Two parents from different areas of Ontario complained about the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series, a 30-minute program aired daily (on week-days) at 7:30 a.m. on CIII-TV (GLOBAL TELEVISION) in the City of Toronto and on its repeater stations throughout Ontario.
One letter was sent by a Metcalfe parent to the CRTC on April 29. (Metcalfe is a small
community near Ottawa.) Her sons were aged 2-1/2 and 4-1/2. She stated:
I am writing this letter regarding this show as I am a very concerned parentand I am tired of violent shows. I find after my children watched this show,they both started kicking each other and trying to act out like Power Rangers. This show has been banned from my sons' school.
The second parent, the North York mother of a 7-year old son, wrote to the Commission
on May 2, 1994. She detailed her concerns:
I am writing to bring your attention to a children's program called MightyMorphin Power Rangers, which is shown on Global and YTV in Toronto. Theshow is very violent and I suspect that it violates the new rules againstviolent children's programs.
I have attached an article from the Toronto Star which states that “PowerRangers speak violence”. I can attest to the fact that this is definitely truefrom my own experience. After watching this show for about two weeks, ourseven year old son's teacher called to complain of his aggressive behaviour. We decided to stop letting him watch Power Rangers and his teacherphoned to say that there was a big improvement in his behaviour.
Neither complainant mentioned specific dates of episodes which caused them concern but
it appeared sufficiently evident from their letters that their concern was the entire series.
In the circumstances, the CBSC ordered logger tapes from the two weeks which
corresponded to the dates of their letters.
“Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” is perhaps one of the most popularchildren's programs currently being broadcast. In fact, during one personalappearance event in Los Angeles, more than 35,000 children and parentscame to see the stars of the show.
We believe the series to be action-oriented and not violent. Each episodecarries a redeeming moral message and promotes camaraderie andfriendship. South of the border, the stars of the show were chosen to headup an anti-drug public service campaign because of the positive image theircharacters relayed to young viewers.
Since the dawn of television, children's programming, including mostcartoons, have depicted “good” triumphing over “evil”. “Mighty MorphinPower Rangers” continues this long-standing tradition.
We will, nonetheless, continue to monitor this program. In the meantime,”Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” will continue to be broadcast weekdaymornings at 7:30 a.m.
Shortly after receipt of these letters, both complainants declared that they were not
satisfied with the broadcaster's response and requested that the Ontario Regional Council
consider their complaints.
You will see that the code, which went into effect on 1 January 1994, will beadministered by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC). AsGlobal is a member of the Council, I have referred your concerns to theCBSC for consideration and you should be hearing from it shortly.
However, the CAB code is only the first to have been submitted to the CRTC. As you will see from the enclosed news release, specialty and pay-TVservices along with the cable television industry, independent producers andadvertisers have all committed to adopt their own specific action plans todeal with the issue of television violence. In fact, these have been submittedto the Commission and are currently under review.
We feel that the episodes are action oriented, and these action packedscenes are “essential to the development of character and plot.” Eachepisode carries a redeeming message that promotes camaraderie andfriendship. In keeping with this spirit, the stars of the “Power Rangers” werechosen to spearhead anti-drug public service campaigns because of thepositive image their characters relayed to young viewers. The episodessimply carries [sic] the redeeming theme of good triumphing over evil.
“Power Rangers” does not feature death, blood or dismemberment in any ofthe episodes. We feel that the producers of the series are very responsiblein this respect.
We should all appreciate that parents cannot use televisions as babysitters.
In May of 1990, a group of youngsters representing ten Quebec socio-cultural
organizations presented the Federal Minister of Communications, Marcel Masse, with a
petition containing 157,000 signatures urging the Canadian government to “enact rules to
eliminate violent and war programming for children on television.” This, in a sense, got the
ball rolling. In 1991, the CAB began working on revisions to the 1987 Violence Code.
While there was not a sudden increase in programming complaints to the CBSC or the
CRTC as a result of the 1990 petition, in the fall of 1992, a Quebec teenager, Virginie
Larivière, brought a petition to the Prime Minister on which she had collected the
signatures of 1.3 million Canadians. Following the robbery, sexual assault and murder of
her 11-year old sister, Marie-Ève Larivière, Virginie came to be convinced that television
violence may have been a component cause of the crime. Her petition called for citizensto boycott violent television programming and for the government to pass legislation
requiring the networks to introduce a progressive diminution of violent programming over
the next decade. This gesture had a major political impact, drawing, among others, the
Prime Minister himself into the debate. Other Cabinet Ministers joined the chorus of voices
calling for action.
