April 1997

Ottawa and Toronto, April 29, 1997 — Vision TV and the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today announced the membership of Vision in Canada's self-regulatory broadcast organization, the CBSC. Vision is the first national specialty television channel to join the Council.

In joining the Council, Vision TV agrees to have the CBSC administer the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' Voluntary Code Regarding Violence in Television Programming, which is a condition of licence for Canada's conventional broadcasters and specialty television services. Further, Vision will look to the CBSC for the administration of the Vision TV Code of Ethics, Standards and Practices. Vision TV's particular mandate as Canada's Faith Network, and its programs, which reflect the full spectrum of faith and belief both in Canada and around the world, often deal with potentially contentious issues. Vision's promise of performance underlines its commitment to achieving a high standard of adherence to the Codes established by CAB members. The Vision/CBSC launch date begins immediately.

Fil Fraser, Chief Executive Officer and President of Vision TV, noted, “Vision is a unique service, mandated to present programming that reflects Canada's many faiths and religions, and to promote understanding, tolerance and cooperation among cultures. By joining the CBSC and having the CBSC administer our Code of Ethics, we are demonstrating our support for a self-regulatory organization that has dealt responsibly and fairly with complaints for the past six years.”

Added Ron Cohen, National Chair of the CBSC, “We're delighted to have Vision join us. The fit between Vision's programming objectives and the industry Codes that we have been administering for several years is excellent, and by having specialty services like Vision join us, we can ensure that the standards are applied and interpreted consistently across all segments of the broadcasting system.”

The CBSC was created in 1990 by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB), as Canada's self-regulatory organization for private sector broadcasters. In addition to the Codes on television violence, the CBSC administers a Code of Ethics, a Sex-Role Portrayal Code, and a Code of (Journalistic) Ethics. Since its inception, the CBSC has responded to over 1,100 public complaints and issued over 70 decisions regarding its members' programming. 94% of CAB members are already members of the CBSC.

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Ottawa, April 25, 1997 — The Atlantic Regional Council of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) released its decision today concerning the MITV series, Millennium.

The decision concerns the premiere episode of Milennium, broadcast at 10 p.m. in late October, 1996. The episode dealt with a former lawman with psychic powers who was called upon to search for the perpetrator of a series of murders. The program also contained scenes in which the murderer imagined slaying a stripper, and another scene in which the murderer, cruising for male prostitutes, later took a dead body from his car. The body was later shown charred and decapitated. An MITV viewer felt that these scenes depicted gratuitous, sadistic violence, during a time when children could be watching television. She added that any warning that might have been provided by MITV was merely on-screen and not audible. MITV replied, however, that the scenes described by the viewer were integral to the plot and were not gratiutous. The station defended its choice of scheduling as being consistent with industry standards concerning children's viewing time. MITV indicated that the advisory had been both video and audio, and that there had been additional advisories during the commercial breaks. The viewer was unsatisfied with this response and asked the CBSC to have its Atlantic Regional Council review the matter.

In its decision (attached), the Atlantic Regional Council affirmed that the scenes in the program generally showed the results of violent acts and not the acts themselves. The program was typical of a genre intended for adult audiences, and, although admittedly, the imagery and editing of this genre of program could give rise to fear or terror in an adult audience, the scenes containing violent elements were an essential component of the development of the plot and character. In the Council's view, the program did not contravene the industry's code on television violence, which prohibits gratuitous violence. Moreover, the program contained “scenes of violence intended for adult audiences.” By scheduling the program at 10 p.m., MITV had respected the industry's 9 p.m. watershed hour after which violent programming for adults can be aired. The Council added that the viewer advisories provided by MITV were entirely appropriate and fulfilled the station's obligations to inform viewers of the content they might be watching. As a result, the Council decided that MITV had not breached the industry's code on television violence.

In addition to administering the Violence Code, the CBSC administers broadcasting industry codes on ethics, gender portrayal and journalistic ethics. Some 400 private sector television and radio stations from across Canada are members of the CBSC.

