Journalists in 1970.  Nearly 730 radio stations, satellite radio services, 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