Two Broadcast Standards Council Decisions on Song Lyrics; One Song Violates Private Broadcaster Codes

Ottawa, February 7, 2001 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released two separate decisions relating to song lyrics. In the first of these, the song “The Bad Touch” was broadcast by CIGL-FM (Belleville) and, in the second, the song “Boyz in the Hood” was broadcast by CIOX-FM (Ottawa).

In the case of “The Bad Touch”, performed by the group Bloodhound Gang, a listener complained about the language used in the song. On the other hand, the broadcast of the song “Boyz in the Hood”, performed by the band Dynamite Hack, resulted in a listener complaining about the “violence against women” depicted in the song, as well as “the extreme nature of [the] lyrics.”

The Ontario Regional Council considered the songs under the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics and Sex-Role Portrayal Code, as well as, by inference, the CAB Violence Code.

The Application of the Codes to Songs

Although the CBSC has from time to time received complaints relating to song lyrics, this was the first time members of the public had requested that their complaints be referred to a Council for adjudication. After reviewing the many CBSC decisions dealing with such broadcast fare as third party productions, foreign programming, callers’ comments to talk shows, advertising and so on, which made it clear that the Canadian private broadcaster Codes cover all forms of programming, the Council, in its CIGL-FM decision, concluded:

In other words, it is not the intention of the Codes that any material broadcast by any private sector programming undertaking be exempt from consideration thereunder. Whether it is spoken word or set to music, the same rules apply. Music is, after all, no more or less a form of programming than other dramatic, documentary, news or, indeed, advertising material, all of which must conform to the terms of the various Canadian private broadcaster Codes.

The Council also pointed out that broadcasters frequently have more than one version of a song available to them, particularly where the in-store lyrics may not be suitable for air play. They explained

that music recording companies, like distributors of motion pictures, generally create more than one version of their respective products. They understand that, in order to facilitate the responsibilities of broadcasters and to render broadcast markets more accessible to their products, they must provide versions that are susceptible of being aired.

Offensive Language

After reviewing the general principles, the Council, in the case of the song “The Bad Touch”, concluded that the words used in the song were not “in and of themselves problematic.” In the case of the song “Boyz in the Hood”, the Council observed that, while the song contained what is often referred to as “street language” which may be more problematic on radio than television in the absence of “the safeguards available to television viewers, such as the classification system, viewer advisories and rating icons,” it found no breach in this case.

Violence Against Women

The more problematic issue regarding the song “Boyz in the Hood” was the song’s depiction of violence against women. In this regard the Council concluded that there had been a breach.

The juxtaposition of lyrics such as “Gotta get my girl to rock that body” with such violent imagery as “I reached back like a pimp and I slapped the ho” clearly perpetuate the link between women in a sexual context and women as victims of violence. The lyrics portray the woman in question as a “stupid bitch” and a “ho”, whose “talkin’ shit” warranted the violent reaction by her partner. Whether the intention of the song is serious or satirical, the Council finds that the lyrics, in their sanctioning, promotion or glamorizing of violence against women, constitute abusive commentary on the basis of gender and are insensitive to the dangers of stereotyping generally and to the exploitative linking of sexual and violent elements in dealing with women.

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 460 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 (###) ###-####.