Broadcaster

Western radio slammed by CBSC

8/28/2003

OTTAWA - Two decisions issued this week by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council blasted a pair of Vancouver radio stations for their choice of sex talk.

The first decision centred on a complaint over Rogers Media's CKVX-FM (Xfm, Vancouver) Pepper and Crash morning show. On October 30, 2002, they announced their the topic of the day would be "snowballing". (Ed note: Either use your imagination or read the CBSC's transcript on its web site for what this is all about).

Long story short, despite a disclaimer announced by the hosts saying maybe parents should switch stations if the kids are around, which was given after the snowballing conversation had already started, one Vancouver woman complained.

"The event was so disturbing and disgusting - I feel I must explain to you the nature of this graphic discussion of a particular sex act on the radio. I have never heard of this before and would be content to live my life without knowing about it," reads the complainant's letter.

"My daughter who is 16 was at home and had this on the radio for over 45 minutes; she listened to it and went to her high school where it was discussed yet again.

"My son and I heard it, but I did change the station, as we were in the car - I was driving him to his school. This subject was again discussed at his school."

She also wrote directly to the station manager at Xfm saying, in part, "if they were trying to be like Howard Stern your morning show should try something different, they don't have Howard's talent.

"As I turned to look at my son while I was driving and also trying to change the station, my son had the most shocked look on his face; thanks to you I will always remember that look."

Despite the station's response that teens and their moms are not exactly in its demo, the woman took her complaint to the CBSC, which sided with her, especially given the time of day the snowballing discussion took place (6:50 AM).

"The discussion of blow jobs which preceded the first reference to a disclaimer and the explicit discussions and definition of 'snowballing' that followed it fall unequivocally into the category of unduly sexually explicit content targeted by Clause 9(b). The terminology is precise, descriptive, even graphic. It is exactly what the codifiers intended to avoid when they drafted the new provision. Its broadcast by Xfm constitutes a breach of the radio provision of the CAB Code of Ethics," said the CSBC's decision.

"The panel considers that the 'thrown in' disclaimer of Pepper and Crash has the appearance of having been an afterthought, in the sense that it only occurred after the broadcast of content considered unduly sexually explicit by the panel (although admittedly before some of the more graphic definition of the term "snowballing")," continues the decision. "In the panel's view, even if the disclaimer had been proposed more seriously rather than humorously, and had been more usefully made before the offensive content so as to allow listeners the time to react to the warning, a 'listener advisory' is not likely to achieve equivalence with the viewer advisory required in the television context."

The CBSC "has found that CKVX-FM has breached the clause of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' Code of Ethics which requires that particular care shall be taken by radio broadcasters to ensure that programming on their stations does not contain unduly sexually explicit material. By describing certain sexual activities during the October 30, 2002 episode of the Pepper and Crash Show, CKVX-FM violated the requirements of Clause 9 of the Code of Ethics," reads the decision.

This week's second western radio decision focused on Corus Entertainment's CHMJ-AM (MOJO Radio, Vancouver), which broadcast an episode of the American-originating show Loveline between 10 p.m. and midnight two days before Christmas 2002.

The hosts on the show took calls from listeners seeking advice about sex, relationships, drugs and also discussed current events and pop culture. One of the guests involved in this edition of Loveline was actor Tom Arnold.

(Ed note: Again, we invite readers to peruse the transcript of this lovely bit of radio where the hosts – they're supposedly talking sex, remember – manage to use the words Hitler, Holocaust and cancer in the same sentence and suggest using those words as a way to, well, like we said, read the transcript on your own of this insipid bit of air-waste, if you like)

"This letter is to represent a formal request for an investigation to be carried out immediately in connection with a broadcast on CJNW [sic] (MOJO radio 730 AM) in Vancouver, B.C. I believe that such an investigation may find violations of broadcasting standards and/or federal or provincial legislation. In my opinion the offending broadcast ridiculed the holocaust experience and was racist in its content," said the complainant's letter.

The station's program director responded admitting the segment might have been in poor taste, but that "the Canadian Association of Broadcasters codes… administered by the CBSC have clarified that 'the broadcaster's programming responsibility does not extend to questions of good taste.'"

The complainant also wanted a copy of the tape, which the CBSC confirmed is not something radio stations have to provide to members of the public.

While the B.C. panel of the CBSC did not find the program racist - "the panel does have a problem with the segment but it is not on this basis," reads the decision - "it does not believe that there was any attempt to denigrate or insult Jews. In short, the panel does not find a scintilla of racist commentary in the remarks of either the co-hosts or their celebrity guest," says the decision.

Here comes the however.

However, "the panel draws a significant distinction between its conclusion in the previous section regarding the nature of the hosts' remarks about the Holocaust and their use of those references in their humorous dialogue… The issue here is the employment of the apocalyptic historical event as a humorous crutch," says the decision. "The panel readily understands the suggested dampening effect of such non-risible concepts as cancer, Vietnam (in reference, of course, to the 1960s war) and the Holocaust on Lorraine's yearning telephone clients. It equally understands the intended humour in the ludicrous concept of the sexual purveyor 'subliminally' mouthing such words in the midst of her erotic discourse. It also understands the mockable inanity of the intellectually hapless Lorraine.

"When, however, the hosts progressed to the level of "Yeah, yeah, burn those Jews. Gas 'em in the shower, baby," and so on, even in aid of their sarcastic view of the ignorant 'telephone actress', they exceeded any reasonable level of propriety. The laughter of the hosts directed at the notion of the concentration camp trains and lethal 'showers', which combined to exterminate six million persons, accentuated the inappropriateness."

(Ed note: To say the least.)

"The broadcast of this segment of Loveline constitutes a breach of the standard requiring the 'full, fair and proper presentation of news, opinion, comment and editorial,'" decided the council.

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