Radio Obama assassination joke criticized

A broadcast industry council slammed Canada’s French-language radio broadcaster for airing a comedy sketch that suggested that Barack Obama would be easy to assassinate because the first black American president would stand out against the White House.

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council issued a public reprimand of Radio-Canada Monday, after the government’s regulatory agency asked the private industry council to look into the matter before it begins its own investigation.

Canada’s broadcast regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, received 210 complaints about Radio-Canada’s controversial “Bye Bye 2008” New Year’s Eve sketch.

The CRTC asked the council to examine the show even though Radio-Canada is not a member of the private industry council.

“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 color of the president’s skin,” the council said in its decision.

“It was a disturbing, wounding, abusive racial comment.”

The government’s CRTC will use the council’s report as a basis for its own eventual decision on complaints against the show. The regulatory body does not have the power to issue a fine either, but if it also reprimands the broadcaster that could create problems for Radio-Canada when its license is up for renewal.

In slamming the “Bye Bye 2008” show’s jibes at blacks, which included a fake interviewer telling the audience to hide their wallets when a black actor playing Obama arrived, the private industry council called the segments “simplistic, belittling, hurtful and prejudicial.”

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.

Dan Philip, president of the Black Coalition of Quebec, expressed satisfaction with the findings of the broadcast standards council.

“This is what we have been looking for,” he said. “Radio-Canada, an institution that is supposed to be representative of the public, I think violated all basic understanding as to its responsibility in society.”

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.