August 1997

Ottawa, August 28, 1997 – The Action Group on Violence on Television (AGVOT) today unveiled the graphic icons which English-language broadcasters will use to identify the rating of their programs, thus helping parents make informed viewing choices for their families. The ratings system consists of guidelines which deal with the categories of violence, language and sexual content and the system should be in use by the week of September 29th.

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council is pleased that the proposed system is clean and simple. CBSC National Chair stated that “The Canadian method of dealing with violence on television remains as, if not more, effective than any in the world since it reflects the combination of understandable on-screen ratings, viewer advisories and the CAB Violence Code. On-screen icons, the shorthand and viewer-friendly notices of program suitability, remain supplemented by a structure of advisories which explain the nature of the content and the CAB Violence Code itself. Both additional television watching tools remain in full force and effect to ensure a full measure of protection for Canadian children.”

AGVOT's Media Release of May 5, 1997 announcing its proposed ratings system can be found in the Archives section of the CBSC website. AGVOT's full submission to the CRTC is also available on the CBSC website. The approval of that system was announced by the CRTC's Media Release of June 18. The full text of the Commission's decision, Classification System for Violence in Television Programming, Public Notice CRTC 1997-80, is also accessible by clicking here.

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Ottawa, August 27, 1997 — The Atlantic Regional Council of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning an episode of the CIHF-TV (MITV) series, X-Files, entitled “Home”, which was broadcast on October 11, 1996 at 10:00 P.M.

The episode dealt with the theme of genetics in a setting of science fiction/suspense. An MITV viewer argued that the show was “extremely violent, sadistic and unacceptable for public viewing.” Furthermore, in her opinion, the series was aimed at children and put “violence, sadism, senseless brutality and incest” into their living rooms. The broadcaster disagreed. Referring to the use of camera angles, editing, lighting, plot development and special effects, the station defended the episode as merely implying acts of violence which were integral to the plot. MITV also pointed out that the show was aired well after the watershed hour and targeted an adult audience. 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 agreed that some scenes “were graphic and occasionally left a gory record of what had occurred off-camera.” The Council clarified the issue of off-camera violence by explaining that scenes which merely show “traces of off-screen occurrences” rather than the violent actions themselves may still constitute violence within the meaning of the Code. The Council concluded, however, that the violent scenes in this episode were integral to the development of the plot and theme and, consequently, did not constitute “gratuitous violence”. Furthermore, the Council had no difficulty in concluding that the broadcaster, by scheduling the program at 10 p.m., had not “aimed [it] at children”. As the Council decided, “This is not to say that there may not be children watching at any given hour of the day but only that the program is not aimed at children and that is the point at issue.”

The Council also reviewed some of the basic principles relating to the CAB Violence Code and observed in particular that freedom of expression is not without limits in Canada: “It is subject to a series of the most stringent rules regarding programming directed at children, rules at least as precise and restrictive as any adopted by any of the major Western democracies and far more protective of our children than anything provided by our powerful neighbour to the South.” One of those restrictive rules requires that a broadcaster, in exercising its freedom to air programs containing scenes of violence intended for adult audiences, include “advisories which permit viewers to make informed viewing choices.” Although the broadcaster had respected the industry's 9 p.m. watershed hour, MITV did not provide any advisories, which constitutes a breach of Article 5.1 of the Violence Code. Consequently, MITV is required to announce this decision in the terms prescribed within the decision during prime time within thirty days of its publication.

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-Hull, August 5, 1997 – In its decision in CHUM-FM re Sunday Funnies (CBSC Decision 95/96-0064, March 26, 1996), the CBSC had determined that CHUM-FM had not exceeded the bounds of reasonableness in the particular jokes in question which it had broadcast. The complainant had not been satisfied by the decision and had “appealed” it to the CRTC.

The Commission concluded that the particular jokes did not constitute a broach of the abusive comment provision of Clause 2 of the CAB Code of Ethics or sec. 3(b) of the Radio Regulations, 1986. Their letter stated, among other things, that “The Commission agrees with the CBSC's assessment that not every comment that refers to matters of race, national or ethnic origin (etc.) falls afoul of the abusive comment provision of [above sections of the Code and the Regulation].” The Commission further agreed with the position of the CBSC on other aspects of jokes relating to ethnic humour.

The Commission strongly agrees with the CBSC that the standard to be applied to potentially offending statements will be not be different between serious and comedic situations. However, the Commission agrees with the CBSC that the audience perceptions and expectations may be different in these two situations. Thus, the humorous environment is relevant to the context in which the comments are to be evaluated and assessed.

The full text of the Commission's letter can be found on the CBSC website.

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Ottawa-Hull, August 1, 1997 – The CRTC today set out an agenda for the review of its policies for all sectors of radio, including commercial radio, not-for-profit radio, and CBC radio. The full text of the Media Release can be found at the CRTC website.

Currently a number of regulatory mechanisms are in place to help ensure that radio fulfils the guiding principles set out in the Broadcasting Act. These mechanisms address matters such as content requirements for Canadian and French-language musical selections, local programming, diversity of programming and ownership of broadcasting undertakings. The Commission wishes to review all policies and regulations relating to radio broadcasting in order to determine whether they continue to be relevant and effective as the radio industry adapts to new technologies and opportunities such as digital radio and satellite delivered programming. For those mechanisms that are considered to be no longer relevant and effective, the Commission is interested in considering suggestions for new approaches. For those mechanisms that are considered to be still relevant and effective, the Commission is interested in receiving suggestions concerning whether and how they could be improved.

In a separate document (Public Notice CRTC 1997-104 issued simultaneously, the Commission announced the review process for the commercial sector of radio.

Issues relating to programming that is of high standard and balanced on matters of public concern, including issues related to the mandate of the CBSC are found in paragraphs 60-67.

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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