Howard Stern Broadcasters Draw Mixed Reaction From Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, December 11, 1997 - The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) has received copies of the Media Releases issued by CHOM-FM in Montreal and CILQ-FM (Q107) in Toronto concerning the intentions of both stations regarding the future broadcast of the Howard Stern Show.

Both stations had previously advised the Council of the fact that they had announced the CBSC's decision of November 11 concerning the breaches of the CAB Code of Ethics and the CAB Sex-Role Portrayal Code. These announcements were made in compliance with the standard CBSC requirement to broadcast the results of a negative decision.

The November 11 decision also made it clear that the CBSC was concerned with the likelihood that the continued broadcast of the Howard Stern Show in the same manner as it had appeared in the first two weeks (September 2-15) made it probable that the Show would be in breach of the two Codes in the future. The concern of the Quebec and Ontario Regional Councils was expressed in the following terms:

the Councils are of the view that, while the subject matter of the daily Howard Stern Show episodes of course varies from day to day, the presentation of the content which is the principal subject matter of this decision remains systematically similar in approach from one day to the next.

The CBSC had, therefore, been waiting to see what steps would be taken by the broadcasters within the 30 days following the decision to ensure that they would comply on an ongoing basis with the private broadcasters' own Code of Ethics and Sex-Role Portrayal Code. The Council received its answers from the two stations yesterday.

The Case of CHOM-FM

CHOM-FM has indicated that it “intends to monitor The Howard Stern Show as it is broadcast each weekday morning and to take appropriate measures, if necessary, “to ensure that it remains in compliance with Canadian broadcast standards.” The Council has been contacted by CHOM-FM representatives and has been assured that the station has taken steps to guarantee: 1) that station personnel are aware of the sensitivities reflected in the broadcast Codes; 2) that the appropriate technological steps will be taken to carefully monitor the Show and respect the CBSC's stated concerns; and 3) that portions of the program may be edited to conform to Canadian broadcast standards so as to ensure that the version of the Show available to CHOM's audience will be in compliance with the Codes on an ongoing basis.

CBSC National Chair Ron Cohen stated: “From the time of release of the decision, I had expressed the confidence that the broadcasters would find a way to comply with the broadcast Codes. It is clear to me that CHOM-FM and its parent corporation have the full intention of complying with Canada's broadcast standards and that they are taking concrete steps to ensure that this occurs. CHOM has responded to a difficult problem in the responsible manner which the Council had hoped for.”

Although Cohen himself was confident that CHOM would succeed in meeting the objectives it had set out for itself, he was conscious of the fact that some persons might be concerned about whether the station would succeed. Consequently, he added that “This confidence does not in any way mean that the Council has washed its hands of this matter. It will continue to apply its procedures to ensure that compliance does in fact occur and will remain available to any listeners who believe that future episodes of the Show breach any Canadian broadcast standards.”

The Case of CILQ-FM

CILQ-FM announced a “4 Point Plan” regarding the Howard Stern Show. Half of the points relate to issues which bear no direct relationship to the Howard Stern Show and the decision of the CBSC. Of the two remaining, only one appears to bear even an oblique reference to the concerns of the Council as expressed in the decision of November 11.

Although, regarding that one point, the Q107 Media Release declared that “Q107 will immediately hire an additional producer whose function will be the monitoring of The Howard Stern Show with a view to ensuring sensitivity and continuing compliance with Broadcasting Actrequirements,” there was no mention of any of the private broadcasters' Codes or the intention of the station to comply with the Canadian broadcast standards found in them.

In the absence of such a commitment, the Council has begun its investigation to determine whether the Stern Show has been in compliance with the Canadian broadcast Codes since the date of the decision. In the event that its investigation reveals that the post-November 11 episodes of the Show examined have been in breach, the Council will take the next step of exploring its options regarding the possible severance of the relationship between the Council and CILQ-FM for its failure to “agree to adhere to the Council's standards” as required by the Council's Manual for Members.

Such a measure has never had to be invoked in the history of the Council, which has operated since 1990. If the process is used in the case of CILQ, all complaints emanating from the Howard Stern Show, as well as any other Q107 programming, would be turned over by the Council to the CRTC for processing. Until such time, if any, as this situation may occur, the CBSC remains available to any listeners who believe that episodes of the Show breach any Canadian broadcast standards.

CBSC Chair Ron Cohen expressed his concern in the following terms: “In the event that the step of expelling a member occurs, it would be extremely regrettable. On the other hand, the preparedness of the nearly 400 other private broadcast members to conform to Canadian broadcast standards continues to affirm the value of the self-regulatory process for the vast majority of the industry.”

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