Broadcasters Must Air Sufficient Viewer Advisories and Classification Icons, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, June 25, 2002 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning Showcase Television's broadcast of a Spanish art film entitled Caniche. The CBSC National Specialty Services Panel concluded that the broadcast of the film was marked by fewer viewer advisories and classification icons than the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' (CAB) Voluntary Code Regarding Violence in Television Programming requires.

The film, which was broadcast from 12:15-2:00 am, was preceded by a viewer advisory alerting viewers to the scenes of nudity and sexuality; however, no viewer advisories appeared again until the last two commercial breaks. The Panel found Showcase's provision of advisories to be inadequate under Article 5.1 of the Violence Code, which states that broadcasters must air advisories coming out of every commercial break during the first hour of programming intended for exclusively adult audiences.

The Panel also found a violation of Article 4 of the CAB Violence Code concerning classification icons. Broadcasters are required to provide a classification icon, which indicates the intended audience age group, at the beginning of all dramatic programs and at the top of every subsequent hour of the program. In this case, the 18+ icon did not appear until 45 minutes into the film. The Panel explained that the frequency rule “does not relate to the hour of the clock at which the broadcast began but rather the 'internal clock' of the program itself.”

With respect to the content of the film itself, the Panel acknowledged that its themes, which involved incest and bestiality, were unusual and disturbing. It found, however, that “there [was] nothing overt or gratuitous, or glamorized or positively promoted in the film nor, in the view of the Panel, [was] there any issue relating to the substance of the film that involves any possible Code breach.” The Panel also noted that the film was appropriately scheduled late at night.

Canada's private broadcasters have themselves created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, gender portrayal and television violence 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 practices first created by the Radio Television News Directors Association of Canada (RTNDA) in 1970. More than 500 radio and 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