Higher Rating Required for Episode of 24, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, April 22, 2008 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning an episode of the dramatic action program 24, which aired on Global on February 12, 2007 at 8:00 pm.  The CBSC’s National Conventional Television Panel concluded that the violence in the episode did not violate the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Violence Code because it was relevant to the plot and character development.  The CBSC did conclude, however, that the episode should have been rated 14+ rather than PG.

24 is a television series about the fictional Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU) of the United States government. Each episode takes place within one hour of a day as the unit’s agents attempt to thwart terrorist activities.  In the challenged episode (which covered the period from 1:00-2:00 pm in season 6), a terrorist group had kidnapped a CTU agent with the computer programming expertise necessary to activate their nuclear bombs.  When the agent refused to help, the leader of the group tortured him with a drill until he capitulated.  There were also two other scenes in which individuals were shot dead, as well as a chaotic scene of gunfire and explosions when the CTU team burst into the terrorists’ hideaway.

A viewer complained that the drill scene in particular was too violent for conventional television and should not have been aired at 8:00 pm.  The broadcaster explained that it had broadcast the necessary viewer advisories and had availed itself of its simultaneous substitution rights.  By deciding that the scenes of violence were relevant to plot and character development, the National Conventional Television Panel concluded that the broadcast did not violate the codified standard prohibiting gratuitous violence.  The Panel also noted that simultaneous substitution, which requires television distributors to lay the Canadian signal over the American signal on the channel usually occupied by the foreign broadcaster, benefits Canadian viewers; it ensures that Canadian classification icons and viewer advisories are present in the broadcast, even when the program is aired prior to the usual 9:00 pm “Watershed” hour for adult programming.  The Panel did, however, find a violation of Article 4 of the Code relating to classification because Global rated the episode PG when it should have been rated 14+ due to the intense scenes of violence.

Canada’s private broadcasters have themselves created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, equitable portrayal, television violence and journalistic independence 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 ethics created by the RTNDA – The Association of Electronic Journalists.  More than 630 radio stations, satellite radio services, 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