Bravo! re the film Chippendales & the Ladies

NATIONAL SPECIALTY SERVICES PANEL
(CBSC Decision 01/02-0379)
R. Cohen (Chair), R. Cugini, E. Duffy-MacLean, M. Hogarth and H. Pawley

THE FACTS

The Specialty Service
Bravo! broadcast the film Chippendales & the Ladies on
December 31, 2001 at 8:00 pm
EST
(which was 6:00 MST – the complainant’s
time zone). The subject of the documentary
was the well-known American male strip-tease group called the Chippendales.
The documentary was filmed in
Denmark and included interviews with Chippendales dancers and a number of
the women who attended a show there. It
also featured scenes of Chippendales performances, which included provocative
dancing, bare buttocks and men in G-strings.
While no frontal nudity was involved nor were male genitalia shown,
there were, as noted, a couple of provocative dance numbers. The broadcaster included a 14+ icon and the
following viewer advisory in audio and visual formats at the start of the
program:

The following
program contains scenes of nudity. Parental
discretion is advised.

No other advisories were
broadcast coming out of any commercial breaks.

A Calgary viewer sent
a complaint to the CBSC on January 3, 2002 (the relevant text of the e-mail
and all other correspondence can be found in the Appendix). He expressed his concern about both the content
and the time at which the program aired, advising that the documentary

contained
brash, in your face sexual content (Ex. Provocative movements, nudity,
audience members touching the strippers private parts, etc.). It is degrading to both the strippers and to
the audience to see people acting in such a way.

He added that the filmmaker
had included

some interviews with the
strippers in an attempt to fool the standards bodies (like you) and the
audience that these programs are documentaries and are something other
than soft-core porn.

With respect to the time
issue, the complainant, who was familiar with the Watershed hour of
9:00 pm, asked rhetorically whether the broadcaster was ignoring that requirement.
He also raised the question of ratings icons, making the general
observation (without offering any specific examples) that he had

also
seen programs that have a warning (Ex. The following program contains
scenes of nudity, violence, etc.) and the ’18+’ label, but are shown at
any time of the day. How can they
get away with this?

In the case of the challenged
documentary, he noted that the broadcaster had only applied a

’14+’
rating, which is quite unacceptable. Do
broadcasters deliberately underrate a program in order to avoid the ’18+’
designation and the
9:00 pm standard in order to put their program on at
a more favourable time?

Bravo!’s Director of
Programming and Acquisitions responded via e-mail on February 8. She explained that “[t]he program was scheduled
as a lead-in to the critically acclaimed film The Full Monty, to
provide a lighthearted and fun-filled evening of themed programming for
New Year’s Eve.” She then explained
the Chippendales’ act in the following terms:

The
Chippendales, in case you are not familiar with them, are famous and recognized
world-wide as “ladies entertainment” but have become a girls night joke,
more than anything else. The program
attempts to examine that phenomenon. Their
material is in its way quite innocent and ridiculous, and the program
does not aim to be titillating or prurient.
It does contain some brash performance, but no explicit or graphic
sex, full-frontal nudity, extreme violence or bad language, content which
would require an 18+ rating.

The Director of Programming
pointed out that documentaries are customarily exempt from the requirement
of inclusion of an on-screen rating but that 14+ would be the applicable
rating for a program such as this. She
added that the Chippendales documentary was not a post-Watershed program.
On the substantive side, she concluded:

The
positive side of your letter, is that our ratings and disclaimers are
working and are being noted by audience members such as yourself, so that
they can turn to alternative channels if the program is not to their taste.

The complainant was not
satisfied by Bravo!’s response and returned his Ruling Request on February
10. It was accompanied by an e-mail in which he
refined his complaint by observing that it was not the nudity that was his
major complaint, but rather “how people [were] portrayed.” He added the following observation:

There
is a huge difference between National Geographic depiction of nudity at
one end of the spectrum, and that of a porno film at the other end of
the spectrum. National Geographic treats everybody with respect
and doesn’t even attempt to exploit its subjects. Porn, like this movie, is at the opposite end
of the spectrum. It treats people
with disrespect as if people are little more than a collection of sex
organs designed to titillate.

In fact, continuing that
analogy, he argued that Chippendales & the Ladies was far
removed from a National Geographic documentary; in his terms, it was a “so
called ‘documentary’ (which is really soft-core porn).”

The complainant then
made a strong argument concerning the Watershed hour point that had been
raised by the broadcaster:

Also,
the person at Bravo TV said that “the watershed hour of
9:00 pm applies to the province of origination.”
If this is true, it is quite unbelievable!
Didn’t anybody notice that
Canada has 6 time zones? If a program is deemed to be inappropriate for
younger viewers and so it is to be shown no earlier than
9:00 pm in the province of origination (usually
Ontario) then why is it allowed to be shown at 6:00 pm in BC? Reverse it, so it can be shown no earlier than
9:00 pm no matter where it airs! This is
very important!

