Dating Program’s Sexual Themes Require Viewer Advisories and a Higher Rating, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, July 23, 2003 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the dating show Blind Date broadcast daily at 5:30 pm on CITY-TV (Toronto). The CBSC's Ontario Regional Panel concluded that the broadcaster breached no Code standard by running the program before the Watershed hour of 9:00 pm; however, it determined that the sexual themes in the episodes reviewed necessitated viewer advisories since they were aired in a daytime time slot and were unsuitable for children. The Panel also decided that the program should have been rated 14+ rather than PG.

Blind Date is a reality style of show that follows couples on (as the title suggests) blind dates. Although no actual sexual activity is shown, the program contains significant sexual innuendo and sexually suggestive content. The program also frequently shows men and women in skimpy clothing and couples kissing passionately. Sexual activity is occasionally implied by the video insert of a couple closing a bedroom door and other accompanying sexual innuendo.

A viewer complained to the CBSC that the sexual content in Blind Date was inappropriate for an after-school time slot. The Ontario Panel reviewed four episodes of the series that aired in February 2003 and concluded that the sexual content was not too explicit to be aired before the “Watershed” hour of 9:00 pm. It also concluded, however, that “the program deals sufficiently directly and unsubtly with sexual situations that it is unsuitable for children,” which triggered the requirement that the program contain viewer advisories alerting audience members to its mature themes. The Panel also decided that it should have been rated 14+ rather than PG.

The Panel considers that the content is so unsubtle, so driven by the creators' video choices and the wording in the balloons, that, if anything, the program segments serve as a road map or guidance for viewers on the subjects treated. On the issue of sexual references, the Panel notes that a PG-rated program “might have limited and discreet sexual references or content when appropriate to the storyline or theme.” The sexual references in Blind Date are neither limited nor discreet. In sum, the Panel finds that there is little, if anything, about Blind Date which would make it suitable for a PG rating

Consequently, CITY-TV was found in violation of Clause 11 of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' (CAB) Code of Ethics for failing to provide viewer advisories and of Clause 4 of the CAB Voluntary Code Regarding Violence in Television Programming for rating the episodes incorrectly.

Canada's private broadcasters have themselves created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, gender portrayal and television violence 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, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic practices first created by the Radio Television News Directors Association of Canada (RTNDA) in 1970. More than 530 radio and 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