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Complaints about Sun News interpretive-dance interview overwhelm watchdog

Sun News host Kirsta Erickson interviews interpretive dancer Margie Gillis on June 1, 2011.

YouTube

A Canadian broadcast watchdog says it has received a record-setting number of complaints from viewers about a recent Sun News TV interview.

Canadian Broadcast Standards Council national chairman Ron Cohen says his organization has received more than 4,100 complaints about a June 1 interview between host Krista Erickson and Quebec-born dancer Margie Gillis.

The council typically receives about 2,000 complaints in an entire year.

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"It's the most individual complaints we've received about a single incident," Mr. Cohen said in a telephone interview from Ottawa on Tuesday, noting that the number is only surpassed if petitions are included.

In fact, the council issued a release Tuesday asking Canadians to stop sending in complaints because the volume of letters already exceeds the council's resources.

During the interview in question, Ms. Erickson quizzed Ms. Gillis about whether it was appropriate that she receive government grants to support her dance work.

The incident prompted waves of response from the blogosphere and national publications alike, while the resultant YouTube clip - which includes a link to contact the broadcast council - has been viewed nearly 10,000 times.

In a statement, the council pledged to reach a decision "in due course" and said it did not need any further feedback, noting that the sheer volume of complaints is never a factor in the council's decisions anyway.

Mr. Cohen estimated that it would likely take between six and eight months for the council to reach a decision.

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council is an independent watchdog organization with more than 700 member radio and TV stations, handling all complaints directed to the CRTC.

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A spokesman for Sun Media said he did not wish to comment "since the complaints ... were filed with the CBSC following an organized and widely publicized campaign."

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