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WWE kisses bottom, but within the rules
by Lydia Dumyn

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CBSC Decisions
OTTAWA - After wrestling with this issue for over a year, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has ruled that no line was crossed during segments broadcast on The Score's Monday WWE Bottom Line.

The December 23, 2002 broadcast of the magazine-style show, featuring scenes and updates of wrestling matches and events, ended with WWE CEO Vince McMahon standing in the centre ring bearing his bare, digitally blurred behind, with announcer Jim Ross being forced to pucker up and plant a sloppy one you-know-where. Not everyone who tuned in considered this quality entertainment.

A complainant, disgusted by the "gross, deliberate and degrading display" drew attention to the matter through a letter to the CRTC. "I switched on The Score to check on the winners of the football games which usually flash along the bottom of the screen� I could not avoid seeing the actions on the screen while I waited for the scores� The two accomplices threw this large man into the ring. The man with the microphone dropped his pants and the other two forced the big man's face onto the other man's bum and ground it all around� I did not wait to see the scores but switched off the channel," says the letter.

In response, The Score's senior vice-president and general manager, David Errington, agreed that the scene was in "poor taste" but that it is in compliance with the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' (CAB) Voluntary Code Regarding Violence in Television Programming.

Furthermore, the National Specialty Services Panel reviewed the complaint under the CAB's General Principle (c) and Article 4 (Exploitation) of the Sex-Role Portrayal Code, and found that The Bottom Line, although in bad taste, (ed note: especially for Mr. Ross), did not cross the line. "Bad taste is not, however, a Code-related issue. In broadcasting, as CBSC Panels have often explained, the primordial applicable principle is that of freedom of expression."

"Degradation is another matter," the Panel stated. "It may certainly amount to a Code breach but only in the circumstances envisaged by the Code." Article 4 of the Sex-Role Portrayal Code outlines that the demeaning remarks must be directly related to the role of women, men or children in terms of dress mode, camera focus on body parts and similar modes of portrayal.

"Comments or actions which are (regrettably, on one level) merely humiliating or degrading to an individual� rather than as a member of the male or female gender, do not attract the application of the Code provisions," the Panel said in its decision.

According to the complainant, though, The Bottom Line is kissing the bottom of the barrel as far as television goes. "If this is considered entertainment, then we have hit new lows," read the letter.
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