On November 18, 1992, the House of Commons referred the petition to its Standing
Committee on Communications and Culture, which held hearings in February 1993. A total
of 27 recommendations emerged in the June 1993 Report of the Standing Committee,
under the headings: public discussion, research on television violence, public action group
on television violence, public education, individual action, industry action, non-legislative
action by the federal government and legislative action by government.
Of these recommendations, numbers 10, 11 and 24 are particularly pertinent. They read:
- The Committee recommends that the Canadian Radio-television andTelecommunications Commission continue to press broadcasters to beresponsible in purchasing and scheduling violent programming and thatthose who do not demonstrate the requisite measure of responsibility be heldaccountable and subject to the Commission's sanctions.
Further, the Committee recommends that the Canadian Radio-television andTelecommunications Commission continue to press the industry for aneffective self-regulatory code (or codes) governing violence on television andto intensify its efforts to achieve this goal as quickly as possible.
- The Committee recommends that the Canadian Radio-television andTelecommunications Commission inquire into whether one universal codeabout television violence can be devised for all elements of the industry orwhether separate but parallel codes would be more appropriate, andaccordingly, direct both broadcasters and cable companies to develop eitherone common code or parallel codes in tandem.
- Given the complexity of the regulatory and competitive issuesassociated with controlling cable distribution of violent U.S. programming, theCommittee recommends that these issues be specifically addressed by theCanadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission with theobjective of moderating violent content wherever possible.
On September 7, 1993, the Action Group on Violence on Television, made up of all
persons licensed by the CRTC to carry on broadcasting undertakings, published itsGeneral Statement of Principles Concerning Violence in Television Programming, which
concludes with the following commitment:
- Each member of the Canadian broadcasting industry undertakes toadopt a code dealing with violence in television programming, based on thisGeneral Statement of Principles.
On October 28, 1993, the CAB announced its Code, together with the CRTC, which
announced its approval of the thoughtfully developed document. On December 17, 1993,
the Canadian Cable Television Association announced its action plan for dealing with
television violence, including the establishment of a Task Force, whose “mandate is to
develop a code of practice, implementation mechanisms and a timetable for adoption of
the principles set out by the Action Group on Violence in Television of which the cable
industry is a member.” On January 1, 1994, the CAB Code came into full force and effect.
In March 1994, at the public hearing on new pay and specialty services, the CRTC made
it clear that all new applicants would have to commit to honour the CAB Violence Code
until developing their own codes. The same point was made to the existing pay and
specialty services seeking renewal of licenses in April (and thereafter to the CBC in its
most recent license renewal hearings). In May, the Chairman of the CRTC reminded the
cable industry of the commitment regarding the Task Force Report which was due in June.
As of this date, no code or regulatory system relating to the cable industry has been put
Since, as stated above, this is the first violence complaint to be considered under the new
Voluntary Code regarding Violence in Television Programming, the Council considered it
appropriate to remind Canadians that the protection of children was one of the pillars of the
Code's existence. Furthermore, those who drafted the Code were conscious of the need
to create this protection in an environment in which preservation of the freedom of
expression remains a paramount but not immutable principle. Public Notice CRTC 1993-149 provides (at p. 2):
The Commission is generally satisfied that the CAB's revised Code achievesthe appropriate balance between preserving freedom of expression andprotecting the viewing public, especially children, from the harmful effects oftelevision violence.
The Public Notice returns to this theme again at pp. 3 and 4:
The Commission is pleased that the Code establishes clear guidelines forthe depiction of violence in children's programming that take into account theparticular vulnerability of young viewers. …
Studies indicate that [realistic scenes of violence] may alter the emotionalreaction of some children to violence, and could result in such effects asdesensitization and increased tendencies towards aggressive behaviour.
The text of Article 2 reads as follows:
- CHILDREN'S PROGRAMMING
- (Children refers to persons under 12 years of age)
- As provided below, programming for children requires particular caution in the depiction ofviolence; very little violence, either physical, verbal or emotional shall be portrayed inchildren's programming.
