Broadcasters Required to Provide More Viewer Advisories for Programs That Air before 9:00 pm in Western Time Zones, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, May 17, 2002 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the documentary film “Argentina's Dirty War” which aired on History Television in June and November 2001. In its decision, the CBSC National Specialty Services Panel clarified the rule in the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' (CAB) Voluntary Code Regarding Violence in Television Programming which requires that broadcasters must provide viewer advisories throughout the entire program when the program appears before the Watershed hour of 9:00 pm in Western time zones, even though that program may have been broadcast after the Watershed in the originating time zone.

The CAB Violence Code requires that programming containing scenes with material intended exclusively for adult audiences not air before 9:00 pm. In the case of broadcasters that have only one broadcast feed, however, this rule applies to the hour of broadcast in the originating time zone only. This means, for example, that a program airing at 9:00 pm in the Eastern time zone will appear at 7:00 pm Mountain time and 6:00 pm Pacific time. Under Article 5.1 of the CAB Violence Code, programs containing scenes intended for adult audiences airing after 9:00 pm must contain viewer advisories at the beginning of the program and during the first hour. Article 5.2 requires that programs beginning before 9:00 pm which contain scenes that are unsuitable for children must include viewer advisories at the beginning and throughout their entire duration. The National Specialty Services Panel decided that when a program airs after 9:00 pm in its originating time zone, but before 9:00 pm in other time zones, broadcasters are subject to the more stringent Article 5.2, and must air advisories throughout the entire program.

In the case of History Television's broadcasts of “Argentina's Dirty War”, the Panel found the broadcaster in violation of the CAB Violence Code for failing to provide any viewer advisories at all in either the June or the November broadcasts. It also concluded that the 8:00 pm (Eastern time) November broadcast was in violation of the scheduling provision of the Code. The documentary was about military rule in Argentina during the 20th century and contained re-enactments of torture methods. While the scenes were not overtly violent, the Panel determined that the context and theme of the film were sufficiently violent and intellectually inappropriate for children to require that the film air only after 9:00 pm. The June broadcast at 9:00 pm ET was not in violation, but the November broadcast at 8:00 pm in the originating time zone was.

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