Broadcast Standards Council OKs f-bomb in live coverage

Dropping a few bombs in “live journalistic context” is sometimes excusable, concluded the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council in its most recent decision.

The ruling concerns CP24’s live coverage of last year’s Annual Gay Pride Parade held in Toronto on July 4th. The station provided a live three-hour broadcast at 2 p.m., and re-aired the segment that day at 8 p.m.

CP24 did run the warning “the following is a live event and may contain scenes of nudity. Viewer discretion is advised” after every commercial break. And while the CBSC said its reporters also warned interview subjects about coarse language, spontaneity is, of course, the stuff of live coverage.

Take this exchange, between reporter Melissa Grelo and an interview subject, as quoted by the CBSC:

Melissa: And you, fine sir?

Man: My name is [Caroon?], and I am from Edmonton as well.

Melissa: Well, welcome to Toronto.  Happy Pride!

Man: Thank you. This is f–king awesome!

Melissa: [Quickly removing the microphone] Wow, wow, don’t drop those “F”-bombs.

That was just one of the pieces (there were three f-word instances in total) of reportage subject to viewers’ complaints — those complaints being that such language shouldn’t be on air before 9 p.m.

Overall, the Panel said it does believe that “there are viewers (and listeners) who are genuinely disturbed or offended by such language on the airwaves. For that reason … wherever it is reasonable to do so and the context for the inclusion of the language is not compelling, broadcasters should employ the inexpensive techniques that exist to filter out such language.”

However, it added, when it comes to live broadcast sometimes salty language can, and must, be forgiven.

“[The panel] appreciates that the interviewers alerted their interviewees not to use extremely coarse language and responded appropriately, that is to say, disapprovingly, to the inclusion of the f-word in the dialogue.  While the broadcaster did not incorporate a tape delay in its coverage, the Panel considers that the innocent enthusiasm of the reactions, the infrequent inclusion of the f-word in an unaggressive way in the lengthy event coverage, the contextual basis for the usage, the journalistic nature of the program, and the reaction of the reporters serve as a fair explanation for the use of the f-word during this live broadcast.  The Panel finds no breach of Clause 10(a) of the CAB Code of Ethics on this occasion.  Moreover, the Panel considers that the inclusion of such language in a similar set of journalistically-contextual circumstances could be reasonably understood as justifiable, and thus excusable, on future occasions.”

For broadcasters everywhere, that’s a bleepin’ relief.