- In children s programming portrayed by real-life characters, violence shall only be portrayedwhen it is essential to the development of character and plot.
- Animated programming for children, while accepted as a stylized form of storytelling whichcan contain non-realistic violence, shall not have violence as its central theme, and shall notinvite dangerous imitation.
- Programming for children shall deal carefully with themes which could threaten their senseof security, when portraying, for example; domestic conflict, the death of parents or closerelatives, or the death or injury of their pets, street crime or the use of drugs.
- Programming for children shall deal carefully with themes which could invite children toimitate acts which they see on screen, such as the use of plastic bags as toys, use of matches,the use of dangerous household products as playthings, or dangerous physical acts such asclimbing apartment balconies or rooftops.
- Programming for children shall not contain realistic scenes of violence which create theimpression that violence is the preferred way, or the only method to resolve conflict betweenindividuals.
- Programming for children shall not contain realistic scenes of violence which minimize orgloss over the effects of violent acts. Any realistic depictions of violence shall portray, inhuman terms, the consequences of that violence to its victims and its perpetrators.
- Programming for children shall not contain frightening or otherwise excessive special effectsnot required by the storyline.
The Regional Council reviewed all the correspondence and screened videotapes of all five
episodes of the series broadcast on CIII-TV (GLOBAL TELEVISION) during the week of
April 25, corresponding to the first complaint. It also reviewed all the correspondence and
screened videotapes of all five episodes of the series broadcast on CIII-TV (GLOBAL
TELEVISION) during the week of May 2, corresponding to the second complaint. It did not
consider that Articles 2.4 and 2.8 were applicable to these programs. It also decided that
it was unnecessary to consider the relevance of Article 2.3 to the programs in this case,
since the episodes were primarily live action, the animation component representing but
a small part of the dramatic content. The decision of the Regional Council was unanimous.
In every episode, a conflict is created with Rita Repulsa, the program's incarnation of evil.
In two serial episodes, this involved the kidnapping of the students' parents; in another, the
capture of Trini's Uncle Howard, the inventor of an invisibility potion; in yet another, the
corruption of the students' anti-pollution and pro-recycling action program; and so on. In
each case, there is introduced a henchmonster of Rita's, which will ultimately be defeated
by the Power Rangers, the forces of good, leaving Rita to return another day as their
malevolent dramatic counterpoint. (In current episodes, Rita has been replaced with a new
arch-villain, Zed; however, the program structure does not appear to have changed.
Furthermore, it is the Rita episodes with respect to which complaints have been laid and
these, in any event, return with regularity as re-runs mixed in among what are apparently
the currently produced episodes.)
When one removes the opening and closing credits and the commercials from the
calculation of program length, the dramatic action covers approximately 17 or 18 minutes
of each program. Of that time, there are, quite uniformly, three or four fighting sequences,
which consume between 4.5 and 6.5 minutes, which is to say, between 25% and 35% of
the running dramatic time. Structurally, the first fight generally occurs five or six minutes
into the dramatic period of each episode. The second and third (occasionally fourth) fights
customarily escalate in each episode, from karate or martial arts techniques between the
adolescent protagonists (whether dressed as schoolchildren or Power Rangers and
occasionally using weaponry) and the “putty patrol”, through weapon and laser-gun type
conflict between the mastodon and other robotic pre-historic morphins of the Power
Rangers and the monster representative of Rita created for each episode, to the ultimate
clash of the transformed Megasaurus of the Power Rangers, ending with the demise of the
until then indestructible monster.
- As provided below, programming for children requires particularcaution in the depiction of violence; very little violence, eitherphysical, verbal or emotional shall be portrayed in children'sprogramming.
The Council concluded that each of the ten episodes broadcast by CIII-TV during the
weeks of April 25 and May 2 breached the provisions of the general requirement of Article
2.1, requiring that “very little violence … shall be portrayed in children's programming.”
While the Council understood clearly that each program attempted to convey a didactic or
moral message to its viewers, whether relating to family values, the need for pollution
control and recycling, or other matters, it was the view of the Council that these valuable
messages were overwhelmed by the quantity of violence surrounding their transmittal. Far
from containing very little violence, the series appeared to convey considerable violent
- In children's programming portrayed by real-life characters, violenceshall only be portrayed when it is essential to the development ofcharacter and plot.
