Ottawa, December 1, 2010 - The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released three decisions concerning multiple episodes of Dupont le midi broadcast on CHOI-FM (Radio X, 98.1, Quebec City). The CBSC concluded that the talk show host Stéphane Dupont and his co-hosts were allowed to express their opinions on controversial issues, but that some episodes contained inaccurate information about social assistance, unduly negative representations of Haitians and inappropriate coarse language for daytime broadcasts. It also concluded that a discussion of suicide, including the broadcast of two suicide victims’ names, did not violate any broadcast Codes, although two adjudicators dissented from that decision.
Dupont le midi is broadcast weekdays from 11:30 am to 2:00 pm and features discussions among the hosts about social and political issues and current events. The CBSC received a number of complaints from different people about various comments made on separate episodes from 2008 to 2010.
The first decision involved a discussion about social assistance. The hosts made statements about the dollar amounts that social assistance recipients receive and expressed the view that a single mother is better off collecting welfare than working at a paying job. The CBSC received a complaint from the Front commun des personnes assistées sociales du Québec which explained that the dollar amounts noted by Dupont le midi were entirely inaccurate. The CBSC’s Quebec Regional Panel explained that, while the hosts “are entitled to hold and broadcast their own derogatory and disparaging opinions regarding social welfare and aid recipients, they owe it to their audience that the basis for their argument be based on sound, rather than misleading, information.” The Panel agreed with the complainant organization that the program had repeatedly distorted the numbers and had inappropriately presented them with the factual authority that flows from hosting a radio show, thus violating Clause 6 of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics.
The second decision involved multiple episodes on which the hosts discussed suicide. Host Stéphane Dupont expressed his view that suicide was a cowardly act, that no problem in life is bad enough to justify suicide, that suicide should not be glorified, and that suicidal people need “a kick in the butt” rather than “a helping hand”. In the context of various discussions on the topic, the program provided the names of two individuals who had recently committed suicide. The CBSC received complaints from people who knew those two individuals, who objected to the fact that their names had been broadcast, and who took the position that the program had insulted the two men. The majority of the Panel concluded that the program’s overall message was that suicide should not be considered a solution to life’s problems and that it had not disparaged the two suicide victims as individuals because “[t]he host and his colleagues were careful to draw the distinction between the individuals and their decision to commit suicide.” The majority of the Panel also had no problem with the revelation of the broadcast of the men’s names on air because that information had been publicly available from internet sources. Two adjudicators, however, dissented to the decision, finding that Dupont’s harsh treatment of suicidal people was “potentially dangerous” and his dismissive attitude towards the problems of “two specific and named individuals” was insensitive.
The third decision dealt with a discussion about Haiti in the aftermath of the devastating January 2010 earthquake that had occurred in that country. Host Dupont stated that he had not made any donations to aid the Haitians because one could not be certain that the people in need would actually receive the money. He complained that he had seen on the news a group of healthy Haitians just sitting around waiting for government handouts. He also characterized the Haitian government as thieves. Finally, he referred to the city of Port-au-Prince and Haitians as criminals. Although the Panel concluded that these comments were not abusive or unduly discriminatory, it did find that their cumulative effect constituted an unduly negative portrayal of Haitians contrary to Clause 3 of the CAB Equitable Portrayal Code.
In all of the decisions, the Panel also found violations of Clause 9(c) of the CAB Code of Ethics for the broadcast of coarse language including various French religious epithets and the English f-word.
Canada’s private broadcasters have themselves created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, equitable portrayal, television violence and journalistic independence 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 and the pay television Codes, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic ethics created by the RTNDA – Association of Electronic Journalists in 1970. More than 750 radio stations, satellite radio services, 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. For more information, please contact the CBSC National Chair, Mme Andrée Noël CBSC Executive Director, John MacNab