Discrimination Based on Hair Colour Not Protected by Broadcasters’ ‘Human Rights’ Provision Says Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, July 31, 1998 -- The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a humourous segment entitled “Blond Moments” which was broadcast as part of CKNG-FM (Edmonton)’s Morning Show. The segment consisted of listeners calling in with their stories of foolish mistakes. A listener complained that the reference to “blonds” in conjunction with stories of foolishness constituted discriminatory comment towards people of Scandinavian origin.

The Prairie Regional Council considered the complaint under the ‘human rights’ provision of the Code of Ethics of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB). The Council concluded that the broadcast did not discriminate on the basis of national or ethnic origin, noting that

no specific references to Scandinavia or Scandinavian people were contained in the broadcast in question; rather, the Council finds that the allegation of discrimination based on national or ethnic origin stems from the complainant’s inference that persons with light-coloured hair are all of Scandinavian origin. ... [T]he Prairie Regional Council disagrees with the complainant on her inference on this issue.

As to whether the broadcast discriminated against blonds, the Council stated that, while it had previously gone beyond the specific wording of the human rights provision in order to add sexual orientation as one of the protected grounds enumerated in that provision, it does not consider it appropriate to make a similar extension of the enumerated grounds in this case.

While the Council understands that hair colour may also be a meaningful personal matter, it does not consider that it falls within the class of factors described [by the Supreme Court] ... as a “deeply personal characteristic that is either unchangeable or changeable only at unacceptable personal costs”.

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