THE DECISION

The National Specialty
Services Panel considered the complaint under the following provisions of
the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Voluntary Code Regarding
Violence in Television Programming
and Sex-Role Portrayal Code:

CAB Violence Code, Article 3.1.1 (Scheduling):

Programming
which contains scenes of violence intended for adult audiences shall not
be telecast before the late evening viewing period, defined as
9 pm to
6 am
.

(Note:
To accommodate the reality of time zone differences, and Canadian distant
signal importation, these guidelines shall be applied to the time zone
in which the signal originates.)

CAB
Violence Code
,
Article 4.0 (Classification System):

Exempt

Descriptive
Exempt
programming includes: news, sports, documentaries and other information
programming: talk shows, music videos, and variety programming.

Note: Exempt programming does not require an icon
for on-screen ratings.

14+ (Over 14 Years)

Descriptive
Programming
with this classification contains themes or content elements which might
not be suitable for viewers under the age of 14.
Parents are strongly cautioned to exercise discretion in permitting
viewing by pre-teens and early teens without parent/guardian supervision,
as programming with this classification could deal with mature themes
and societal issues in a realistic fashion.

Violence
Guidelines
while violence could be one of the dominant
elements of the storyline, it must be integral to the development of plot
or character.
might contain intense scenes of violence.

Other
Content Guidelines
Language: could possibly include strong or frequent
use of profanity
Sex/Nudity: might include scenes of nudity and/or sexual
activity within the context of
narrative
or theme

CAB Violence Code, Article 5.2 (Viewer Advisories):

Broadcasters
shall provide a viewer advisory at the beginning of, and during programming
telecast outside of late evening hours, which contains scenes of violence
not suitable for children.

CAB Sex-Role Portrayal
Code
, Article 4 (Exploitation):

Television
and radio programming shall refrain from the exploitation of women, men
and children. Negative or degrading
comments on the role and nature of women, men or children in society shall
be avoided. Modes of dress, camera
focus on areas of the body and similar modes of portrayal should not be
degrading to either sex. The sexualization
of children through dress or behaviour is not acceptable.

The National Panel Adjudicators
viewed a tape of the program in question and reviewed all of the correspondence. For the reasons provided at greater length below,
the Panel considers that the broadcast of the challenged film was not in
breach of the exploitation, classification or scheduling issues; however,
by failing to provide all the advisories required, the Panel does consider
that Bravo! has breached Article 5.2 of the Violence Code.

What Is a
Documentary?

Because the classification
system which is a part of the CAB Violence Code exempts documentaries
(and certain other categories of programming not relevant to the present
decision) from the on-screen rating requirement, it is important to distinguish
between that program form and others. That
definition is better understood by referring to the background for the implementation
of the rating system, laid down by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications
Commission (CRTC) in Classification
System for Violence in Television Programming
, 18 June 1997,
P.N. CRTC 1997-80
, which provided that:

$     the scope of the classification system
should be responsive to the public’s concerns while being practical to
implement

$    
classifications should be applied,
at a minimum, to children’s programming (programs intended for children
under 12 years of age), drama, “reality-shows” (reality-based dramatic
programs), feature films, promotions for any of these programs and advertisements
for theatrical releases; and

$     in order to ensure the protection of
children from the harmful effects of television violence, regardless of
the time at which the programming is scheduled, the programming described
above should be encoded with ratings at all times.

The Commission then described
the proposed Action Group on Violence on Television (AGVOT) system, indicating
specifically that “Except for the exempt category, which includes news and
public affairs, programs will be rated as falling into one of the following
categories [the list follows].” The
Commission declared its acceptance of the fact that “the proposed rating
system meets the criteria set out in its Violence Policy.” The Classification System, found in the Appendix
to the Public Notice, defines the “Exempt” category as follows:

Exempt
programming includes: news, sports, documentaries and other information
programming; talk shows, music videos, and variety programming.

What, then, is meant
by “documentaries and other information programming”?
In TQS re
an episode of the program Faut le voir pour le croire
(CBSC Decision
99/00-0460, August 29, 2000)
, the Quebec Regional
Panel shaped the answer in the following terms:

The
Council has no doubt that it does not include all non-dramatic
programming. Apart from anything else, the Commission’s policy
criteria on violence establish that “reality-shows” are included
in their anticipated list of types of programming requiring classification.
There is, in other words, a spectrum of reality-based programming
running from that which is intended to be exempt, namely, documentaries
and information programming, to that which is intended to be rated, namely,
reality shows programming. The Council considers that a method of describing
this distinction in simple terms would be to say that such non-dramatic
programming ranges between enlightening and entertaining. This is not to suggest that enlightening programming
cannot be entertaining or that entertaining programming cannot be enlightening.
It is only to say that that programming which is primarily enlightening
is what the broadcasters and the CRTC expected would be exempt and that
which is primarily entertaining which the broadcasters and the
industry expected would be subject to classification.

