Late-Night Comedy Variety Program Did Not Exploit Women but Required Detailed Advisories, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, March 15, 2005 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning an episode of Ed the Sock! that aired on CITY-TV (Toronto) at midnight on May 30, 2004. The CBSC Ontario Regional Panel found that the program’s depiction of women did not violate the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Sex-Role Portrayal Code for Television and Radio Programming but that the broadcast did violate the clause of the CAB Code of Ethics requiring viewer advisories.

Ed the Sock! is a comedy variety program hosted by the well-known sock puppet. The subject of the episode in question was “A Day in the Life of an Adult Website” and the episode included multiple scenes of scantily-clad and topless women, as well as one scene of two women engaged in erotic behaviour for the site’s web-cam. Ed interviewed some of the women and made comments about their appearance and behaviour. The episode contained a viewer advisory at the beginning and coming out of every commercial break but some of the advisories did not provide detailed information about the content of the program.

The CBSC received a complaint from a viewer who was concerned that the representation of women in the program sent a negative message about females to viewers. The CBSC Ontario Regional Panel examined the complaint under the CAB Sex-Role Portrayal Code which prohibits the broadcast of content that is exploitative or degrading vis-à-vis either gender. Based on previous CBSC decisions, the Panel found that the program did not violate that Code:

[I]t must be recognized that the women featured in the episode were employees of an adult website and, as such, fully expected that their bodies and appearance would be the focus of attention. Although there are understandably some people who would argue that these types of websites are degrading to women, Ed the Sock’s exploration of “A Day in the Life of an Adult Website” was simply a behind-the-scenes look at one aspect of the adult entertainment industry. […] The Panel finds no breach of the CAB Sex-Role Portrayal Code.

The Panel did, however, conclude that, by not ensuring that the viewer advisories coming out of the commercial breaks contained sufficiently detailed information about the specific nature of the content as required by the CAB Code of Ethics, CITY-TV had breached the provisions of that Code.

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