Dramatic Program Containing Scenes of Sexual Activity Requires More Viewer Advisories,Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, November 5, 2002 The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning an episode of the dramatic series Queer as Folk broadcast on the Specialty Service Showcase Television.  The CBSC National Specialty Services Panel determined that the sexually explicit content was not exploitative, but that the episode required more viewer advisories than the broadcaster had provided.

Queer as Folk follows the lives of a group of homosexual men and women living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  It offers a realistic and often humorous look at the relationships, careers and ambitions of the main characters.  The challenged episode contained very coarse language, frank discussions about sex, scenes of sexual activity and some nudity, though no genitalia were shown.  Showcase airs Queer as Folk at 10:00 pm Eastern time.  A complaint about the episode came from a viewer who wrote that she was “appalled to see blatant, explicit sexual acts playing on [her] television screen.”

The National Specialty Services Panel examined the complaint under the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Sex-Role Portrayal Code and Violence Code.  The Panel found no breach of the CAB Sex-Role Portrayal Code, stating that the scenes of sexual activity were explicit, but not exploitative of either males or females.  It acknowledged that the program was clearly intended for adult audiences, but explained that sexually explicit content is not problematic when aired after the Watershed hour of 9:00 pm, is correctly rated and contains adequate viewer advisories.

Although the episode was correctly rated as 18+, Showcase was found in breach of the viewer advisory provision of the CAB Violence Code, which requires that such advisories appear at the beginning of and coming out of every commercial break in programming intended for adult audiences.  This particular episode of Queer as Folk featured an advisory at the beginning alerting viewers to the nudity, sexuality and coarse language.  The second advisory, which appeared at the end of the second commercial break, was in audio format only and stated simply “viewer discretion is advised”.  The Panel determined that advisories were required coming out of every commercial break and that they should have been more detailed in their explanation of the content.

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 520 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