Ottawa, November 22, 1997 - In an article published today in the Ottawa Citizen, under the title "Why We Need Broadcast Standards", CBSC National Chair Ron Cohen explained why Canada has and ought to have broadcast standards. He also responded to Andrew Coyne's article in the Citizen of November 13, in which the CBSC was accused of being "a front for the regulatory ambitions of the only body whose opinions really count in Canadian broadcasting, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission."
The article explains that "Self-regulation was proposed by the broadcasters to the Commission, not the other way round" and discusses the Codes which the CBSC administers. It also points out that the fact that broadcasters have such Codes makes them about the same as any other professional body, such as doctors, lawyers and Canadian newspapers as well.
Furthermore, as the article points out, "The broadcast stations and networks are all, at the end of the day, made up of men and women who often play roles of significance, whether public or less visible, in their own communities. That's where they go home each night and, unlike Howard Stern, who says that he would not let his 11-year old daughter listen to his show but doesn't care whether yours does, the broadcasters do care."
As the article adds, the CBSC has rendered 18 negative decisions since June 1993, including that in the Power Rangers case. None of these has resulted in even partial destruction of the nation's social fabric. As the article concludes:
[D]espite the fact that broadcasters have certainly made choices about what they will or will not air because of the CBSC's interpretation of those standards, life has gone on in Canada. Perhaps even imperceptibly better for those standards. And, despite the Stern decision, it still will.
In the article, Cohen questioned whether the newspapers would be as "no holds barred" in their approach as Coyne had suggested the broadcasters ought to be. He said: "It's a funny thing but I expect that neither Coyne nor his editor would permit the Stern excesses in their newspapers." In the original text submitted to the Citizen, he then included some of the offensive excerpts from Howard Stern Show episodes, asking pointedly how the newspaper would deal with them.
Which identifiable group would they label "peckerheads", "scumbags" or "pussy-assed jackoffs" in their columns? Which letters to the editor would they deem publishable (or not publishable) on the basis of the bust size of their authors? Which humorous Southam columnist would be allowed to say, as Stern did, "Oh, I just wanna take that piece of ass body, put tape over her mouth, and do things to her. ... And have her lay by my pool in a bikini and have her come out and service me. And I'm laying by my pool, in comes that nude with just a pair of heels. And then like, I reach in, I yank out her vocal chords and then she just orally satisfies me by the pool. Oh, she's totally a mute Kim. And she's totally nude. ... And then I break her legs and position them in the back of her head so that she's sitting, and they're permanently fixed like that. We let them knit and mend." Cute, isn't it? Good for the newspapers? I doubt it. Good for the broadcasters? Definitely not.
Ironically, the newspaper which ran the critical Stern column by Andrew Coyne flippantly and groundlessly charging the Council in a broad brush-stroke with a "clear case of suppression of speech" while refusing to acknowledge the significance of "abusive comments directed at identifiable groups" itself refused to run the above Stern quotations in full.
The Citizen first edited Stern's descriptions of the French to read "p***erh**ds", "sc****gs" or "p***y-a**ed j****ffs" and then, without any indication that it was doing so, left the following Howard Stern comments out of the article (which was otherwise published intact):
And I'm laying by my pool, in comes that nude with just a pair of heels. And then like, I reach in, I yank out her vocal chords and then she just orally satisfies me by the pool. Oh, she's totally a mute Kim. And she's totally nude. ... And then I break her legs and position them in the back of her head so that she's sitting, and they're permanently fixed like that. We let them knit and mend.
CBSC National Chair Ron Cohen pointed out that The Citizen's editors were only doing in private what the broadcasters had considered necessary to do via the CBSC decision. He said:
This goes on all the time at the newspapers. The editors decide by themselves what is suitable to publish and never disclose to the public what they have done. The Stern case is a perfect example. The broadcasters' own Council considered that the words quoted above were in breach of broadcast standards but said so publicly. In the Council's attempt to highlight the offensiveness of the words in an article in The Citizen, it became clear that the newspaper shared the CBSC's view by editing Stern's comments. We rest our case.
In the public interest, the Council is releasing the article in its original form with the excised words in square brackets for clarification.
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