Piment Fort’s Political Humour Not in Breach of Broadcast Standards

Ottawa, August 27, 1998 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning an episode of the humoristic game show, Piment Fort, broadcast by CFTM-TV (TVA). An Anglophone viewer complained that a segment of the episode in question fomented hatred against Anglophones, alleging that “One panellist was asked what his greatest dream was to which he replied ‘To see all the Anglos disappear.’”

The Quebec Regional Council considered the complaint under the Code of Ethics of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB). The Council concluded that the broadcaster did not breach the the human rights provision of that Code. The Council found that language comprehension issues “may well have altered the complainant’s perception of the program”, noting that the segment of the program in dispute dealt with headlines, not with dreams, wishes or desires. Moreover, the viewer’s translation, and hence perception, of the headline was incorrect. The Council stated:

The third headline, the one which distressed the viewer, involved the headline [translated from the original French] “Are Anglophones Disappearing [from Quebec]?” The answer was the single English word “Yes”, the obvious play on words being the reference to the 1995 referendum question on sovereignty. Although the word “Anglophone” was used, the pun, in the view of the Quebec Regional Council, was harmless political fun, not racist diatribe. This was reinforced by the subsequent humorous reference to Canada as a generous country, so generous, in fact, that they were prepared to give away Jean Chrétien. All in all, the Quebec Regional Council considers that the headline pun relating to Anglophones leaving Quebec does not exceed the standard of reasonableness ...

Canada’s private broadcasters have created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, gender portrayal and television violence by which they expect their members will abide. They also created the CBSC, which is the self-regulatory body with the responsibility of administering those Codes, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic practices created by the Radio Television News Directors Association Canada (RTNDA). 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 www.cbsc.ca.