Crime Documentary Should Have Aired After 9:00 pm, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, December 13, 2012 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the broadcast of the documentary film Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory on HBO Canada.  The CBSC concluded that the inclusion of actual images from a murder scene did not exploit the victims, but that the pay television station should only have shown the program between 9:00 pm and 6:00 am.

Paradise Lost 3 is the third in a series of feature-length documentary films about three adolescent males who were convicted of murdering three eight-year-old boys in Arkansas in the 1990s.  The film includes video footage of the boys’ dead bodies taken at the time of their discovery as well as photographs and verbal descriptions of the state of the bodies.  HBO Canada broadcast the film at 3:15 pm on May 30, 2012 with an 18A rating and a viewer advisory.

The CBSC received a complaint from a viewer who argued that the inclusion of the images was exploitative and disrespectful towards the murder victims.  HBO Canada pointed out that it is a discretionary premium pay service that provides unedited films, including those that are provocative and controversial.  The station wrote that it had re-evaluated the scheduling of the film and would only air it between 9:00 pm and 6:00 am in future.

The CBSC’s National Specialty Services Panel examined the complaint under the Pay TV Programming Code and the Pay TV Violence Code.  The Panel concluded that the images of the dead bodies were disturbing, but demonstrated the severity of the crimes and therefore were not exploitative or gratuitous.  The majority of the Panel, however, concluded that, due to the inclusion of the images and the overall mature theme of the film, HBO Canada should only have shown it in the late evening viewing period.  Two adjudicators dissented because, in their view, there was no actual violence shown and the images were not graphic enough to necessitate a late evening time slot.

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 760 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