The F-Bomb Can Be Used on Canadian Radio. But There’s a Catch.

Unlike the United States with its FCC, there is no government body in Canada that oversees day-to-day content on the radio. Yes, there’s the CRTC, but it deals with dry regulatory issues like broadcast licenses and Cancon not what can or cannot be said by radio hosts or the songs that are played.

For those matters, private radio regulates itself through the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council. If a listener has a problem with something that’s heard on private Canadian radio, a complaint can be made to the CBSC, which then launches an investigation.

When I was working as a program director, I dealt with CBSC complaints all the time. My record in dealing with such matters was 112-1. The only case I lost with the CBSC (which means the station had to air an apology twice over the course of two weeks–how Canadian) was when actor David Carradine showed up drunk on the morning show and dropped the F-bomb in the first 20 seconds. There was a lister complaint which I totally bobbled in its handling and resolution and the station was censured.

There are few things more toxic than dropping an F-sharp on the radio. It’s bad enough if it’s heard in a song (which explains the careful and vulgar radio edit of Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name”) but if a host or a guest utters it–well, that’s close to language police Armageddon.

Except, it appears, in Quebec.

According to a ruling by the CBSC, the f-word can be used more often and more liberally in French on French-language radio than in English and on English-language radio. In other words, French Canadian radio hosts can get away with using the f-word 100% more of the time.

CKOI-FM in Montreal received a couple of complaints about programming done in the key of f-sharp. After an investigation, the CBSC has let them off the hook.

The thinking goes like this: “This crude English word is now – unfortunately – part of the common French language” and therefore permissible on French-language radio in Canada. There are only a couple of caveats: Fucks can only fly sporadically, only in French language programming and not be directed at a particular person.

For the Rest of Canada, the same old rules apply. F**k.

(Via the Globe and Mail)

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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6 thoughts on “The F-Bomb Can Be Used on Canadian Radio. But There’s a Catch.

  • If only George Carlin were alive to make a comment or two about this.
    His affair with the FCC & the SCOTUS is legendary, and he won.

  • I still remember flipping through the radio dial at a young age on a Saturday night to hear Jesus Built My Hotrod on CFNY (Live at the Phoenix in the early 90s). Screeching guitars, with a monotone voiceover, then: “Let’s hit the fuckin’ road” – hooked, CFNY became my lifeline, then the On Going History of New Music, and here I am more than 25 years later……

    • For me it was Closer by Nine Inch Nails. Completely broke my impressionable young mind.

      So awesome. But Ministry is great too 🙂

  • It doesn’t have the same meaning in Quebec. In French it becomes a past participle and an adjective (“fucké”) meaning “messed up” or crazy – (as in, “le Joker de Heath Ledger est vraiment fucké” ) whereas the English expression fucked means something like “done for.” And no, it isn’t used to describe sexual intercourse. It’s just another English loan word, which in Quebec are frowned on for totally different reasons.

  • Unedited versions of “Closer” and Killing in the Name” were played late evenings on CFNY. What does the CRTC say about that, or did you get away with it until wrists were slapped?

    • Very little, actually. We can get away with that on the radio after 9pm when there are allegedly no children listening.


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