Unexpected Use of Coarse Word in Live News and Negative Characterization of Politician Did Not Breach Broadcast Codes, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, October 18, 2018 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning CP24’s afternoon news broadcast that covered, in separate segments, a pro-marijuana rally and the 2018 Ontario election campaign. The CBSC decided that a one-time unexpected use of the f-word in a live news report did not violate the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) CAB Code of Ethics, nor did the characterization of Ontario Progressive Conservative leader as “a bit of a dick”.

On April 20, 2018, at 2:00 pm, CP24 provided live on site coverage of a pro-marijuana rally in Toronto. As the reporter was speaking, a man ran into the shot and unexpectedly yelled the f-word. The reporter immediately commented and moved on, and also apologized at the end of the report. A viewer complained that the station had allowed the word to go to air. The CBSC’s English-Language Panel examined the complaint under Clause 10 of the CAB Code of Ethics. It noted that the CBSC has customarily found the f-word and its variations to be unacceptable before 9:00 pm, but considered that in this instance of “mic-bombing”, whereby a bystander suddenly inserted himself into the scene to shout a coarse word, the broadcaster did not violate the code. It was difficult to hear exactly what the man had yelled, it was unexpected and not uttered by someone involved with the broadcast or even an interviewee, and the reporter apologized for it.

At 2:13 pm, CP24 broadcast a panel discussion about the upcoming Ontario election. The panel had representatives from each major party. At one point, the Liberal representative suggested that the electorate felt that PC leader Doug Ford was “a bit of a dick”. The same viewer complained about this remark. The CBSC Panel concluded that the word “dick” is not in and of itself a word that must be relegated to post-9:00 pm. The majority of the Panel also concluded that its specific usage here did not amount to a code breach, particularly since the host immediately apologized for the language.

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 at www.cbsc.ca . For more information, please contact CBSC Chair, Sylvie Courtemanche, at scourtemanche@cbsc.ca or by telephone at 613-233-4607.