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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

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Radio host breaches broadcasting code

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Benoît Dutrizac [985fm.ca photo]

MONTREAL — A Montreal radio show host violated broadcasting industry standards with his “disparaging” remarks about the Jewish community last year, an independent regulatory body has ruled.

Benoît Dutrizac, host of the talk show Dutrizac on CHMP (98.5 FM), also misrepresented a Town of Hampstead nuisance bylaw, which was the subject of the Sept. 29, 2011, broadcast during which the comments about Jews were made, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) said in its Aug. 15 decision.

Among the most egregious remarks was his describing certain chassidic Jews as “mentally ill, retards” and his encouraging listeners to disrupt Jews on the High Holidays.

The complaint against Dutrizac, a veteran broadcaster and journalist, was brought by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). CIJA said it’s satisfied with the ruling.

The CBSC said Dutrizac violated the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Code of Ethics and Equitable Portrayal Code.

On the Sept. 29 show, Dutrizac and guest Alain Pronkin, who was presented as an expert on religion, discussed a Hampstead bylaw that prohibited excessive noise on certain holidays.

They focused on the fact that the town included the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, as well as the statutory holidays, as times when residents could not use high-powered construction or gardening equipment, such as gas lawnmowers and leaf blowers, on their property.

The bylaw had been amended by the council the year earlier to extend the ban to include the three Jewish holidays. About 85 per cent of the 8,000 residents of Hampstead are Jewish.

The bylaw became news during last year’s High Holidays, when one resident, who had received a warning, threatened to go the Quebec Human Rights Commission on the grounds the regulation was discriminatory against those who do not practise Judaism. A first offence could result in a $1,000 fine.

According to the CBSC ruling: “Dutrizac complained that the Jewish community was imposing [its] values on Quebec society and encouraged listeners to go make noise in Hampstead on the upcoming… [Jewish] holiday.”

Dutrizac “invited” anyone passing through Hampstead on those days to “honk, make noise, fart, whatever, any noise that indicates to the Jewish community that it’s not the Jewish community that leads Quebec, it’s not them who are going to determine how we are going to live in Quebec… It’s not true that they are going to impose their religious concepts, their religious precepts on the whole society. There are damned limits.”

(Several people did drive through the town honking their horns.)

When Pronkin tried to explain that Rosh Hashanah represented the new year in the Jewish faith, Dutrizac replied: “No, no, you’re in Quebec. It’s Jan. 1.”

Dutrizac made the insulting remarks about chassidim in connection with a 2006 headline-making incident when a chassidic congregation asked the neighbouring Parc Avenue YMCA to cover its windows when women were exercising.

CIJA complained about Dutrizac’s “incendiary appeal to harass the Jewish residents of Hampstead” and “accusing the entire Jewish community of wanting to dominate Quebec.”

The majority of CBSC’s Quebec regional panel agreed that the host made “abusive and unduly discriminatory” remarks about Jewish people and “stereotyped” them by suggesting that they were trying to impose their will on Quebec society. There was one dissenter on this point.

Created in 1990 by Canada’s private broadcasters, the CBSC administers codes that the industry has established for itself. The CBSC has nearly 750 member stations and services across the country.

After the broadcast, CIJA wrote to Louis Audet, president and CEO of Cogeco, the station’s owner, outlining its concerns.  When it received no response, it filed a complaint with the CBSC in November.

CIJA said in a statement that the CBSC decision should serve as a reminder to media professionals that “coverage of controversial questions does not exempt [them] from the duty of self-restraint, civility and concern for objectivity.”

On Aug. 13, the Hampstead council amended the nuisance bylaw. Gas-powered lawn mowers may now be used on the holidays, as well as electric and manual ones, which were previously allowed.

According to CBSC rules, CHMP is required to announce the decision on air once during peak listening hours within three days of the decision’s release, and again within seven days during the time period that Dutrizac is broadcast.

Calls to CHMP for comment were not returned by The CJN’s deadline.

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