F-Word in English Songs on French Stations is Sometimes Acceptable, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, June 8, 2022 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the broadcast of English songs containing the word “fuck” on French-language radio. The CBSC concluded that, because the overall programming was French, only songs that contained numerous instances of the f-word or used the word as an insult towards a person are in breach of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics if aired during the day.

The CBSC has, in previous decisions, established that in English Canada the broadcast of the word “fuck” and its variations must be limited to late evening broadcasts. The CBSC has acknowledged that those words do not have the same severity when used by French speakers, so it established a different standard for the use of the English f-word in French-language programming.

The CBSC received a complaint from an anglophone listener of a French station asking what the CBSC’s position was on English-language songs broadcast on francophone stations. That listener provided some examples broadcast on CHXX-FM (Quebec City). The station argued that its broadcast of the unedited versions of the songs was in compliance with established CBSC policy and they also wanted to maintain the integrity of the artist’s work.

The CBSC’s French-Language Panel examined the complaint under Clause 9 of the CAB Code of Ethics which prohibits the broadcast of unduly coarse and offensive language. The Panel concluded that the songs form part of a French-language program so the approach established for such stations should apply. This means that the presence of the English f-word will only breach the code if broadcast during the day or early evening and it is used frequently or to insult someone.

The Panel concluded that one of the three English songs examined by it violated the code because it contained many instances of the expressions “fuck you” and “fuck off” directed at individuals related to the singer’s ex-boyfriend. All adjudicators agreed that, even if the occasional f-word is acceptable during daytime hours on French stations, broadcasters should always strive to offer high quality content and consider availing themselves of edited versions of the songs, which are usually readily available.

The CBSC was created in 1990 by Canada’s private broadcasters to administer the codes of standards that they established for their industry. The CBSC currently administers 5 codes which deal with ethics, equitable portrayal, violence, news and journalistic independence. Around 800 radio stations, satellite radio services, conventional and discretionary television services across Canada participate in the Council.

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All CBSC decisions, codes, and related information are available on the CBSC’s website. For more information, please visit www.cbsc.ca.