Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Quebecois Black community: "Nous désapprouvons votre shennanigans"

Radio-Canada and the producers of the French-language broadcaster's popular New Year's Eve special are defending the show amid allegations that certain skits were insulting and racist.

The annual special Bye Bye is one of the most-watched television events of the year in Quebec, drawing four million viewers on Dec. 31.

The program, which aired on Radio-Canada, parodied everything from the U.S. election to Quebec's top news events of the year.

However, one skit in particular went too far, according to some members of Quebec's black community.

The skit involved a fake interview between U.S. president-elect Barack Obama and a news anchor who confuses him with the popular Quebec entertainer Gregory Charles. When corrected, the anchor tells viewers that all black people look alike. He goes on to say that viewers at home shouldn't worry about Obama stealing their purses, but he might steal their television sets.

"Radio-Canada recognizes that the edition this year contained elements that may not have been to everyone's taste," read a statement from Radio-Canada.

By Tuesday, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission had received 28 complaints about the show. The CRTC said the content of the complaints is confidential.

Dan Phillip of the Black Coalition said the skit went too far.

"Firstly, it's totally racist," Phillip told Le Journal de Montreal. "Radio-Canada has also demonstrated a lack of sensitivity and respect towards the black community."

The program verged on racism, said Michael Farkus, the director of the community organization Youth in Motion in the Montreal neighbourhood of Little Burgundy, home to much of the city's English-speaking black community. He said the skit was one part of an entire program that was in bad taste.

"The whole show was really low. That particular sketch was despicable," Farkus told CBC Radio.

Farkus said the producers, Véronique Cloutier's production company Novem, should not be allowed back next year.

In a statement, Radio-Canada defended the program and its decision to put the writing in the hands of the Novem team.

The writers, said the statement, are behind some of Quebec's most popular television programs, including CA and Les Bougon.

"As a democratic institution in the service of culture, Radio-Canada has a principal of respecting the freedom of its creative teams who contribute to its dramatic and variety programming," said the statement.


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