Retro Sitcom Episode Did Not Breach Broadcast Codes, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, December 14, 2022 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning an episode of Happy Days broadcast on CHCH-DT (Hamilton, Ontario) on August 22, 2022. A viewer complained that the episode contained sexist and racist content. The CBSC acknowledged that the episode contained “outdated” portrayals, but found no breaches of any broadcast codes.

Happy Days is an American sitcom originally aired in the 1970s, but set in the 1950s. The plotline of this episode centred on teenager Richie going a date with a female classmate. Richie feels pressure from his friends to go “all the way” with the girl because “she’s kind of got a reputation”. After an awkward romantic encounter where the girl tells Richie she does not “do things like that”, Richie nevertheless let his friends believe that he had sex with her. Guilt-ridden, he eventually reveals the truth to his friends and tells the girl he has set the record straight. The complainant considered the episode “extremely sexist and demeaning to women” and was particularly concerned with a joke that made light of a male high school teacher inappropriately touching a female student. The viewer also complained about a joke that suggested if an “Eskimo” ever became president, he would throw a snowball at the start of baseball’s World Series.

The CBSC English-Language Panel examined the complaint under the Human Rights and Stereotyping clauses of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics, as well as numerous clauses of the CAB Equitable Portrayal Code relating to stereotyping, stigmatization, exploitation and offensive language. It also considered the Violence against Women article of the CAB Violence Code. The Panel found no breaches of any code.

The Panel acknowledged the difficulty in applying modern standards to retro programming such as Happy Days. It agreed that the portrayal of women could be considered sexist, but found nothing that rose to the level of a code breach, particularly given the plot context. The Panel also noted that the term “Eskimo” is outdated but not abusive and the snowball joke related more to the temperature in Alaska than to the Indigenous group.

The CBSC was created in 1990 by Canada’s private broadcasters to administer the codes of standards that they established for their industry. The CBSC currently administers 5 codes which deal with ethics, equitable portrayal, violence, news and journalistic independence. Around 800 radio stations, satellite radio services, conventional and discretionary television services across Canada participate in the Council.

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All CBSC decisions, codes, and related information are available on the CBSC’s website. For more information, please visit