Crime Drama Requires Post-9:00 pm Time Slot and 18+ Rating, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, April 21, 2010 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning an episode of the American crime drama program Criminal Minds broadcast on CTV on March 18, 2009 at 7:00 pm.  The CBSC concluded that the program should have aired after the Watershed hour of 9:00 pm and should have had an 18+ rating.

Criminal Minds is a dramatic program that follows a group of FBI investigators who develop psychological profiles of serial killers in order to help solve crimes.  An episode entitled “Omnivore” was about the group’s efforts to catch a killer known as the Boston Reaper.  The episode included a number of scenes of the Reaper’s violent crimes, including striking a man in the face with a crowbar, slicing a woman’s throat, stabbing another man, shooting another woman in the forehead, a shooting rampage on a city bus, as well as the Reaper slicing his own wrists and drinking the blood in an attempt to escape prison.  CTV aired the episode at 7:00 pm and rated it 14+.

A viewer in Manitoba complained that 7:00 pm was too early to show this episode.  CTV explained that it aired viewer advisories during the broadcast and put a rating on it.  The CBSC’s National Conventional Television Panel examined the complaint under the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Violence Code.  Article 3 of that Code requires that scenes intended exclusively for adult audiences shall only be broadcast after 9:00 pm.  The Panel concluded that the scenes in this episode of Criminal Minds were intended for adults.  The Panel stated:

The violence is sufficiently frequent; there are no less than twelve individual murders committed, four of individuals in the driver or passenger seats of their cars, seven of persons on a bus, and one off-screen of a police officer.  The killings are explicitly depicted, and for those not seen directly, the gory and grisly consequences are graphically displayed.  There is tangible fear in the individuals about to meet their end, and short-term terror-provoking suspense in the viewer, awaiting those executions.  The Panel concludes that any pre-Watershed broadcast of this episode of Criminal Minds breaches the scheduling provision of the CAB Violence Code.

The Panel noted that the simultaneous substitution “exception” to the Watershed rule did not apply in this case because this episode was not simultaneously substituted in this market on this occasion.  The Panel also concluded that the 14+ rating was too low; the “frequent, explicit, graphic, and gory” violence of this episode necessitated an 18+ rating.

Canada’s private broadcasters have themselves created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, equitable portrayal, television violence and journalistic independence 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 and the pay television Codes, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic ethics created by the RTNDA – Association of Electronic Journalists in 1970.  More than 735 radio stations, satellite radio services, 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