Ottawa, November 7, 2017 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the use of the English word “fuck” on French-language radio. The CBSC examined broadcasts on CKOI-FM (96.9FM, Montreal) from January and March 2017. It concluded that the station did not violate the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics.
CKOI-FM is a French-language pop-rock music radio station. On January 23, it broadcast an excerpt in English of a speech by singer Madonna at the Women’s March on Washington in which she used the f-word. On March 25, the station broadcast an English clip from a Green Day concert in which the band’s lead singer, Billie Joe Armstrong, used the f-word. Both broadcasts occurred during the afternoon, and a listener complained about the coarse language.
The CBSC French-Language Panel examined the complaints under Clause 9(c) of the CAB Code of Ethics which prohibits the broadcast of “unduly coarse or offensive language”. Although the CBSC has previously said that the f-word should not be broadcast on radio during daytime or early evening hours, it established in a previous decision regarding the use of the word in a French-language television program, that using the word “fuck” in French does not have the same vulgar connotation as it does in English. If the word is used infrequently and not as an insult towards a particular person, it will be deemed acceptable in the context of French-language programming. The CBSC therefore concluded that CKOI did not violate the code.
The CBSC was created in 1990 by Canada’s private broadcasters to administer the codes of standards that they established for their industry. The CBSC currently administers 5 codes which deal with ethics, equitable portrayal, violence, news and journalistic independence. Around 800 radio stations, satellite radio services, television stations and specialty and pay television services across Canada participate in the Council.