The Panel then referred
to the Canadian Television Fund, which defines a “documentary” as

a
non-fiction representation of reality that contains the following elements:

$                   
informs or engages in critical analysis
of a specific topic or point of view;

$                   
provides an in-depth treatment of the
subject;

$                   
is meditative and reflective;
$                   
is primarily designed to inform but
may also entertain;

$                   
treats a specific topic over the course
of at least 30 minutes (including commercial time);

$                   
requires substantial time in preparation,
production and post-production;

$                   
has an original narrative and visual
construction (which may include scenes of dramatic re-enactments);

$                   
has enduring appeal and therefore a
long shelf life

The Panel believes it
important that persons not confuse the subject matter with the form. A documentary does not cease to be a documentary
because its subject matter is racy rather than dry. It also goes without saying that different subjects
will interest different people and that some will draw larger audiences
than others. A filmmaker’s appeal
to popular taste and sentiment, even if based on quasi-sexual content, does
not either condemn the piece or disentitle it to classification as a documentary.

Despite the contrary,
possibly genuinely intended enlightening attempt on the part of the complainant
to explain that the interviews with the strippers were merely a ruse to
fool the CBSC, the Panel considers that the program is a documentary. It partakes in most of the foregoing criteria
and does include (although the complainant has not raised this point) at
least as many interviews with members of the audience as with the strippers
themselves. Why the women are interested
in the strip show is clearly as important to the filmmaker in this case
as the provision of the reasons for which the men choose to engage in that
activity. The Panel concludes that
Chippendales & the Ladies is, for the purpose of this decision,
a documentary. Furthermore, although this makes no difference
whatsoever in its determination in this respect, the Panel does not find
the film remotely “pornographic”, as argued by the complainant.

Classification
Requirements

Once the characterization
of the film as a documentary is determined, the issue of classification
is clear. No on-screen ratings icon is required. Nonetheless, the Panel considers that the broadcaster’s
decision to include such information is thoughtful, helpful and praiseworthy.
It inevitably assists viewers in making their television-watching
choices. The Panel also considers that, had an icon been
required, the 14+ choice would have been correct: “scenes of nudity and/or
sexual activity within the context of narrative or theme” are permitted
at this ratings level. Those boundaries
were not exceeded.

The Panel wishes to suggest
to all broadcasters that they adopt the practice of Bravo! applied in the
case of Chippendales & the Ladies.
Even where the content is such that the program would, according
to the rules, fall into the exempt category, the use of the classification
icon is to be encouraged where the program content warrants it.
Its use is a courtesy benefiting both the viewer and the broadcaster,
whose interest is best served by ensuring that people who do not wish to
see a genre of programming have the information to avoid it.

The Watershed
Hour

Although the CAB Violence
Code
makes specific mention of violence only, it has long been CBSC
practice to extend the provisions regarding the Watershed hour and viewer
advisories to other sorts of programming, such as that with sexual content
and coarse language.

Given that the Panel
considers that 14+ would be the correct rating for the film, there would
be no requirement that it be broadcast after 9:00 pm in the province of
origin (since it would not be a program intended exclusively for adult audiences). In the circumstances, there is not either any
issue regarding the applicability of the Watershed in a province receiving
the signal at an earlier hour, although the Panel must underscore, for the
benefit of the complainant, the exception provided in Article 3.1.1 for
single-feed broadcasts.

This Panel has also dealt
with Western time zone issues in WTN
re Sunday Night Sex Show
(CBSC Decision 99/00-0672,
January 31, 2001)
.
The Panel considered a complaint relating to the
8:00 pm availability in Vancouver of a call-in show in which the host answered questions and gave advice
on matters relating to human sexuality.
The Panel agreed that the program contained “sexually explicit dialogue
and adult-oriented explanatory discussion” and expressed its sensitivity
to

the
conundrum presented by the vast size of
Canada. Given
the declared goal of the Broadcasting Act to provide programming
which will be “varied and comprehensive, providing a balance of information,
enlightenment and entertainment for men, women and children of all ages,
interests and tastes,” it must be recognized that this task is to be achieved
across six time zones with a relatively thinly spread population
base. Since most of the specialty
services have a single feed for the entire country (some, but not many,
have two feeds), it necessarily results that only some parts of the country
can be happy all of the time in terms of the issue of the hour of broadcast
of adult programming. Compromise,
balance and fairness are essential components of the solution.
An adult program which just respects the Watershed in
St. John’s will be on at dinnertime in Toronto and during pre-dinner after school
hours in
Calgary and Vancouver. One
which just respects the Watershed in
Vancouver will be on after people have gone
to bed in
Toronto, Halifax and St. John’s. One
which just respects the Watershed in
Toronto finds people awake in the Atlantic Provinces but at dinner in Edmonton and Victoria.

