May 10, 2000 11:00pm
Dr. Laura The Homophobic Talkshow Host Ruled Too "Abusively Discriminatory" for Canadian Radio
Source: News Wire
(ATLANTA, GA) -- The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council on May 10 issued a ringing ruling against "Dr. Laura" Schlessinger's top-rated U.S. radio show, describing it as "abusively discriminatory" against gays and lesbians.
And in the U.S., a series of rallies continued protesting Schlessinger's new syndicated TV show scheduled to debut in September, as some forty demonstrators gathered outside Atlanta, Georgia's WAGA-TV.
The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) is the self-regulatory body of Canada's broadcasting industry, established by a membership of more than 430 of Canada's private broadcasters to administer codes on ethics, gender portrayal, television violence, and journalistic practices. The CBSC's Atlantic and Ontario Regional Councils reviewed a number of editions of The Dr. Laura Schlessinger Show broadcast on CJCH in Halifax and CFYI in Toronto, and found that in them "her consistent characterization of the sexual behavior of gays and lesbians as 'abnormal,' 'aberrant,' 'deviant,' 'disordered,' 'dysfunctional,' 'an error' [of biology] or the like constituted abusively discriminatory [treatment] of those persons on the basis of their sexual orientation," in violation of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) Code of Ethics.
The Regional Councils were particularly struck by the cumulative effect of Schlessinger's consistent use of such negative references on each of the shows they audited. Those Regional "Councils found her generalized statement that pedophilia has to do with being gay and is more prevalent among members of the gay community than the heterosexual community, are also abusively discriminatory of those persons on the basis of their sexual orientation and are consequently in violation of the human rights provision of the CAB Code of Ethics. The Councils also concluded that both types of statements constituted an unfair or improper expression of opinion or comment," according to a CBSC press release.
Several other kinds of complaints about Schlessinger's remarks concerning gays were found not to violate any codes. But the Regional Councils questioned Schlessinger's continuous emphasis on her "Doctor" status -- which refers to a Ph.D. in physiology -- in combination with the use of "quasi-medical terms" as "an exaggerated, if not manipulative or misleading, choice" to lend weight to her opinions. The Councils also noted that Schlessinger's "views were more than a quarter of a century out of date in the opinion of the professional psychiatric and psychological associations."
The CBSC wrote that the Regional "Councils also were concerned that, 'while she does not herself advocate any of the homophobic hostility or, worse, brutality, which can be found in the criminal corners of society,' the cumulative effect of Schlessinger's positions on gay and lesbian issues 'from her powerfully influential platform behind a very popular microphone ... may well fertilize the ground for other less well-balanced elements, by her cumulative position, to take such aggressive steps."
Canada's broadcast standards differ from those in the U.S.; as the CBSC is fond of quoting itself, "We respect freedom of speech but do not worship it." The value of free speech in Canada is significant "but not free of that compromise essential to ensure a balanced and free democracy for all who dwell there." The CBSC stressed that it is Canadian values that apply to material broadcast in Canada, even if the material originated in the U.S. as does Schlessinger's show. The CBSC statement continued, "Whether or not Americans are so protected in their country is a non-issue for the CBSC. Gays and lesbians are so protected in this country. Whether it is or is not the case in the United States, gays and lesbians constitute a group benefiting from overwhelming judicial and legislative acknowledgment of gay and lesbian rights, not to mention popular support, under the human rights provisions of this country."
Those unfamiliar with the CBSC should not leap to the conclusion that it has a "liberal bias"; it tries scrupulously to evaluate material against the yardstick of the codes it administers. In recent months it has found remarks concerning born-again Christians to be "abusively discriminatory" and has rejected complaints regarding material alleged to discriminate against women and feminists. It should also be noted that the CBSC's mandate is to respond to audience complaints following broadcasts, rather than to intervene as a censor before material has been aired.
Meanwhile, the fifth in a continuing series of U.S. rallies protesting Schlessinger's upcoming syndicated TV show was held in Atlanta, organized by the statewide advocacy group Georgia Equality Project along with national organizers StopDrLaura.com and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). But while representatives from each of those groups spoke, some of the most moving words came from Atlanta's Rabbi Joshua Lesser, as he rhetorically asked self-professed Orthodox Jew Schlessinger, "Dr. Laura, when are you going to use your words to heal?"
The management of Atlanta's WAGA-TV Channel 5, a FOX affiliate, is unwilling to cut Schlessinger's program out of its fall schedule when it has yet to see even one show, but they say they have raised concerns with producer Paramount and plan to continue doing so. After discussions with activists last week, station manager Gene McHugh told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that, "We wanted to know what sort of efforts they [Paramount] were pursuing in order to keep her from saying some of the crasser of her remarks."
Previous demonstrations protesting the TV show have been held in Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, and San Francisco; more are scheduled for St. Louis on May 13, Phoenix on May 15 and Seattle on May 20, with still others being planned. For more information on those actions see StopDrLaura.com. GLAAD has also prepared a "Local Laura Activism" resource kit, available online.