Ottawa, December 20, 2000 — Following its approval by the Annual Meeting of the CBSC National Executive, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has released its Annual Report for the year ended August 31, 2000. “It was,” said CBSC National Chair Ron Cohen, “a year of extraordinary activity, both in terms of the substance of the matters dealt with and the sheer volume of complaints and decisions. While the individual number of files opened (810) was somewhat reduced, there were no large clusters of complaints about an individual program as in the past two years. As a result, the number of individual matters dealt with increased substantially.”
The current Annual Report (as well as those of the previous 5 years, for those who wish to compare the CBSC’s annual information) is electronically accessible on the CBSC’s web site.
In all, the CBSC issued 80 decisions this year, 31 of the formal variety, the full texts of which are posted on the CBSC web site and 49 of the “Summary Decisions” variety (which constituted matters dealt with in previous CBSC jurisprudence), which are not. The Annual Report summarizes all the public decisions by subject area.
Summaries of all CBSC decisions are also separately available on the CBSC’s web site in the section on the broadcaster Codes. The Code clauses are themselves supplemented by Commentaries which incorporate references to the CBSC jurisprudence established in this year’s decisions as well as those of all previous years. A hard copy version of the resulting Annotated Codes is available for purchase from the CBSC Secretariat.
As National Chair Ron Cohen pointed out, “The work of the Council extends well beyond the making of decisions. The CBSC Secretariat responds to all letters and e-mails received by the Council, even when the complaints ought to have been directed to another body or where they have no relationship to broadcasting at all. In our replies to all such letters, we take the time to inform consumers of the nature of the work the CBSC does. It is there to be responsive to public concerns. The more people who know that Canada’s private broadcasters offer them a recourse in the event of any concerns the better.”
As always, the Annual Report includes the customary breakdown of complaints by region of complaint, language of program, source of program, type of program, and Code clause(s) in question. Information relating to the texts of the Codes themselves, the history of the CBSC, the members of the five Regional Councils and their biographies, and so on is permanently available on the CBSC web site.
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Ottawa, December 20, 2000 -– The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decisions relating to episodes of two series on Télévision Quatre Saisons (TQS) (Montréal) (Faut le voir pour le croire and 2000 ans de bogues). Both related to essentially the same issue, namely, nudity and sexual activity on programming broadcast well before the Watershed hour of 9:00 p.m.
While both programs made some attempt to hide some of the genitalia, whether due to the obscurity of some of the filming (Faut le voir pour le croire) or the use of digital pixillation (2000 ans de bogues), there were clearly scenes of sexual activity including a number of scenes of nudity in which bare breasts were clearly displayed. In one instance, video clips taken during the filming of a pornographic movie were also shown, although the television station did conceal the actors’ genitalia.
The Quebec Regional Council considered both decisions under the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Voluntary Code Regarding Violence in Television Programming (Violence Code). It found the broadcaster in breach of the Scheduling provision (Article 3.1.1), which requires that certain programming only be broadcast after the Watershed hour of 9 p.m., and in breach of the Classification provision (Article 4) which requires that a rating icon be present during broadcasts of such types of reality-based programming.
The Sexual Content
The Council concluded that the scenes of nudity were presented in both programs in an erotic context and were clearly intended for an adult audience. It therefore ruled that neither program should have been aired prior to the Watershed hour of 9 p.m. In the case of 2000 ans de bogues, the Council stated:
In this case, the Council is of the opinion that the symphony of images presented in the program 2000 ans de bogues is too risqué to be aired at 7:30 p.m. There are numerous illustrations of what concerns the Council. Among other things, despite the fact that they were run at double speed and digital pixillation had concealed the actors’ genitalia, the sexual acts during the pornography segment were excessive. Moreover, in distinct contrast to the film Strip Tease, the scenes of nudity in this case are presented in an overwhelmingly erotic context, namely, in one part of the episode, during the making of a pornographic film. In 2000 ans de bogues, not only are we able to see the actresses’ bare breasts, we are also able to see them engaging in explicitly sexual acts. The Council has no doubt that such scenes belong to the category of programming considered to be “intended for adult audiences” and must, consequently, be aired after the Watershed hour. The Council therefore concludes that the airing of the program at 7:30 p.m. violates Article 3.1 of the Violence Code.
In Faut le voir pour le croire, the Council explained:
In the view of the Council, the sexual activity portrayed in this case was clearly of a nature intended for adult audiences. The practice of cunnilingus, the love-making in the clandestine circumstances of a parking garage on the hood of a car, the sexual interlude in an elevator, these are all activities which may not be problematic in the context of adult audiences but are entirely inappropriate, as the complainant states, for children. The showing of this episode of Faut le voir pour le croire at a pre-Watershed hour is clearly in breach of the Code.
The Classification Issue
It was clear to the Council that all programming is subject to the classification requirement except that programming which falls under the “Exempt” category. That is limited to “news, sports, documentaries and other information programming; talk shows, music videos, and variety programming.” The Council held (in Faut le voir pour le croire) that such reality-shows do not fall within the “documentaries and other information programming category”. Their conclusion, explained at greater length in the decision, was, in brief, that
programming which is primarily enlightening is what the broadcasters and the CRTC expected would be exempt and that which is primarily entertaining which the broadcasters and the industry expected would be subject to classification.
In its conclusion in Faut le voir pour le croire, which it applied equally to 2000 ans de bogues, the Council determined that 16+ would be the correct rating.
In this case, the Council is of the view that the rating 13+ would be insufficiently restrictive since it provides that “Scenes of sexual activity of a dominant nature, for example, or the portrayal of unconventional sexual relationships, may not be suitable for this age group.” Although the 18+ category includes “films showing explicit sexual activity”, it is the view of the Council that the16+ rating would be appropriate.
Ongoing Breaches by the Broadcaster
Beyond its findings against the broadcaster, the Council noted that it was “very troubled by the fact that, in its programming decisions, TQS pays absolutely no attention to the scheduling requirements of the Violence Code“. It stated:
In this instance, the broadcaster’s Code breaches have not involved a single program. Rather, they are spread over movies, movie commercials and television series; however, at the end of the day, they constitute the same thing. This broadcaster has evidenced its desire to broadcast sexual content clearly intended for adult audiences in a pre-Watershed environment on an ongoing basis in disregard of the conclusions of this Council.
In light of the broadcaster’s recurring breach of the Violence Code, the Council also came to the following conclusion:
In the circumstances, in addition to its finding regarding the specific breach in the case of the broadcast under consideration, the Council specifically concludes that the broadcaster must, within the thirty days following its receipt of the text of this decision, provide the CBSC with concrete indications of the measures which it intends to put in place in order to avoid the recurrence of the broadcasting of inappropriate sexual content prior to the Watershed. Failing that, the CBSC will determine whether there is any reason for which Télévision Quatre Saisons should be entitled to remain a member of the CBSC or whether TQS should become the first private broadcaster in Canada to be removed from the self-regulatory mechanism.
Canada’s private broadcasters have created industry standards in the form of Codes dealing with gender portrayal, violence and ethical issues such as human rights by which they expect the members of their profession will abide. They have also established the CBSC, the self-regulatory body responsible for the administration of those professional Codes, as well as the Radio and Television News Directors Code dealing with journalistic practices. More than 460 Canadian radio and television stations and specialty services 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