Montreal

Quebec's Bye Bye creators to respond to mounting criticism

The producers of one of Quebec's most-watched TV events of the year — the New Year's Eve Bye Bye — will speak for the first time Friday since the show aired containing skits some Quebecers say were racist and in extremely bad taste.

Federal broadcast regulator receives nearly 150 complaints

An actor plays former child star Nathalie Simard, a victim of sexual abuse, in a skit from Bye Bye 2008. ((CBC))

The producers of one of Quebec's most-watched TV events of the year — the New Year's Eve Bye Bye — will speak for the first time Friday since the show aired containing skits some Quebecers say were racist and in extremely bad taste.

Véronique Cloutier, producer and president of Novem, as well as Louis Morissette, executive producer in charge of content for Bye Bye 2008, plan to speak to the media Friday afternoon. The pair also hosted the program.

More than four million Quebecers gathered around their TV sets to watch the most recent Bye Bye special that aired on Radio-Canada Dec. 31.

In the days since the show aired, the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission has received nearly 150 complaints.

Complaints have also been made to the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations.

Actors portraying a news anchor and Barack Obama appear in the Bye Bye special on Dec. 31. ((CBC))
Fo Niemi, the advocacy centre's executive director, said he watched the program after receiving angry phone calls and was shocked. 

"First of all we were astounded at the frequent use of the N-word on public airwaves," said Niemi, referring to the use of the word nègre in the broadcast.

Members of Montreal's black community singled out a skit involving a news anchor interviewing an actor portraying U.S. president-elect Barack Obama.

After initially confusing the incoming president with a black Quebec singer, 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 that he might steal their television sets.

Assault support groups join chorus of critics

Groups representing victims of sexual assault are also raising concerns over a portrayal of former child star, Nathalie Simard.

An actor playing Simard is shown singing and packing a suitcase, a reference to the pop singer retreating from the public spotlight while at the same time selling her story to gossip magazines.

Simard has spoken out about years of sexual abuse by her former manager, Guy Cloutier, the father of Bye Bye  host Véronique Cloutier.

"The message that was sent about Nathalie Simard presumes that she was doing that for money, or publicity," said Danielle Tessier, who works with sexual abuse victims in Montreal.

Producers defend creative content

Cloutier and her production company previously released a statement defending the show's content, including the skit referring to Obama.

"It is dishonest to claim that we showed racism … Each racial allusion in the skit served to highlight the ineptitude of the characters in the skit," Cloutier and Morissette said in the statement issued earlier this week.

Radio-Canada's executive vice-president of French services, Sylvain Lafrance, said in a statement that the public broadcaster is listening to the public's concerns.

"We got the message loud and clear. We'll learn from the experience and factor it into our future discussions and decisions regarding projects of a similar nature," said Lafrance.

Neimi, of the race advocacy group, hopes to organize a meeting between members of Montreal's black community and Radio-Canada management.

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