Ontario Tv Station Breaches Industry Standards

Ottawa, February 21, 1996 – The Ontario Regional Council of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council released its decision today concerning “Just for Laughs”, aired on CKVR-TV.

A CKVR viewer wrote in to complain that the “Just for Laughs” program aired on July 10, 1994 contained offensive and disrespectful material targetting Christians. During the program, a character named “Sister Mary” parodied an Irish nun and made a number of jokes about religion, the Bible and her travel to Montreal. The viewer was particularly disturbed that the comedienne suggested that Jesus Christ was homosexual. In reply, CKVR-TV apologized to the viewer but stated that the complaint letter did not contain enough information to determine the episode in question and take further action. The station proposed that the viewer contact the CBSC with his concerns.

The Regional Council reviewed the program under the industry’s Code of Ethics, which states that broadcasters should avoid airing material that contains abusive or discriminatory material or comment based on matters of religion. In the Council’s view, the program was not abusive or discriminatory toward Christians, although the Regional Council acknowledged that the viewer might not have found the “Sister Mary” routine humorous.

The Council was, however, concerned about the station’s response to the complaint. The station did not reply to the substance of the viewer’s complaint and wrongly suggested that the complaint could not be handled under the CBSC codes. By directing the viewer to the CBSC, without attempting to resolve the complaint at the local level, CKVR-TV breached the CBSC’s standards of responsiveness. As a result, CKVR-TV is required to announce this decision during prime time within the next 30 days.

Composed of representatives of the broadcasting industry and the general public, the Ontario Regional Council was chaired (at the time of the decision) by Marianne Barrie, a public member. The Vice-Chair is Al MacKay. Other broadcasters on the Council are Paul Fockler and Madeline Ziniak (not present for the decision), while the other public members are Taanta Gupta and Robert Stanbury.

The CBSC was established in 1990 by the private broadcasting industry to administer codes on programming. In addition to the Code of Ethics, the CBSC administers a code on television violence, a sex-role portrayal code, and a code of journalistic ethics. Some 400 television and radio stations from across Canada are members of the CBSC.

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