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

Ottawa, April 25, 2018 – 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 found a breach of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics, concluding that the f-word and variations thereof should not have aired in a broadcast that began before 9:00 pm and that the broadcast should have contained viewer advisories.

The broadcast was a Canadian Football League (CFL) game between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Ottawa Redblacks on October 27, 2017.  Microphones on the field picked up coarse language from the players, including the words “fucking” and “motherfucker”.  There were no viewer advisories during the broadcast or any admonishment by the on-air hosts of the coarse language.

A viewer complained that this language has repeatedly appeared in TSN’s CFL broadcasts and that the station has not made any attempts to correct this situation.  TSN stated that they do not condone such language, but it is difficult to anticipate it and to censor live broadcasts.

The CBSC’s English-Language Panel examined the complaint under the CAB Code of Ethics which contains provisions requiring coarse language intended for adult audiences to be telecast only after 9:00 pm and accompanied by viewer advisories.

The Panel reiterated a previous CBSC decision on this issue, acknowledging that on-field microphones bring viewers closer to the game, but risk exposing them to undesirable language.  The CBSC suggested steps that would “ensure that viewers have access to the best calibre content, while protecting those viewers who wish to avoid such language.”  In the present circumstances, the Panel found breaches of Clauses 10(a) and 11 of the code for the broadcast of the f-word and its variants, 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 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 at .  For more information, please contact CBSC Chair, Sylvie Courtemanche, at scourtemanche@cbsc.ca or by telephone at 613-233-4607.