Late Night Comic’s Comments Regarding Paedophiles Not in Breach of Codes, Says Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, March 8, 2001 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning Comedy Network’s March 17, 2000 broadcast of Open Mike with Mike Bullard, during which the host and his guest, actress Leah Pinsent, discussed the release of her latest movie, in which she plays a serial killer who preys on paedophiles. During the course of that interview, the host and guest joked that her character in the movie was performing a “public service” when killing paedophiles. A viewer complained that the comments were derogatory and “inappropriate”, stating that, while he did not “condone paedophilia”, neither did he “condone killing anyone who may be afflicted with any such tendencies.”

The National Specialty Services Panel considered the complaint under the human rights provision of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics. The Panel found no breach, concluding that paedophiles, as a group, are not protected against abusively discriminatory comment based on “mental handicap”. In the Panel’s view,

Since it is obvious that paedophiles as a group are not anticipated by Clause 2, the question is whether one might argue that they ought to be protected against discriminatory comments made on the basis of their “mental handicap”. The Panel does not think that the codifiers had such a prospect in mind. The term “mental handicap” cannot, in the view of the Panel, be used to protect those who commit crimes against society from commentary related to those sociopathic activities. The purpose of the human rights provision is to protect those who may be subject to abusively discriminatory comment made as a function of who they are by reason of: 1) innate characteristics, such as their gender, the colour of their skin, their nationality, their ethnicity, their age, or a physical or mental disability; or 2) other characteristics which are changeable only at great personal cost, such as their religious affiliation or their marital status. The protection is not accorded to persons by reason of what they do, even where such activities or actions are lawful. It will no more be applied to protect comments made regarding those whose activities or actions are unlawful, even where the reason for such unlawful acts may be a mental illness.

The Panel also concluded that the comments could not reasonably be understood as being an incitement to violence against paedophiles, stating that

[a]ny such suggestion is, in fact, a further step away from reality when one considers that the statement was made with reference to a film rather than a factual circumstance. The film which, like most other such cinematic endeavours, requires the willing suspension of disbelief, was the source of the dramatic concept which, one might imagine (without having seen the film), posits that the serial killing (customarily viewed as an antisocial activity) might be morally justifiable where juxtaposed with paedophiles as victims. Such dramatic tension would not be unlike that created by the John Grisham book (and film) A Time to Kill, to name but a single example of a sympathetic killer and unsympathetic victims. The host carries that dramatic proposition a small step further by making light of the idea. The dialogue between the host and guest is a flippant look at the moral dilemma posed by the dramatic thesis of the film itself, a matter wholly outside of their own creation.

Canada’s private broadcasters have themselves created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, gender portrayal and television violence 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, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic practices first created by the Radio Television News Directors Association of Canada (RTNDA) in 1970. More than 430 radio and 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 World Wide Web at For more information, please contact the National Chair of the CBSC, Ron Cohen, at (###) ###-####.