CJCH’s Broadcast of the Laura Schlessinger Show Not in Breach of Codes, Says Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, March 14, 2001 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the June 13 and August 9, 11 and 15 episodes of the Laura Schlessinger Show broadcast by CJCH-AM (Halifax). A listener, one of the complainants in the CBSC’s previous decision regarding the same program, complained that “Schlessinger had one of her normal tirades at approximately 4:15 in which she emphatically repeated her moral and scientific authority for claiming that gays are ‘biological errors’.” While the August 9 and 11 broadcasts did not reveal any remarks by the host relating to gays and lesbians, the June 13 and August 15 episodes included the host’s reading of a supportive article comparing Laura’s comments to those of Eminem, as well as the host’s explanation of the evolution of her position on gays and lesbians.

Without modifying in any way its previous decision regarding the Laura Schlessinger Show, the Atlantic Regional Panel found that the broadcaster had not aired comparable material during any of the episodes in question here. The Panel’s consideration of the host’s challenged statements in light of the context in which they were made led the Panel to conclude that, “[i]n this case, while some of the words used are similar to those spoken on the previous occasion, the way in which they are used is totally different here.” In the Panel’s view,

the host has not gone too far, indeed, that she has not gone nearly as far as she had in the earlier CJCH decision referred to above. As she said at one point in her monologue here, “if you call me for a moral framework, I can only give you the ultimate moral framework, as best I understand it.” She elaborated, but carefully, and in a fashion limited to reproductive issues. ...

In that regard, the Panel considers that she is entitled to her opinion. She was quite careful to restrict her comments to that issue in a context which was not sweeping. It was more than the complainant wanted to hear, to be sure, but less, far less, than she had said before and not directed to the group of persons on the basis of their sexual orientation. There was no characterization of the group. There was no use of any of the offending adjectives: abnormal, aberrant, deviant, dysfunctional. Such limited opinion as was expressed here falls within the protected bounds established in the earlier decisions noted above. The broadcaster has done its job. There is no breach here.

The Panel noted that, in this case, the host’s approach to the issue of gays and lesbians, as well as the broadcaster’s involvement in ensuring compliance with the Code, appeared to have softened:

The Panel has no doubt but that both the tone and tune of the host have changed. Perhaps as the result of the previous CBSC decision, perhaps as the result of other public commentary, perhaps on the basis of matured reflection alone, in the examples raised here, she is not as aggressive in dealing with the issues of deviancy as she had been. She is cautious, perhaps even defensive, but certainly quite limited and careful in dealing with that theme, an approach which the Atlantic Regional Panel applauds. The Panel also assumes that the Canadian broadcaster and/or the syndicating service for the program have played a role in assuring that the airing of the show in Canada would be tailored to respect Canada’s private broadcaster standards and the CBSC applauds those industry members as well.

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 430 radio and television stations and specialty services from across Canada are members of the Council.

– 30 –

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. For more information, please contact the National Chair of the CBSC, Ron Cohen, at (###) ###-####.