CBC taken to task over Obama satire

Comedy sketch included remarks about race, assassination

TORONTO -- Canada's TV watchdog on Monday called on the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. to publicly apologize for mocking President Obama as a possible thief and assassination target during a satirical show on New Year's Eve.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission fingered the French-language public broadcaster for a comedy sketch during the Dec. 31 airing of "Bye Bye 2008" that included references to Obama's skin color, the phrase "all blacks look alike" and the idea that the U.S. president might be inclined to steal purses from the audience.

"We expect the CBC to apologize to its viewers and implement mechanisms to prevent such an unfortunate situation from occurring again in the future," CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein said in a ruling Monday.

Obama's interviewer in the special told the actor playing Obama that having a black president in the White House was helpful because a black man is more visible and easier to assassinate.

"Broadcasters must maintain high standards at all times and are responsible for the content they broadcast, including during live programs," von Finckenstein said.

The Montreal-based producers of "Bye Bye," a popular end-of-year ritual on the pubcaster, apologized after the broadcast and denied any racist intent.

The CBC in January conceded the race-based satire contained elements "that might not be to everyone's taste" but defended its right to uphold creative expression.

The CRTC, in urging a full apology from the CBC, said the broadcast breached domestic TV regulations that aim against abusive comments and negative portrayals of visible minorities on Canadian TV.

Executives at the CBC could not be reached for comment.