Inconsistent Advisories, Pre-Watershed Coarse Language And Errors In Classification Constitute A Breach,Says The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, February 13, 2004 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning three Showcase broadcasts, two of which are movies, namely Frankie Starlight and Muriel’s Wedding, and the other of an episode of the television series Trailer Park Boys.  One complainant protested the nudity and the coarse language in both movies aired before the Watershed, and the other complainant’s main concern related to the presence of a child in scenes in which coarse language was used in the television series mentioned above.  The CBSC’s National Specialty Services Panel concluded that , while Frankie Starlight violated Article 4 (Classification System) of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Violence Code andClauses 10 (Scheduling) and 11(Viewer Advisories) of the CAB Code of Ethics, Muriel’s Wedding was in violation of the latter two only.  With respect to the episode of Trailer Park Boys, the Panel found that the broadcaster was in breach of the viewer advisories requirement in the CAB Code of Ethics.

In 2003, Showcase aired the movies Frankie Starlight on January 20 and Muriel’s Wedding on March 6, both starting at 1 pm.  Frankie Starlight was rated PG and Muriel’s Wedding was rated 14+.  Both movies contained foul language and scenes of nudity and sexuality.  Both movies included advisories but the broadcaster was inconsistent in their frequency for it failed to air them coming out of some of the commercial breaks.  The Panel even found that, in the case of Frankie Starlight, “Showcase failed even to refer to the issue [of course language] in its advisory, which deals only with sexuality and nudity.”  The Panel concluded that both films were in breach of Clause 10 for broadcasting strong foul language before the watershed hours, and of Clause 11 of the CAB Code of Ethics for its failure to include advisories at the beginning and coming out of each commercial break.  The Panel also found that, in Frankie Starlight, “the not infrequent use of coarse, as opposed to mild, profanity renders the film a 14+, rather than a PG, film.”  The Panel concluded that the error in classification constituted a breach of Clause 4 of the Violence Code.

The episode of the Trailer Park Boys contained numerous scenes with extremely coarse language, including the f-word and derivatives.  It was rated 18+ and accompanied by a viewer advisory at the beginning of the show only.  The Panel also concluded, as in the case of the movies above, that the failure to provide the requisite viewer advisories after each commercial break constituted a breach of Clause 11 of the CAB Code of Ethics.  Furthermore, the Panel addressed the complainant’s concern that a child was present in the scenes depicting coarse language and that this may constitute child abuse.  After examining the terms and provisions set by ACTRA, the union responsible for the representation of the financial interests of actors, as well as matters relating to their work conditions (and numerous other matters), the Panel explained that

In any event, all of the foregoing provisions suggest that it is anticipated that there may well be inappropriate circumstances in which child actors must be involved in order to dramatically reproduce the scenes required by the creative team to give effect to the story they have created.  The anticipation on the part of the actors’ guild is that caring parents will review the script and determine whether they wish to have their children play such scenes and whether any form of psychological assistance would be appropriate.  There is not, however, anything inherent in such material that renders it contrary to either law or broadcast standards to produce or, subsequently, to air.

Due to a repeated disregard for the Private Broadcasters Codes and in order to remain a member of the CBSC, the Council has requested from Showcase to provide a concrete indication of the measures which it intends to put in place to avoid further violations of the codes.

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