Term “Bitch-Slapped” Inappropriate for Use in Sports Report, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, April 17, 2002 - The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a phrase used during the sports report on CKVX-FM (Xfm, Vancouver) in July 2001. In his recounting of the sports scores from the previous night, the on-air personality announced that the Seattle Mariners baseball team had “bitch-slapped” their opponents. A listener was concerned that this phrase condoned violence against women, and filed a complaint with the CBSC. The CBSC British Columbia Regional Panel examined the issue under various articles of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) Code of Ethics and Violence Code, including Article 7.1 of the CAB Violence Code which states that

Broadcasters shall not telecast programming which sanctions, promotes or glamorizes any aspect of violence against women.

The B.C. Panel Referred to an earlier CBSC decision in which the question of the application of this principle to radio was dealt with.:

While it is clear that the prohibition against sanctioning, promoting or glamorizing any aspect of violence against women is found in the Code dealing with violence on television, the Council does not assume that Canada’s private broadcasters had intended their strong and unequivocal prohibition of such aggressively anti-woman behaviour to extend no further than the television screen. The Council considers that, while the Violence Code was created to deal with a series of content issues far likelier to be present in that medium than in the different style of programming in the radio sphere, the broadcasters did not believe that that prohibitory principle ought not to benefit women across the broadcast spectrum

In the present case, the B.C. Panel found that the term “bitch-slapped” in this context was in breach of Section 7.1 of the Violence Code and other Code provisions because

the violent domination which is of the essence of the term is unacceptable on the public airwaves. There is in its use an assumption that this is an appropriate way to express a significant victory by one team over another. [...] There are many many ways to express sports dominance which are not attached to gender or other forms of submissiveness. There is a broad enough choice that no broadcaster can reasonably view itself as unduly limited by reason of the application of the industry’s own restriction on the airing of expressions of violence against women. The use of “bitch-slap” is not an option in such circumstances. The Panel finds it in breach of the human rights, sex role portrayal, violence against women and proper presentation of comment provisions [...].

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 500 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 CBSC’s website at www.cbsc.ca.