Religious Program Dealing with Homosexuality Did Not on This Occasion Cross the Line According to Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, August 31, 2001 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the broadcast of third and final instalment in a series entitled “Hope for the Homosexual” by the American religious program Focus on the Family on CFYI-AM (Toronto). The complaint came from a listener who found it “extremely offensive, prejudicial, and bigoted in [its] characterization of gays and lesbians.”

The Ontario Regional Panel considered the complaint under the Canadian Association of Broadcaster’s (CAB) Code of Ethics. It reviewed previous CBSC decisions dealing with the treatment of gays and lesbians, noting in particular the previous ruling against a Focus on the Family broadcast in Alberta. It did point out that

It should be remembered that gays and lesbians, like all other identifiable groups, are subject to commentary, observation and the expression of opinion which may not always feel entirely comfortable. ... Where ... the challenged comments are “not directed to the group of persons on the basis of their sexual orientation,” where there is no offending characterization of the group, where the comments are limited to a moral or religious assessment of practices alone, the comments will be unlikely to be viewed as abusively or unduly discriminatory.

In the current matter, the Panel concluded that “there is no place in this entire episode where discriminatory comments about persons in a group identifiable on the basis of their sexual orientation can be found.”

There is discussion about homosexuality but not about homosexuals and then it consists of legitimate points of discussion or debate. It was not, in the view of the Panel, “bigoted in its characterization of gays and lesbians,” as argued by the complainant. It did not even go there. It was not “hate propaganda”. It was a point of view on a lifestyle subject, not on its practitioners. It was a very conservative religious view. It was, it may fairly be observed on the basis of years of CBSC decisions, a view not shared by any Panel of the CBSC, but a view which its supporters were free to espouse in the terms in which they dealt with the issue.

Accordingly, the Panel concluded that there was no breach of Clause 2 in this case. As for the issue of balance in the expression of opinion on a controversial public issue, the Panel pointed out that

there is no doubt but that the challenged program has a point of view; specifically, it is partial to a Christian world view. This does not, however, mean that it fails the balance test on that account since it is not necessary to have balance within a program.

Indeed, the expression of a point of view in and of itself does not immediately characterize a program as unfair and discriminatory. In evaluating the presence of balance in its overall programming, the Panel concluded that:

No suggestion has been made that, in the remainder of its programming, CFYI-AM does not offer the necessary balance to the conservative Christian perspective of Focus on the Family and that is the issue. The conservative expression should not be penalized but is equally part and parcel of presenting balanced points of view. Had the discussion become confrontational, abusive, or predatory, the Panel would likely have come to a different conclusion. It did not. There is no breach on this account.

Canada’s private broadcasters have created industry standards in the form of Codes dealing with gender portrayal, violence and ethical issues such as human rights by which they expect the members of their profession will abide. They have also established the CBSC, the self-regulatory body responsible for the administration of those professional Codes, as well as the Radio and Television News Directors Code dealing with journalistic practices. More than 470 Canadian radio and television stations and specialty services are members of the Council.

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All CBSC Codes, decisions, Annual Reports, relevant documents, members, links to members’ and other web sites, and useful information relating to the Council are available at For more information, contact Ron Cohen, the National Chair, at (###) ###-####.