Since the programming in question is live-action programming, although containing
animated sequences depicting the morphins of the young protagonists, violence may only
be portrayed when it is essential to the development of the character and plot. While it is
true that the plots purport to be defined as a function of the moral message to be conveyed
in each program, this message, as indicated in the previous paragraph, is overwhelmed
by the violent component, to such an extent that the Council viewed the violent element
as the essential and dominant message of each episode. It was the Council's
determination that defining a plot in terms of violence does not constitute satisfaction of the
requirement that the violence is permissible when essential to the development of that plot.
Furthermore, satisfaction of the plot element is not alone sufficient. The article says
“development of character and plot.” The Council considered that the development of
character took place entirely apart from the fighting components of the story. The only
contribution made by the fighting sequences to the development of character was to the
establishment of the individual Power Rangers as fighters, a further circular proposition.
Hence, the Council concluded that each of the episodes it screened was in breach of
Article 2.2 of the Code.
- Programming for children shall not contain realistic scenes ofviolence which create the impression that violence is the preferredway, or the only method to resolve conflict between individuals.
The Council also concluded that none of the episodes so much as offered an alternative
to the conflict resolution central to each plot other than the application of one fighting
technique or another. Indeed, as described above, the fighting escalated in each of the
sequences involved in each of the episodes and occupied a considerable portion of the
dramatic sections of each of the programs (25-35%, as calculated above). There was anoccasional episode in which Zack gave a karate class, accompanied by the positive
message that martial arts were to be used only in self-defence and only if attempts to
resolve conflicts without fighting had failed. While this fell within the category of valuable
messages to which this decision has previously referred, the Council considered that this
very message underscored an important aspect of the non-compliance of the program.
Not once in any of the episodes was there depicted any attempt to resolve conflict by any
technique other than fighting. In the result, the Council concluded that each of the
episodes breached Article 2.6 of the Code.
- Programming for children shall not contain realistic scenes of violencewhich minimize or gloss over the effects of violent acts. Any realisticdepictions of violence shall portray, in human terms, theconsequences of that violence to its victims and perpetrators.
The Council also noted that none of the martial arts fight sequences (or fight sequences
using weapons) resulted in any physical damage caused to the show's heroes or to the
“putties”, who are distinctly humanoid in appearance. There was never an appearance of
blood, broken bones, contusions or any form of physical consequence. Although the
Power Rangers and the “putties” are continually knocked for loops, spinning through the
air, they land on the ground or elsewhere and bob up again as though nothing had
happened. In fact, the Power Rangers constantly gloss over all consequences other than
the predictable result that they always win as the result of the exercise of their martial skills.
And life is not like that.
This had been an aspect of the program praised by Global's representative, who stated:
“Power Rangers” does not feature death, blood or dismemberment in any ofthe episodes. We feel that the producers of the series are very responsiblein this respect.
Those who view this absence of physical damage as a positive rather than a negative
consideration lose sight of the importance to children of understanding the consequences
of their acts. In real life, punching and kicking do have physical results in almost every
instance. Furthermore, the logic of this concern is enshrined in Article 2.7 of the Code
which forbids programming which minimizes or glosses over the effects of violent acts.
The Council had no hesitation in finding each of the programs in breach of this provision
of the Code.
- Programming for children shall deal carefully with themes which couldinvite children to imitate acts which they see on screen, such as theuse of plastic bags as toys, use of matches, the use of dangeroushousehold products as playthings, or dangerous physical acts suchas climbing apartment balconies or rooftops.
The absence of consequences led to the additional Council concern regarding the
encouragement of imitation by children of what they see the Power Rangers doing.
Suggesting that the martial arts kicking and punching techniques do not have serious, or
even minor, physical consequences invites, if not encourages, the seemingly risk-free
imitation of the physical acts of aggression by children who have not reached the age of
discernment, namely, the very audience for this program.
