Coarse Language Requires Viewer Advisories, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, October 21, 2015 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released two decisions (1,2) concerning the broadcast of coarse language.  In one case, the CBSC determined that mild coarse language could be broadcast before 9:00 pm, but still required viewer advisories.  In the other case, the CBSC determined that the f-word required a post-9:00 pm time slot and viewer advisories.

The first decision was about HGTV’s 7:00 pm broadcast of Timber Kings, a reality program about a construction company that specializes in custom log buildings.  The episode broadcast on January 8, 2015 contained instances of “shit” and the phrase “this thing’s a bitch” in expressions of frustration at the difficulty of the construction.  A CBSC Panel concluded that such language was acceptable during early evening broadcasts, but that HGTV should have included viewer advisories on the broadcast.  HGTV violated Clause 11 of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics.

The second decision was about Sportsnet Ontario’s 4:00 pm broadcast of Premier League Poker on February 9, 2015.  During an introductory segment showing the arrival of the players, one player used the expression “Go fuck yourself”.  He also used the f-word again during the poker match to express his surprise at how the game was unfolding.  The Panel concluded that the f-word should only be broadcast after 9:00 pm and should be accompanied by viewer advisories.  Sportsnet Ontario violated Clauses 10 and 11 of the CAB Code of Ethics.  The Panel noted, however, that Sportsnet had already removed the program from its schedule while it developed a policy to ensure this type of coarse language was broadcast appropriately.

The CBSC was created in 1990 by Canada’s private broadcasters to administer the codes of standards that they established for their industry.  The CBSC currently administers 7 codes which deal with ethics, equitable portrayal, violence, news and journalistic independence.  Nearly 900 radio stations, satellite radio services, television stations and specialty and pay television services 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