F-Word in The F-Word Should Not Air before 9:00 pm, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, May 12, 2010 - The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the Gordon Ramsay cooking program The F-Word broadcast on BBC Canada at 8:00 pm.  The program contained numerous instances and variations of the f-word.  The CBSC found that BBC Canada violated the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics for broadcasting the program unedited before the Watershed hour of 9:00 pm.

The F-Word is one of several reality/information cooking programs featuring celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, who is well-known for being aggressive and demanding in the kitchen as well as for his frequent use of profanity.  Each episode of this series consisted of different food-related segments, including team cooking challenges, celebrity recipes, how-to instructions, and information on different types of food.

The CBSC received a complaint about the April 9, 2009 episode, but the complainant noted that the program was on every night.  The 8:00 pm broadcast was accompanied by a viewer advisory alerting viewers to the coarse language, and the show’s 18+ rating icon.  BBC Canada noted those points in its response to the complainant.

The CBSC’s National Specialty Services Panel examined the complaint under Clause 10(a) of the CAB Code of Ethics, which states that programming that contains coarse language intended exclusively for adult audiences shall not be broadcast outside of the Watershed period of 9:00 pm to 6:00 am.  The CBSC has stated in numerous previous decisions that the f-word constitutes language intended for adults, so the Panel found BBC Canada in violation for airing The F-Word before the appropriate hour.  The Panel explained the situation in the following terms:

It should also be noted that putting a viewer advisory on a program does not get the broadcaster “off the hook” with respect to other Code requirements, like scheduling.   Fundamentally, a broadcaster that wants to air a program containing any of the words in the f-word family has two choices; namely, run the program after the Watershed, or, if before the Watershed, only after muting, bleeping or otherwise editing out the offending language.  It goes without saying that just because the name of the program is The F-Word, which is not itself offensive, does not entitle a broadcaster to avoid selecting one of the two foregoing options.  If using “fuck” or one of its derivatives is essential to the character of the program, as would appear to be the case in the matter at hand, the sole choice is a post-9:00 pm broadcast.

Canada’s private broadcasters have themselves created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, equitable portrayal, television violence and journalistic independence 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 and the pay television Codes, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic ethics created by the RTNDA – Association of Electronic Journalists in 1970.  More than 735 radio stations, satellite radio services, 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