While Article 2.5, which deals with imitation of acts which children see on screen does not
mention the specific fighting practices carried on in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, it was
the view of the Regional Council that the themes and acts mentioned in Article 2.5 were
not intended to constitute a limitative list but rather a set of examples of the type of themes
or acts which could be dangerous. The use of the term “such as” in the article makes this
perfectly clear. Council members noted that this question of imitation had been the matter
of primary concern to the complainants in both cases. Hence, the Regional Council
concluded that the program did not deal carefully with a fighting theme which “could invite
children to imitate [those] acts” and found the program in breach of Article 2.5 of the
The four complainants reported on the negative impact of the series onchildren in the pre-school and primary school age groups as a result ofnegative and aggressive play modelled on the activities of the PowerRangers, particularly the high kicks. The Bayfield Kindergarten [one of thecomplainants] reported that the response of children to this programme farexceeded that of all previous programmes of this genre. It argued thatbecause of the rapidity of the action, children did not have time tounderstand all of the action and instead focused on the recurring themes ofviolent action which they then imitated. Ms Barr [another of thecomplainants] reported an incident where a teacher had been a victim of thehigh kicking as demonstrated by the Power Rangers.
In the New Zealand case, the Council noted, the members of the Authority had viewed
three of the 60 episodes which had been aired in the relevant time frame. (Some members
had seen additional episodes.) In the CIII-TV (GLOBAL TELEVISION) case, members of
the Regional Council screened ten episodes provided by the broadcaster pursuant to the
request of the CBSC Secretariat (although some members have also seen additional
episodes, including current ones). As in the New Zealand case, members of the Ontario
Regional Council consider that their observations entitle them to take the generalized
position that the approach of the entire series is such that it would likely be in breach of
those articles of the Violence Code in the same manner as the episodes which the Council
members viewed in order to render this decision.
The CBSC expects that all Global stations, including those others not directly dealt with in
this decision as well, of course, as CIII-TV, will adhere to their requirements of membership
in the CBSC and the industry's Voluntary Code regarding Violence in Television
Programming. The Commission expects all licensees to be operating “in compliance with
the provisions of the code” and will be monitoring that compliance, which may be a
suspensive condition of license for all CBSC members issued new or renewed licenses
after that date, upon application.
In rendering this decision, though, the Council is troubled. While it is entirely comfortable
with the substance of its conclusions, it deplores the fact that there are no corresponding
requirements for adherence to these principles on the part of YTV or the cable carriers of
Fox Network programming. The Council's view of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is a
function of non-compliance with a set of principles established with the collaboration of the
CRTC for the benefit of all Canadians. The issue is the message, not the medium by
which it is being delivered.
Sufficient time has passed for the remainder of the broadcasting industry, which includes
the cable sector, to have put appropriate systems of protection in place. This is, however,
no longer an abstract question. The Council is faced with the reality of Power Rangers.
It is unreasonable to expect that Canadian children can be accorded protection against
violent programming by a CBSC ruling against a series delivered on one channel which
then remains available a push-button away on the same set. It is equally unreasonable
to expect that conventional broadcasters adhering to their Code should be competitively
disadvantaged vis-à-vis a specialty service delivered on extended basic cable service and
a foreign-originating signal accessible to everyone with basic cable service.
The CBSC is equally conscious of the further responsibility which it hasbeyond the measurement of on-air programming against the standardsestablished in the three voluntary CAB codes to encourage dialoguebetween the broadcasters and the members of their audiences.
Thus, in the course of complaint resolution, the CBSC considers that it isfirmly within its mandate to evaluate not only the complaint itself against thestandards established by the various Codes which it administers but also theresponsiveness of the broadcaster in dealing with the viewer or listener.
In this respect, the Ontario Regional Council felt that the replies of the broadcaster ought
to have been more thoughtful. They were unnecessarily brief; they focussed on issues not
related to the complaints registered by the parents in question and did not respond to their
clearly expressed concerns. Information regarding Fox's and the producers' positive view
of the programming might have been available. Providing a fuller response may have left
the parents with the feeling that their anxieties had been more sensitively acknowledged.
The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has found that GLOBALTELEVISION has breached articles relating to Children's Programming in theindustry's Violence Code. The Council found that episodes of MightyMorphin Power Rangers aired during the weeks of April 25 and May 2, 1994depicted excessive violence which was not essential to the development ofcharacter and plot and did not deal carefully with fighting themes which couldinvite children to imitate those dangerous physical acts. The Council alsofound that those episodes contained realistic scenes of violence whichcreated the impression that violence was the only method of resolvingconflict and glossed over the effects of those violent acts.
The Council was aware of the fact that this series is available on YTV andthe Fox Network and deplored the fact that no code or regulatory system hasbeen established to deal with programming on those services.
This decision is a public document upon its release by the Canadian Broadcast Standards