Canada TV censors: Athletes can't say f***


TORONTO – Canada's TV censors on Friday ruled triumphant sports athletes can't use the F-word on air during post-game interviews -- even if they've just beaten the Russians to win the gold medal at the World Junior Hockey Championships.

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council said The Sports Network (TSN), Canada's cable sports channel, was wrong to allow Canadian hockey forward Jonathan Toews to drop the F-bomb on live TV after he and his teammates earned the world junior hockey crown.

During the January 5, 2007 live telecast, a pumped up Toews told TSN reporter James Cybulski that the Canadian team did a "fucking great job" beating the Russians to win their second gold meal in as many years at the championships.

The CBSC, reacting to a viewer complaint over the use of the f-word in a daytime broadcast, ruled the action breached an industry code of ethics that restricts the use of abusive language to between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., when young people are less likely to watch TV.

Previous rulings by the CBSC against the use of foul language on live TV mostly relate to utterances by triumphant music stars and actors on awards shows airing here.

The TSN case is the first instance of Canadian censors contesting foul language used on a live sporting event.

The Canadian sports channel unsuccessfully defended itself against the written complaint by indicating the hockey game aired live without tape-delay. The sports channel added it did edit out the offending language when it replayed the game later that night.

The CBSC panel accepted that the Canadian hockey player was "likely genuine, spontaneous and unpremeditated."

At the same time, the Canadian TV censors said young hockey players are "role models" for young viewers, and "broadcasters must simply find a way to avoid the use of such coarse language during audiences' safe haven."

The CBSC ruling also urged broadcasters to caution young and inexperienced athletes against using foul language before they were interviewed on air.

There were dissenters on the CBSC panel who argued that the f-word was uttered only once on live TV, and that "one must weigh... the slight cost of a single fleeting expletive against the benefit of natural, spontaneous, unconstrained sports or news broadcasting."

As a sanction, TSN was ordered to broadcast the CBSC ruling in prime time.

The CBSC oversees a voluntary industry code of ethics on behalf of Canadian private broadcasters.