F-Word in Live Sports Broadcasts Should be Avoided, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, May 16, 2017 -- The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning coarse language broadcast during a football game on TSN 4 at 7:00 pm Eastern Time. The CBSC concluded that the f-word should not have been broadcast before 9:00 pm and the broadcast should have included viewer advisories.

The broadcast was a Canadian Football League (CFL) game between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on July 7, 2016. Microphones on or near the field picked up coarse language from the players, including the word “fuck” on three occasions. In one case, the commentator apologized for the language, pointing out it was live television.

A viewer complained that the language was broadcast uncensored. He suggested that the broadcaster should have anticipated such behaviour and taken measures to prevent it from airing. TSN stated that they do not condone such language, but it is difficult to censor live broadcasts.

The CBSC’s English-Language Panel examined the complaint under the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Code of Ethics which contains provisions requiring very coarse language to be limited only to after 9:00 pm and accompanied by viewer advisories.

The Panel acknowledged that on-field microphones have the advantage of bringing viewers closer to the play, but the disadvantage of being exposed to undesirable language. The CBSC encouraged broadcasters to find ways to prevent coarse language from being aired during live sports. Given the present rules, the CBSC found breaches of Clauses 10(a) and 11 of the code for the broadcast of the f-word and the lack of viewer advisories.

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 7 codes which deal with ethics, equitable portrayal, violence, news and journalistic independence. Around 800 radio stations, satellite radio services, television stations and specialty and pay television services across Canada participate in 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 . For more information, please contact the CBSC National Chair, Andrée Noël, at anoel@cbsc.ca or CBSC Executive Director, John MacNab, at jmacnab@cbsc.ca or by telephone at (613) 233-4607.