Commission adjudicates potentially illegal programming

June 8, 2004
Broadcaster
By Greg O'Brien

GATINEAU - Last week the CRTC passed a ruling on a piece of radio programming so vile commissioners refused to pass the complaint along to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council for adjudication, as is the norm.

The complaint made by a listener to the CRTC about Corus Entertainment-owned CHMJ in Vancouver was about The Tom Leykis Show, an American call-in program which the station no longer carries and has been the subject of additional prior complaints, due to its often despicable content.

The Commission said it wanted to rule on this complaint itself "due to the potential illegality of the broadcast described in the complaint," reads its decision.

The complaint was made in November 2002 after the listener heard a promo for the show where a caller to the host brags about anally raping his passed-out drunk girlfriend and taking pictures of the act while Leykis makes comments approving of what is a crime [and U.S. legislators are worried about Janet Jackson's boob…]. For the transcripts of the passages the Commission found most offensive, click here to go to the CRTC web site.

The Commission, in this case, was rightly concerned not just about the content of the Leykis program, but also that the listener had not complained about a piece of the show itself that sneaked by the editing of CHMJ, but that a real decision was made to air a show promo using offensive material which was then aired during drive time.

"I am not easily offended, but this is probably the most offensive thing I have ever heard on the radio. I do not believe that it is funny when someone is raped. The male caller described a criminal act and it is completely inappropriate to broadcast this on the radio. I would like to know how this type of 'entertainment' is allowed to be broadcast to the Canadian public," said the complainant.

Corus agreed with the complainant, saying that the episode in question should have never been aired, let alone aired as a promo. "Corus acknowledged that it should not have broadcast the promotional spot and identification message that was the subject of the complaint," says Friday's decision.

In its response to the Commission back in the fall of 2002, Corus outlined the various measures it had in place at the time of the broadcast to detect and remove this type of content from The Tom Leykis Show. "These measures included company-wide guidelines against discrimination on radio and the development of programming policies and guidelines applicable to different formats and types of programs broadcast. The measures also included the use of digital time shift equipment and dedication of a full-time editor to monitor and edit the program, and the provision by station management of training to editing staff concerning programming policies and requirements," reads the decision.

"The licensee explained that despite these measures, the segment in question was not detected and removed: "[The] editor focuses on the live portions of the program and inadvertently missed the offending comment as it was part of a pre-recorded show identification and he mistakenly believed the program was about to go into a commercial break."

Corus also added that: "as a result of the complaint, it had held numerous meetings with programming personnel to re-iterate the need for greater vigilance. It indicated further that a senior member of the programming department had been assigned to monitor the program in question to ensure that it complied with broadcasting standards and requirements, and that several non-offensive segments were made available to replace potentially offensive programming."

The station deleted Leykis from its lineup in June 2003.

"The Commission finds that, by broadcasting the episode, Corus Radio Company, the licensee of CHMJ, breached the prohibition against the broadcast of any abusive comment contained in the Radio Regulations, 1986 and failed to meet a number of Canadian broadcasting policy objectives set out in the Broadcasting Act, including the high standard provision," said the decision, released last Friday.