Industry Code of Programming Standards and Practices Governing Pay, Pay-Per-View and Video-On-Demand Services (2003)

A. Introduction

1. History

The pay television industry, in co-operation with the CRTC, first developed a Code of Standards and Practices in 1984. The formation of the Action Group on Violence on Television in 1993 subsequently led to the creation of a General Statement of Principles upon which the pay television and pay-per-view licensees formulated a revision in 1994 of the Pay Television Programming Standards and Practices endorsed on an industry-wide basis.

These Standards and Practices supersede all previous versions of the Standards and Practices, including, without limitation, the 1984 Code, the 1994 revised Code and any interim codes established by a licensee.

2. Programming Provided by Licensees of Pay Television Programming Undertakings

Licensed pay television, pay-per-view (“PPV”) and video-on-demand (“VOD”) services in Canada are committed to the presentation of programming that is well balanced, of high quality, and of interest to a wide number of Canadians. The programming so presented is intended to appeal to a variety of interests and tastes.

A major appeal of premium pay, PPV and VOD television services is the ability to see feature films and other programming material in their original theatrical form, uninterrupted by commercials.

Discretionary services including pay television, PPV and VOD services are distinguished from conventional television, as they require an affirmative decision by a subscriber to purchase and receive them on an unencrypted basis in the home. As discretionary services, pay television, PPV and VOD services have more latitude to program material that is intended for mature audiences than is the case with conventional television services.

In the particular case of PPV and VOD services, subscribers are offered the opportunity to choose programs on an individual basis.

Pay television and PPV/VOD licensees have a responsibility to ensure that the programming they provide is of high quality and meets general community standards within the context of a discretionary service.

Pay TV and PPV/VOD services are typically distributed in digital format, which requires digital set-top boxes at each subscriber’s television set. Each set-top box has the capability of locking out programming by rating and by channel. This gives each Canadian home equipped with digital service the capability of precluding reception of unwanted programming.

B. Selection of programs

1. Responsibility for Selection

As provided in the Broadcasting Act and/or by condition of licence, selection of programs is the responsibility of the particular pay television or PPV/VOD broadcasting licensee. The licensee is by law responsible for what is distributed and will not delegate this responsibility.

2. Relationship with Production and Distribution Communities

In the course of making acquisitions and investments in programming, particularly prior to commencement of filming or taping, or in approving any changes during production, pay television and PPV/VOD licensees can influence producers positively in their exercise of good judgement and taste. In order to raise issues of concern with independent producers, pay television and PPV/VOD licensees will distribute a copy of this document to all independent producers who apply for script and concept development funding, for pre-licensing of product or for equity investment, and to all regular program suppliers, whether Canadian or foreign.

3. Exercise of Discretion

The discretion in the selection of programs will be exercised by the programming personnel of the pay television or PPV/VOD licensee, pursuant to these Standards and Practices and as directed by management consistent with its internal policies, where applicable. All material will be screened prior to airing.

4. Basis of Discretion

The discretion of programming personnel will be exercised responsibly and in good taste. In particular, no material shall be selected that is:

a) contrary to law, including the Broadcasting Act and CRTC Regulations; or

b) offensive to general community standards

“Community standards” will necessarily change over time and therefore will be subject to continuing review and evaluation.

5. Previews

Notwithstanding the above, where a licensee airs any program on a preview basis, it will ensure that the programming previewed meets the same standards of scheduling and content that apply to conventional broadcasters and will be classified in accordance with C.1, below.

C. Classification and Viewer Advisories

1. Classifications

All full-length programs aired by pay and PPV/VOD licensees will be rated. Recognizing the differing jurisdictions of provincial classification/review boards across Canada, each pay television and PPV/VOD licensee will utilize the current classification system used by the classification/review board (the “Review Board”) in the province in which the licensee’s primary broadcast operations are based.

Programs that have been classified by the applicable provincial Review Board will attract the same classification by the pay or PPV/VOD licensee.

The licensee will classify any program that has previously not been classified by the Review Board (Other than in respect of adult programming, which will not be aired unless such programming has been previously classified by a Review Board: see Section D, below), with a view to reflecting current community standards, using one or more of the following criteria:

(i) the guidelines then in effect for the applicable Review Board; or
(ii) the classification system of the Action Group on Violence on Television (AGVOT), as amended from time to time.

These classifications will designate the intended audience (i.e. age group) for programming or a warning that the programming is not intended for a specific age group.

Moreover, if the date of a Board classification exceeds five years from the proposed air date of the program (Other than in respect of adult programming: see Section D, below), the licensee will have the discretion to re-classify the program with a view to reflecting current community standards, using one or more of the criteria set out in (i-ii), above.

Finally, if applicable and practicable, the licensee will adopt any nationally recognized classification system that has been agreed to and adopted by provincial Review Boards across Canada.

2. Viewer Advisories

While a classification is given to a program based on its overall impact, descriptive viewer advisories will be provided to alert subscribers to the fact that the titles contain scenes with specific content, such as “violence” or “horror” which may cause concern for subscribers. Classifications and Advisories will appear in written and spoken form at the beginning of every aired title that is not suitable for viewing by children. Advisories will also appear as part of the written descriptions given for all titles exhibited on the service, as published in the subscribers’ monthly guide. All media are provided with any viewer advisories assigned to a program along with the program’s classification.

