Fair and Proper Comments re Islam Do Not Violate Codified Standards, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, May 25, 2011 - The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning three episodes of the religious talk program Word TV broadcast on CITS-TV (CTS – Crossroads Television Ontario) in August 2010. The CBSC (which rendered an earlier decision about other episodes of this program in December 2010) concluded that the challenged episodes of the program in August 2010 did not violate any of the provisions of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics or Equitable Portrayal Code.

Word TV was, at all material times, a religious talk program hosted by Charles McVety, who would discuss political issues and current events from an evangelical Christian perspective and sometimes have guests on the show. On this occasion, the CBSC dealt with a complaint about the program’s denigration of the gay and Muslim communities.

The CBSC’s Ontario Regional Panel examined the complaints under the Human Rights clauses of the CAB Code of Ethics and Equitable Portrayal Code, which prohibit the broadcast of abusive or unduly discriminatory comment about identifiable groups. It also examined them under a) the Full, Fair and Proper Clause of the CAB Code of Ethics, which prohibits the broadcast of unfair and improper opinion, comment and editorial; and b) the Religious Programming Clause of that Code, which prohibits attacks on identifiable groups in religious programming.

As to the alleged denigration of the gay communities, the Panel

scarcely found any reference to gay issues of any kind. At most, there were mentions of the Ontario program relating to “inclusive education strategy” and references to pornography, sexual abuse of children and anal sex, none of which focused on homosexual activities, much less denigrating any persons or groups on that basis.

One aspect of the Islam-related comments by the host related to the critical speech by British Prime Minister Cameron in Ankara, Turkey in July 2010. Of McVety’s position on the subject of the Turks and his assertion that Cameron had “cursed Israel”, the Panel noted

that the generalizations were few in number, limited in scope, historical in nature and made within the context of an acknowledgment of a non-monolithic assessment of Islam on the one hand and a fixing of terrorist responsibilities on IHH (the Turkish NGO, known in short form as İHH İnsani Yardım Vakfı or IHH Humanitarian Relief Organization) in particular (rather than the Turkish people in general), on the other.

As to the host’s comments on “victory mosques”, the Panel wondered if there was not some gall “in Dr. McVety’s attribution of an aggressive attitude by Muslims toward the mosque-building he has described as being victorious in nature.” The Panel in any case found no breach in this regard.

While pretending no historical expertise, the Panel wonders whether other religions have not in the course of history, perhaps even during the Crusades, built over, or converted, places of worship of other religions to the faiths of the victors. At the end of the day, even if there may be evidence of gall or arrogance on the part of the host, the Panel concludes that Dr. McVety violates no codified standard by expressing opinions based on such grounds. He is entitled to air such views provided that he does not make abusive or unduly discriminatory comments based on nationality or religion. By attributing motivations based on supremacy, victory or symbolism to Islamic mosque-building, the Panel does not consider that he has crossed the threshold into abusive or unduly discriminatory comment. Nor does the Panel consider that such opinions are unfair or improper. Distasteful to some, contentious and controversial perhaps, but not unfair or improper.

The host declared offence at video clips of persons celebrating the destruction of the World Trade Center. The Panel, though, did

not view that description as one that the host would apply to all Muslims. He did after all refer only to East Jerusalem, on the one hand, and a local Toronto business, on the other. The Panel considers that it would be a stretch to assume that the host meant that all Muslims everywhere would have praised the 9/11 attack. He was clearly unhappy that anyone would have cheered such an event but he was certainly entitled to express a negative opinion about such persons, even though members of an identifiable group, who would support such a massacre.

Finally, the host declared his opposition to the funding of Islamic projects by Canadian taxpayers. The Panel found no breach on this account.

As to Dr. McVety’s views opposing the funding of Islamic projects, the host was free to opine. His rationale for that perspective is his own business. He is as entitled to speak against such funding as he is to position himself against the funding of the training of Olympic athletes, bilingualism, parochial schooling, major military equipment purchases and so on. That said, the statement that “You and me and the rest of Canadians” are paying for the Islamic Centre on Wynford Drive is an incorrect, irresponsible and regrettable observation, but not one that, made in isolation, is sufficiently material to breach Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics

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. Almost 745 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