Failure to Include Required Viewer Tools Breaches Broadcaster Codes, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, March 8, 2005 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released three decisions concerning the broadcast by TQS of several late night movies in the Bleu Nuit series and three episodes of Kama Sutra. The programming, of an erotic nature, began at either 11:30, pm, 11:45 pm or 12:00 midnight on the dates indicated in the decisions. All films and episodes carried a viewer advisory at the start of the film, which read “Warning: This film contains erotic scenes and nudity suitable for a mature audience.” The advisory was not repeated following each commercial break. All films and episodes included an « 18+ érotisme » ratings icon for 5 to 8 seconds at the start of each episode and following each commercial break.

In general, the complaints registered with respect to the various broadcasts alleged that the films or episodes were unduly sexually explicit and offensive. The Quebec Regional Panel disagreed. Although it agreed that the challenged programming was sexually explicit, it does not consider that they are either exploitative or degrading. Nor does it consider that the episodes sent out the message, as the complainant alleged, that “all women have lesbian intentions [or] are all nymphomaniacs [emphasis added].” In fact, most of the sexual activity involves men as well as women and neither gender is degraded vis-à-vis the other. There is no breach of Clause 4 of the CAB Sex-Role Portrayal Code.

The Panel did, however, find that the broadcaster had failed to display the classification icon for the required length of time.

Canada’s private broadcasters have taken various initiatives in order to put audiences in a position to make informed viewing choices. One of these is to provide classification icons on-screen at the start of the broadcast and at the top of each successive hour. The icon must be the appropriate one and must be present for at least 15 seconds on each mandated occasion. In the case of Mission de charme, the rating of 18+ was appropriate but, although TQS ran the icon at the start of the program and following every commercial break, which it was not required to do, it only displayed the icon for 7-8 seconds at the beginning and at the top of the second hour. For this reason, the broadcaster has breached one of the technical requirements of Article 4 of the CAB Violence Code.

Since the viewer advisories were not repeated after each commercial break, the Panel found a further breach of the Code.

One of the other viewer assistance tools provided by broadcasters is the viewer advisory, which provides more detailed information about the content of the program. Such advisories must be present at the start of a program and following every commercial break during the first hour of any broadcast intended exclusively for adult audiences. In this case, they were not present following the commercial breaks. This constitutes a breach of Clauses 10(b) and 11 of the CAB Code of Ethics.

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 550 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