Broadcast of Hockey Fights in Sports News Does Not Promote Violence, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, August 26, 2008 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the broadcast of hockey fights during the sports news program Sportsnet Connected on specialty service Sportsnet East.  The CBSC concluded that showing hockey fights during game highlights and updates did not promote or exploit violence.

Sportsnet Connected is a sports news program that features highlights, updates, news and interviews and is broadcast multiple times on weekday mornings.  On the February 7, 2008 edition, the program provided the scores and highlights from a number of recent NHL games.  The highlights included clips of fights between players, which had occurred during the normal course of play and which had begun due to some sort of on-ice incident, such as shoving or high-sticking.  The clips consisted of players punching each other about the head and pulling on each others’ jerseys.

The CBSC received a complaint from a viewer who felt that highlighting the fights “exploits violent action outside activity of the sport” and should not be broadcast during the day.  Sportsnet explained that fighting is a legitimate part of hockey and is considered within the sanctioned activity of the sport. 

The CBSC’s National Specialty Services Panel examined the complaint under the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Violence Code and agreed with the broadcaster.  Article 10 of the Code relates to sports programming and prohibits promotion or exploitation of violent action which is outside the sanctioned activity of the sport in question.  The Panel considered that

sanctioned activities are best understood as reasonably anticipated activities.  […]  It is relevant to the Panel that having too many players on the ice and using a hockey stick with an excessively curved blade attract penalties of the same duration as physical penalties such as tripping, slashing or cross-checking, while cursing the referee may attract a more serious penalty than fighting.  That said, the foregoing offences, whether technical or physical, are all in the hockey rulebook.  It is expected that they will occur.  They are, in that sense, anticipated and sanctioned.

The Panel added that “the reporting of the fighting was matter-of-fact, attracting no greater emphasis than the scoring of the goals or other exciting plays during the game updates.”  There was, consequently, no breach of any provisions in the CAB Violence Code.

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, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic ethics created by the RTNDA – Association of Electronic Journalists in 1970.  More than 690 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