Rogers says shock jock deserves a second chance after CBSC violations.

By Zoe McKnight

The return of shock jock Dean Blundell to the airwaves poses an ethical dilemma between protecting free speech and protecting those who could be targeted by his often-homophobic and misogynistic commentary, experts say.

This week, Rogers announced the new morning show Dean Blundell & Co. would go to air on March 2 on Sportsnet 590 The Fan, prompting headlines and online outrage.

Blundell is best known for his juvenile sense of humour and, along with former co-hosts Todd Shapiro and Derek Welsman, for repeatedly running afoul of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council for controversial remarks made on air on 102.1 The Edge. Corus Entertainment fired him from the Dean Blundell Show last January after 13 years as host.

“I don’t know how any responsible news outlet couldn’t be more sensitive these days in the context of what’s been going on here in Canada with Jian Ghomeshi and in the U.S. with people like Bill Cosby,” said Romayne Smith-Fullerton, an associate professor in the faculty of information and media studies at Western University in London, Ont. “The buzz around institutionalized misogyny is very much on the public discussion list. How could you then even consider hiring someone like Blundell? What on earth is that saying to women?”

In the announcement, Rogers called Blundell a “big talent.” The broadcaster deserves a second chance and is not a risk to the brand, Sportsnet president Scott Moore told the Toronto Star.

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But Blundell’s humour goes beyond poor taste, said Western University journalism professor Meredith Levine, who is also vice-chair of the Canadian Association of Journalism’s ethics advisory committee.

“It’s not just offending, it’s harming. Some of this stuff has been toxic,” she said.

“The potential benefit for having a diverse range of opinion is it promotes freedom of speech and freedom of opinions on the one hand, [but] on the other side, at what cost? Who gets harmed?”

Levine said she listens to The Fan for its baseball coverage and always found the announcers and reporters knowledgeable and insightful.

“Why would Rogers even contemplate hiring him to a sports channel? What’s this about? It’s about the bottom line. It’s about taking the risk of harming vulnerable groups for profit.”

“Whatever Rogers says, you don’t hire someone like Blundell for anything else than his fan base, which is based on humour that’s infantile and offensive to many, many people,” said Levine.

In 2013, the broadcast council admonished Blundell for making light of the accidental death of an American teenager and ruled its code of ethics against discriminatory, stereotyping and degrading language was again violated. The American teenager died when he got stuck upside down in a rolled-up wrestling mat; Blundell referred to the sport of wrestling as “gay” and suggested the student crawled into the mat on purpose because he was ashamed of what he’d done at wrestling practice, according to a 2013 statement from CBSC.

Blundell was also found to have violated the council’s code of ethics during a 2012 broadcast in which he lauded a caller for beating up protesters at a Remembrance Day ceremony in Toronto. Though he referred to female protesters as “bitches” and “skanks,” the council found no violation because the women were not identified.

Blundell’s show was cancelled in January 2014 after a Toronto Star story about Blundell and his producer Welsman joking about homosexuality in reference to a sexual assault trial in which Welsman was a juror, prompting concern the trial was tainted.

Blundell’s show was also censured for sexualized comments about children and various “degrading and abusive” comments about women.

But while Jeffrey Dvorkin, journalism program director at the University of Toronto Scarborough found it surprising Blundell was hired on a mainstream sports program, he said he would be equally uncomfortable if the host was censored or the station’s broadcast licence was revoked over the move.

“There are people with weird ideas and offensive ideas and obnoxious ideas. The question is, how far can a media organization go in allowing the expression of those ideas even to the extent that some people will feel offended? That’s the essential democratic dilemma.”

[[{“fid”:”3563″,”view_mode”:”default”,”fields”:{“format”:”default”,”field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]”:””,”field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]”:””},”type”:”media”,”link_text”:null,”attributes”:{“height”:”462″,”width”:”720″,”style”:”width: 156px; height: 100px; margin-left: 12px; margin-right: 12px; float: left;”,”class”:”media-element file-default”}}]]Zoe McKnight is a Toronto-based freelance reporter and Ryerson University j-school grad. She’s on Twitter @zoemck.