Discussion on Morning Show Too Sexually Explicit, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, August 19, 2003 - The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning an episode of the Pepper and Crash Show, CKVX-FM’s (Xfm, Vancouver) morning show on October 30, 2002. The CBSC’s British Columbia Regional Panel concluded that a conversation that provided a detailed description of a particular sexual act was unduly explicit and, consequently, contravened Clause 9 (Radio Broadcasting) of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics.

At approximately 6:50 am on October 30, Pepper and Crash announced that the topic of the day’s program would be “snowballing”. One of the hosts indicated that he had not known what the term meant until listeners telephoned to explain it. Two of those callers provided a precise description of the sexual act and offered their thoughts on the matter. Early in the conversation, though, but after some sexually explicit discussion had already occurred, one of the hosts indicated (via a sort of listener advisory) that the conversation was of an adult nature, so young children should not be listening. One listener complained to the CBSC that she and her 14 year old son had heard the program in the car while driving to school. She wrote that she had tried to change the station, but had been unable to avoid the most explicit part of the discussion. The broadcaster responded, indicating that Xfm’s target audience is 18 to 35 year old males and the content may not suit the tastes of all listeners. The station stated that the hosts had attempted to deal with the sexual topic in a light-hearted and humorous way and had advised the audience of the adult nature of the conversation.

The B.C Regional Panel examined the complaint under Clause 9 of the CAB Code of Ethics which requires that radio broadcasters not air any unduly sexually explicit material. Based on previous decisions, the Panel concluded that the “explicit discussions and definition of ‘snowballing’ that followed it fall unequivocally into the category of unduly sexually explicit content.” They concluded: “The terminology is precise, descriptive, even graphic. It is exactly what the codifiers intended to avoid when they drafted the new provision.”

The Panel also observed that the host’s “disclaimer” had been “thrown in” only after some explicit remarks had been made and that, though helpful to audiences, audio advisories are not “a defence for the [radio] broadcaster against the airing of otherwise inappropriate programming.”

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 530 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 CBSC’s website at www.cbsc.ca. For more information, please contact the CBSC National Chair, Mme Andrée Noël CBSC Executive Director, John MacNab