French Broadcast of Showgirls Requires More Viewer Advisories

Ottawa, January 29, 2003 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the television broadcast of the feature film Les Girls de Las Vegas (the French version of Showgirls) on Québec broadcaster TQS. The CBSC Québec Regional Panel determined that the movie, about the erotic dance industry, did not exploit or promote violence against women, but that its sexual nature required that TQS provide viewer advisories throughout the first hour of the broadcast. TQS failed to meet this requirement.

The movie tells the story of a young woman who wants to be an exotic dancer in Las Vegas. As might be anticipated, the film includes numerous scenes which reveal bare breasts, as well as two lengthy scenes of sexual activity. At another point, it is implied that a woman is raped; she is shown leaving a bedroom, disoriented and with physical signs of the assault. The CBSC received a complaint from a viewer who was concerned about the sexual content of the film.

The Québec Regional Panel examined the complaint under the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' (CAB) Sex-Role Portrayal Code. The Panel determined that the movie did not exploit women, since “the subject of the film was an aspect of the sex/eroticism industry which is not in violation of the law. It is to be expected that the film's content would reflect this.” The Panel also noted that the allusion to the rape was neither gratuitous nor glamorized and was “dramatically relevant to the character development of the principal protagonist.” Such content is not problematic when aired after the “Watershed hour” of 9:00 pm, as TQS did.

TQS was found in breach, however, for its failure to air adequate viewer advisories throughout the movie. The CAB Violence Code requires that programming that contains scenes intended for adult audiences include viewer advisories at the beginning, and coming out of each commercial break during the first hour. TQS aired an appropriate advisory in video and audio formats at the beginning of the film and once again in a video-only crawl across the bottom of the screen part way through the first hour. The Panel found a Code violation because of the insufficient number of advisories, on the one hand, and because the second advisory had been presented in video format only, on the other hand.

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