Host's Nasty Insults about Rival Radio Host Are Improper and Constitute Unduly Coarse or Offensive Language, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council
Ottawa, November 19, 2003 - The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the radio show Le monde parallèle de Jeff Fillion, which aired on CHOI-FM from 6:00 to 10:00 am on October 2, 2002. The CBSC Quebec Regional Panel determined that the nasty insults and ugly epithets made by Fillion about a rival radio host were unduly coarse and offensive and in breach of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' (CAB) Code of Ethics.
In this specific broadcast, Fillion and his co-host responded to remarks made during the course of a television interview the previous night by rival Quebec City radio host Jacques Tétrault (who had commented about a defamation lawsuit lost by Fillion and another Quebec Ci/ASDty radio host). Fillion referred to Tétrault and the television news host with terms such as "conceited asshole", "that worthless piece of trash", "shit disturber", and "a tree with rotten roots." A listener complained about Fillion's general treatment of individuals who disagree with his opinions, as well as his use of aggressive and coarse language.
The Panel reviewed the complaint under Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics which requires full, fair and proper presentation of opinion, comment and editorial. The Quebec Regional Panel explained.
At its worst, talk radio becomes a form of squabbling or worse and meaningless grabbing for attention and audience share. That it is entertainment is fair enough. When, however, it becomes shrill, brash, unpleasant, nasty insults, without substance, it may overreach the broadcasters' own standards.
It added that "while interactive talk shows are rightfully regarded as a bastion of freedom of expression, the Canadian airwaves are not a free-for-all." It concluded that Fillion had
spouted ugly and generalized epithets, comprehensible only in their flailing nastiness and not because a serious listener might have actually understood what his competitor did, if anything, to merit criticism.
The Panel also reviewed the case at hand under Clause 9(c) of the Code which requires that programmers ensure that no unduly coarse or offensive language be aired. It concluded:
There is probably a tendency to consider coarse or offensive language as limited to swear words or those words referred to in English as "four-letter words". The Panel wishes, however, to make it clear that such words are not the only ones that qualify as coarse or offensive language under Clause 9 of the CAB Code of Ethics. […] The Panel considers that the terms "hostie de prétentieux", "hostie de pas bon", "un vomi" and "un chieur" all fall clearly within the ambit of either coarse or offensive language and that the broadcast of these terms by CHOI-FM constitutes a breach.
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 530 radio and television stations and specialty services from across Canada are members of the Council.
– 30 –
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