Crude Language Used in T-Shirt Promo Not in Breach of Broadcast Standards

Ottawa, June 24, 1998 -- The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a promotional announcement by CIRK-FM, popularly known as K-97, (Edmonton) for the sale of its T-shirts. The advertisement which aired on May 12, 1997, used expressions such as “Kick Ass” and “Life’s a Bitch”. A listener complained of the use of “inappropriate language” in the advertisement.

The Prairie Regional Council of the CBSC considered the complaint under the advertising provision of the Code of Ethics which requires that advertising “not offend what is generally accepted as the prevailing standard of good taste”. While acknowledging that the term “good taste” is actually used in the advertising provision of the Code of Ethics, the Council reiterated its position that “questions of bad taste alone will not be sufficient to result in a breach of a provision of one of the Codes”. The Council stated that the term “good taste” as it is used in the Code must be interpreted following the closing words of that paragraph: “shall not offend what is generally accepted as the prevailing standard of good taste.” In the Council’s view, this creates a higher test than merely being characterisable as good taste. It stated that “the wording suggests that the material questioned must not be the opposite of good taste to be in breach; it must actually offend prevailing standards to be sanctionable.”

In the view of the Prairie Regional Council, the expressions “Life’s a bitch” and “Kick Ass” do not breach the “prevailing standards” test. In explaining how “prevailing standards” are to be assessed, the Council stated that

it cannot be the function of the CBSC or the various Regional Councils to conduct surveys in order to determine what prevailing standards are; it is rather the function of the Councils to apply the reasoning and sense of a balanced group of public and industry representatives to the programming under consideration. It is indeed a reflection of that “balance” that has enabled the various Regional Councils to arrive regularly at conclusions in such matters without dissenting voices, whether the conclusions favour or run against the broadcasters.

The CBSC is the self-regulatory body created by private broadcasters to respond to complaints and administer industry standards on ethics, journalistic practices, gender portrayal and television violence. 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. For more information, please contact the National Chair of the CBSC, Ron Cohen, at (###) ###-####.