Adult Cartoon Requires Detailed Viewer Advisories & Higher Rating, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, August 18, 2010 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning Superjail!, an animated program for adults that aired on the specialty service G4 Tech TV.  Two episodes of the program aired on September 8, 2009 beginning at 9:00 pm.  The CBSC concluded that the viewer advisories should have aired at the beginning of both episodes in both audio and video format, and that the advisories should have been more specific regarding the violent and sexual content.  The CBSC also concluded that the episodes should have been rated higher than PG.

Superjail! is about the staff and inmates of an unusual jail located inside a volcano on a planet in outer space.  The program frequently contains scenes of outrageous and very gory violence, as well as strong references to sex.  For example, in the episodes reviewed by the CBSC, one man’s limbs were torn from his body and spurted blood everywhere, while another man had all of his skin and tissues torn off until he was a walking skeleton.  There was also a scene involving S&M gear and a woman shoving her dirty underpants into a man’s mouth.  G4 Tech TV rated both 15-minute-long episodes PG and aired an advisory only at the beginning of the second episode, and then in video format only, alerting viewers to nothing more specific than “mature subject matter”.

The CBSC received a complaint from a viewer who stated that “the advisory should be stronger and more specific and the rating should be 18+.”  G4 Tech TV noted that the program was scheduled after the “Watershed” hour of 9:00 pm.  It said that the program had been incorrectly rated PG in error instead of 14+ and it committed to improve the viewer advisory by mentioning violence.  The complainant wrote back to observe that the program had been consistently rated PG, not just once in error, and he argued that 14+ was still too low.

The CBSC’s National Specialty Services Panel examined the complaint under the provisions of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Violence Code relating to advisories and classification, as well as the provision of the CAB Code of Ethics relating to advisories.  The Panel acknowledged that the program was definitely intended exclusively for adults and so was correctly scheduled at 9:00 pm, but that there should have been an advisory at the beginning of both episodes, that the advisory should have been in both audio and video format and that the advisory should have mentioned both the violence and sexual content.  With respect to classification, the Panel concluded that 14+ would have been sufficient for the second episode, but the first episode contained a considerable quantity of extremely graphic violence and so should have been rated 18+.  The Panel made the following comments:

The Panel found […] that the first episode (“Ladies Night”) was far more violent and troubling.  Examples of the excessive violence, cumulative in its effect, included: the image of the elderly Flower Lady, wrinkled, naked and splayed on the street; the shoe flying into a bystander’s eye causing it to bleed; Jacknife and the dog being run over repeatedly and bleeding in the street; the self-inflicted frying pan injuries leading to a bloodied and disfigured face; the crushed eyeballs; the broken and separated arm of a female inmate; the severing of both arms on another individual; and so on.  The Panel found the violence level well in excess of the level of intensity noted in the descriptor to the 14+ classification level, and “unsuitable for viewers under the age of 18.”

The Panel also commended G4 Tech TV for taking steps to correct the advisories and classification for the program prior to the release of the CBSC’s decision.

Canada’s private broadcasters have themselves created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, equitable portrayal, television violence and journalistic independence by which they expect the members of their profession will abide.  In 1990, they also created the CBSC, which is the self-regulatory body with the responsibility of administering those professional broadcast Codes and the pay television Codes, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic ethics created by the RTNDA – Association of Electronic Journalists in 1970.  More than 735 radio stations, satellite radio services, television stations and specialty services from across Canada are members of the Council.

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All CBSC decisions, Codes, links to members' and other web sites, and related information are available on the CBSC's website at www.cbsc.ca. For more information, please contact the CBSC National Chair, Mme Andrée Noël CBSC Executive Director, John MacNab