Viewer Advisories

Although neither a classification
icon nor post-Watershed broadcast was required, the broadcaster is still
required to respect the obligation under the CAB Violence Code to
include viewer advisories. When a
program is entitled to play pre-Watershed but its content includes scenes
not suitable for children (who are defined by the Code as being under 12),
viewer advisories are required throughout the program.
The Panel considers that that is the case here, where both the near-nudity
and mature nature of the provocative dancing merit viewer warnings. The broadcast of Chippendales & the Ladies
needed advisories at the beginning of the program and coming out of each
commercial break. Although provided
at the start of the film, no other advisories were broadcast, resulting
in a breach of Article 5.2 of the Violence Code.

Exploitation

The complainant’s concern
in his original e-mail was that the stripping was “degrading” to the male
strippers, as well as to the audience. The
Panel understands that the purpose of the CAB Sex-Role Portrayal Code
is generally to ensure the equality of the sexes on the airwaves and that,
more specifically, the purpose of Article 4 of the Code is to ensure that
there will be no inequality in the form of exploitation or degradation
of either gender on the airwaves. This
does not mean that the simple depiction of one sex in the absence of the
other is the equivalent of the inequality that would be of concern. In such a circumstance, the portrayal of the
one sex must still be degrading or exploitative for such a conclusion to
be drawn. Nor does the fact that
there may be a sexual connotation to the portrayal of either of the sexes
imply such degradation. Where, as in CTV re
W-FIVE (Swingers)
(CBSC Decision 99/00-0347, February 14, 2001)
,
both sexes were shown in the context of a public affairs program on swinging
(that is, the practice of exchanging sexual partners), the sexual content
of the activity was not seen to be exploitative or degrading. According to the Atlantic Regional Panel,

in
terms of the Sex-Role Portrayal Code, it is not exploitative with
respect to the presentation of either of the sexes vis-à-vis the other. Nor was there anything in the segment which
would lead anyone to conclude that there is anything negative or degrading
stated or suggested with regards to either men or women as a group.

In another matter, Bravo!
re the documentary film Give Me Your Soul
(CBSC Decision 00/01-1021, January
16, 2002)
, this Panel addressed a complaint about
a documentary on the pornography industry.
The Panel commented that

the
challenged program is not exploitative of either gender. In dealing with the commercial pornography industry
per se, the documentary interviews, and deals with, men and women,
neither to the exclusion nor detriment of the other.

Even where, as in TQS re
Strip Tease
(CBSC Decision 98/99-0441, February 21, 2000)
,
the stripping was done exclusively by women, the Panel did not find exploitation.
The Panel noted that “the showing of the bare breasts of Demi Moore
or the other dancers was in no way comparable to the erotic matter” in other
movies reviewed by the CBSC where no exploitation was found.

In the matter at hand,
there is no demeaning, degrading, mocking perspective regarding the male
strippers. If anything, the entire subtext of the documentary
film is realistic, lightly humorous and gently self-deprecating.
It explores a phenomenon and “what’s in it” for both the dancers
and the watchers. It exploits neither side of the stage lights
to the expense or detriment of the other.
The Panel finds no exploitation in the film.

Broadcaster
Responsiveness

In addition to the substantive
aspects of each CBSC Panel decision, the Adjudicators consider the adequacy
of the broadcaster response to the initial statement of concerns of the
complainant. It is always the view
of the CBSC that the effort undertaken by the complainant to write merits
a thoughtful response by the broadcaster.
In the case at hand, the Director of Programming has been as focussed,
thoughtful, reasoned and explanatory in her reply as the Panel could wish. Nothing more in required in this respect on
this occasion.

CONTENT OF THE ANNOUNCEMENT
OF THE DECISION

Bravo! is required to:
1) announce this decision, in the following terms, once during prime time
within three days following the release of this decision and once more within
seven days following the release of this decision during the time period
in which Chippendales & the Ladies was broadcast; 2) within the
fourteen days following the broadcast of the announcements, to provide written
confirmation of the airing of the statement to the complainant who filed
the Ruling Request; and 3) at that time, to provide the CBSC with that written
confirmation and with air check copies of the broadcasts of the two announcements
which must be made by Bravo!.

The Canadian Broadcast
Standards Council has found that Bravo! has breached the viewer advisory
provision in the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Violence Code
in its broadcast of Chippendales & the Ladies on
December 31, 2001. By failing to provide viewer
advisories following each of the commercial breaks advising audiences
of the film’s scenes involving nudity and mature subject matter, Bravo!
has breached Article 5.2 of the Violence Code.

This decision is
a public document upon its release by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.