MONTREAL — The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council is not laughing about Radio-Canada’s controversial Bye Bye 2008 New Year’s Eve sketch show, which drew criticism for its jokes about blacks and anglophones.
One of the most outrageous sketches included an interview with a comedian suggesting Barack Obama would be easy to assassinate because the first black U.S. president would stand out against the White House.
“The panel finds nothing redeeming in the allegedly comedic notion that an American president should be shot, still less that this would be easier to achieve because of the colour of the president’s skin,” the council said in a decision published Monday.
“It was a disturbing, wounding abusive racial comment.”
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission asked the council to examine the Bye Bye because of its experience with complaints about broadcast content.
The federal broadcast regulator will use the council’s report as a basis for its own eventual decision on complaints against the show.
Radio-Canada, a public broadcaster, does not belong to the council, whose members are private broadcasters.
The Bye Bye broadcast is an annual tradition in Quebec and has an eyebrow-raising style that’s as much about shock as it is about laughs.
In slamming the 2008 edition’s jibes at blacks, which included a fake interviewer telling the audience to hide their wallets when a black actor playing Obama arrived, the council called the segments “simplistic, belittling, hurtful and prejudicial.”
It said the material constituted “unduly negative stereotypical content.”
Another sketch criticized by the council concerned hockey legend Patrick Roy and his sons, who made headlines due to their involvement in on-ice violence.
The panel said the sketch violated the council’s equitable portrayal code on violence against women when it showed actors playing Roy’s sons beating their mother.
“There was simply no creative reason for the Roy men to beat their mother up and leave the impression that this element was a constant in their family life,” the panel wrote.
“The show’s creators may have viewed these actions as a satirical depiction of the Roy men’s violent tendencies but, in the view of the panel, they went too far.”
Other aspects of the show were not judged so harshly.
Razzing of anglophones, aboriginals, politicians and the poor was found to be “trashy, crude and in bad taste,” but essentially harmless.
Radio-Canada said in a statement it is surprised the CRTC took the unusual step of consulting the council — “a self-regulatory organization” — and promised to respond.
“The CRTC must make its own decision following a fair process in which Radio-Canada has been able to give its side,” said Marc Pichette, a Radio-Canada spokesman.