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Ottawa, April 11, 1997 — CBSC National Chair Ron Cohen delivered a speech today at the “V is for Violence” conference organized by the University of California at Santa Barbara. In his speech, Mr. Cohen outlined unique Canadian initiatives to control violence on television and empower television viewers to make informed choices for themselves and their families. He recognized that, while in the U.S., the “V-Chip” is the centrepiece of industry initiatives to controlling violence, in Canada, the V-Chip is but one part of a much larger strategy that includes:

Mr. Cohen also noted that the CRTC's revised timetable for the implementation of its Violence Policy called for the imminent submission of AGVOT's proposed Classification System (around the end of April), the Commission's reaction to that proposal (around the end of May) and the beginning of the encoding of programming's for the fall season. Those curious about the details of the Canadian system, whether it would be primarily age-based or content-based and so on should, he advised, “stay tuned”.

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Ottawa, April 8, 1997 — The Ontario Regional Council of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a joke mentioning 'Jewish mothers” on CHFI-FM.

During the Don Daynard show in March 1995, the host told a series of “light bulb” jokes, including one which asked, “how many Jewish mothers does it take to change a light bulb?” A viewer did not take this “joke” lightly and felt that it was anti-Semitic and offensive. He believed that such jokes had the effect of victimizing ethnic and racial groups and that the host felt he could attack these groups with impunity. CHFI-FM, in its response to the complaint, affirmed that there was no malice or offence intended in the joke, but nonetheless apologized for the listener's discomfort with it. The listener was unsatisfied with this reply and asked the CBSC Ontario Regional Council to consider his complaint.

In its decision (attached), the Regional Council reviewed the industry's Code of Ethics, which requires broadcasters to avoid discriminatory material or comment based on matters of religion, national or ethnic origin. The Regional Council recognized that ethnic humour can be contentious and in fact has been the subject of several CBSC decisions in the past few years. It has established that some such jokes are acceptable — provided that they do not contain abusive or discriminatory material or comment. They may also be acceptable in certain contexts, particularly the nature of program in which they appear and the probable audience perception. Thus, a comment that might be considered abusive or discriminatory in some other context would not be so in a comedy program. In the case of the “Jewish mothers” joke told on CHFI-FM, the Council noted that the joke was told in the context of other “light bulb” jokes aimed at other groups including Marxists, surrealists, accountants, and feminists and, in that context, it merely poked fun; it did not attack or demean. As the Council remarked, “the CBSC does not expect that the airwaves will be pure, antiseptic and flawless when society is not.” Thus, CHFI-FM did not breach the Code of Ethics.

Nearly 400 private sector radio and television stations from across Canada are members of the CBSC. The Council also administers industry codes on ethics and gender portrayal.

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Ottawa, April 8, 1997 — The Ontario Regional Council of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning CITY-TV's Fashion Television.

This is the third decision concerning the program that the Council has issued in the past 3 years. A CITY-TV viewer complained to the CBSC that an episode of the program aired in December 1994 contained nudity and sexually explicit material aired during times when families would be watching television. In her view, the program was pornographic. She cited a number of examples from a segment in the program which featured the work of a fashion photographer, and showed parts of women's bodies and women embracing. CITY-TV replied, however, that nudity should not be equated with pornography, and the fashion depicted in the show was art. Moreover, the station added that the program dealt with more than just fashion: it addressed style and art, in a manner that was sexy with a sense of humour. The viewer, unsatisfied with CITY-TV's response, asked the CBSC Ontario Regional Council to consider the complaint.

The Regional Council, which had already reviewed a complaint about the same program from the same viewer, as well as another complaint about Fashion Television, indicated as it had in previous decisions that there was nothing pornographic or exploitative about the program. While there was nudity in the program being considered, nudity is not necessarily pornographic or sexually explicit. As the Council stated in its decision (attached), “pornography implies the exploitation of the weak by the strong in an obscene or prurient context. Those elements are utterly absent in the material complained of.” As a result, CITY-TV did not breach the industry's code on gender portrayal, which deals with the exploitation of women, men and children. The Council also noted that CITY-TV had provided the viewer with a lengthy response to her concerns and that it was in keeping with CBSC standards of broadcaster responsiveness.

Composed of women and men from the broadcasting industry and the general public, the CBSC Ontario Regional Council is chaired by Al MacKay, a broadcasting industry representative. Robert Stanbury, a representative of the public, is the Vice-Chair. Other public members are Taanta Gupta and Meg Hogarth, while the other broadcaster members are Madeline Ziniak and Paul Fockler.

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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