3. Program Guide

In the event that any licensee provides a monthly published program guide to its broadcasting distribution affiliates for distribution to their subscribers, a brief description of the meaning of the program classifications will be included in the guide, to ensure that viewers are able to exercise an informed programming choice.

In addition to these classifications, those licensees distributing the program guide will provide appropriate and adequate descriptive advisories as to the nature of the material, e.g., “Adult situations and language”, “graphic violence”, “brief nudity”.

D. Programming matters

1. Violence

All pay and PPV/VOD services shall be governed by the Pay Television and Pay-per-view Programming Code Regarding Violence (the “Violence Code”).

2. Sex-Role Stereotyping

Licensees will adhere to the Sex-Role Portrayal Code for Television and Radio Programming [replaced by the Equitable Portrayal Code in 2008]. This question has been extensively explored in the Report of the Task Force on Sex-Role Stereotyping to the CRTC. Licensees have a responsibility to raise the issue with producers who seek script and concept development funding and pre-licensing of product. Licensees will seek to fund programming that provides a balanced view of sex roles when appropriate to do so in context with the story line.

3. Adult Programming

In Public Notice CRTC 1984-46, the Commission reaffirmed the following approach regarding pay television programming:

“While it accepts the idea that a discretionary service like pay television, which is not freely available to all viewers, can carry a wide range of programs, including adult programming, to appeal to a variety of interests and tastes, this does not detract from the duty of licensees to ensure that any such programming is presented in good taste, at the appropriate time, and is of high quality.

As to the question of the respective responsibilities of the Commission and the broadcasters, it must be stated clearly that:
1) the Commission and broadcasters must be guided by Section 3(c) of the Broadcasting Act;
2) the Commission is not a censorship body;
3) the Commission has no mandate to act pre-emptively with respect to events that have not yet occurred and with respect to programs that have not yet been aired;
4) it is for the courts to define key terms like obscenity”.

In order to meet their duty, licensed pay television and PPV/VOD services undertake not to air any program that constitutes an “Adult Sex Film” under the Detailed Adult Sex Guidelines established by the Ontario Film Review Board, as amended from time to time (hereinafter referred to as “adult programming”) unless such programming has been previously classified and approved by a Review Board in Canada.

The content of all adult programming will comply with the Pay Television Regulations, 1990, the Pay Television and Pay-Per-View Programming Code Regarding Violence and the Sex-Role Portrayal Code for Television and Radio Programming [replaced by the Equitable Portrayal Code in 2008].

Any adult programming broadcast and promoted by pay and PPV/VOD services will possess the applicable Review Board certification number and classification. The classification (e.g., “R”, “18+(SE)”, etc.) will be displayed, in both written and spoken form, immediately prior to the broadcast of each adult program, along with the appropriate advisories.

Prior to airing, licensees will review all adult programming to ensure that it is consistent with the licensee’s internal policies on adult programming.

Finally, licensees of pay television and PPV/VOD services undertake to provide to their subscribers adequate information with respect to the nature and audience suitability of any mature programming distributed on their undertaking.

E. Scheduling of programming

1. Pay Television Services

a) Programming Content intended for a general audience

Pay television services generally schedule fewer programs per month than conventional television services, but such programs are repeated more frequently to suit the convenience of the schedules of pay television subscribers.

At the same time, licensees of pay television services, as distinguished from PPV or VOD services, are sensitive to the concerns expressed by some that mature material should not be scheduled in periods when school-age children are home. There may also be certain mature material on pay television services that should not be programmed prior to 9:00 p.m. or after 6:00 a.m. in the home province of the service in question.

Licensees of pay television services will exercise particular care for all time periods in the scheduling of programs that are likely to be considered as not suitable for viewing in a family context.

b) Adult Programming

In the event that adult programming is aired by licensees of pay television services, such services will exercise their discretion carefully so that all such programming will not be programmed prior to 11:00 p.m. or after 6:00 a.m. in the home province of the service in question.

2. PPV and VOD Services

PPV and VOD services are distinguished from pay television services by the requirement that a PPV/VOD subscriber is required to take positive steps each time he/she wishes to view a program. By contrast, a subscriber to a pay television service makes only a one-time decision to purchase the entire service.

In the case of PPV and VOD, the very process of ordering programs enables the subscriber to control and safeguard access to each program. Therefore, the transactional nature of PPV/VOD services will make subscribers aware of the selection and ordering process, and most importantly, of the means to prevent the reception of programs by unauthorized individuals within their subscribing households.

In the event that a broadcasting distribution undertaking offers PPV titles to subscribers on an analog basis, licensees of PPV services shall ensure that any adult programming distributed on such channels will be scheduled no earlier than 11:00 p.m. (in the applicable time zone of the service’s home province).

In the event that licensees of PPV and VOD services offer “title specific” trailers on a universally available “barker” channel that promotes adult programming, such trailers shall: