May 1997

Ottawa, May 30, 1997 — The Ontario Regional Council of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) released its decision today concerning a news item aired on CFRA (Ottawa).

On International Women's Day (March 14) 1996, CFRA aired a news item which reported that women spend almost twice as much time as men taking care of the home and children, and that women earn 72 cents for every dollar earned by men. As a result, according to the report, it could be said that every day is International Men's Day. The item then went on to announce the “Women of Distinction” award, recognizing exemplary women in the community. A CFRA listener, filing his fourth complaint with the CBSC concerning this station and this issue, wrote to complain that the news item was sexist. In his opinion, the report was offensive, unfair and in violation of industry standards on gender portrayal. As the organizer of Ottawa's International Men's Day, he complained that CFRA had accorded no coverage to his event and allocated an overwhelming majority of its time to women's issues. In its coverage of International Women's Day, CFRA had, according to the complainant, jeered at an unfunded grassroots day organized by men to portray positive images of masculinity. CFRA responded that it had covered, in reporting on International Women's Day, factual information of interest to a diverse group of women and men. The station added that it reported on news of community interest, regardless of the gender of the newsmaker. The listener was unsatisfied with CFRA's response and asked the CBSC to refer the matter to its Ontario Regional Council.

In its decision (attached), the Ontario Regional Council noted that the news item was not inaccurate and did not breach industry standards concerning the presentation of news. The report did not intend to abuse or exploit men, nor did it have this effect. By reporting on a story that highlighted women, the station did not discriminate against men and did not select news in order to further or hinder one side of a controversial issue. Consequently, in the Regional Council's opinion, CFRA did not breach industry standards on ethics or on gender portrayal.

The CBSC is the self-regulatory body created by private broadcasters to respond to complaints and administer industry standards on ethics, journalistic practices, gender portrayal and television violence. Nearly 400 radio and television stations from across Canada are members of the Council.

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Ottawa, May 30, 1997 — The Ontario Regional Council of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) released its decision today concerning a comment made by futurist Frank Ogden, aired on CFRA (Ottawa).

The decision concerns a short segment aired in March 1996, entitled “Dr. Tomorrow.” The segment, which featured a futurist, Frank Ogden, dealt with the future role of women in the workforce and in business. Ogden stated that women were becoming increasingly involved in “sunrise” industries and had advantages in business that men did not have. He added that, in the future, women would hold more than 50% of jobs and positions of power and influence. A CFRA listener (who had complained about three other programs on CFRA that allegedly discriminated against men) complained that the “Dr. Tomorrow” segment was unfair to men. He argued that Ogden had promoted “gender warfare” by suggesting that men would not succeed in business in the future and by implying that businesses should not hire or promote men. He felt that Ogden promoted the view that men were sexist and opposed to successful women in business. He added that Ogden's contention that women would succeed by “instinct” was sexist and incorrect, denying that men had “instinct” or that women could succeed by merit or hard work. In the listener's opinion, the program violated the principles of the industry's Sex-Role Portrayal Code.

CFRA replied that, rather than attack men, Ogden had reminded men that advances in technology would level the playing field for all people in the workplace, thereby creating equal opportunities for success. In no way, CFRA argued, did the program suggest that men were sexist or opposed to successful women in business. The listener, unsatisfied with this reply, asked the CBSC to have its Ontario Regional Council review the matter.

In its decision (attached), the Ontario Regional Council affirmed that the complainant had presented a distorted understanding of Ogden's comments. The Council noted that nowhere had Ogden stated that men were opposed to successful women in business, nor had he stated that businesses should not hire or promote men. Rather, the futurist pointed out that, generally speaking, men already hold positions of power and influence and that there is some room for women to be able to catch up and do slightly better in the future. As the Council stated, “it appears that… the complainant views any positive statement about women as the equivalent of a degrading statement about men. The CBSC does not share this view; nor does it believe that such positive assertions constitute a violation of any provision of the Sex-Role Portrayal Code.”

In addition to administering the Sex-Role Portrayal Code, the CBSC administers broadcasting industry codes on ethics, television violence and journalistic ethics.

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Ottawa, May 15, 1997 — The Ontario Regional Council of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) released its decision today concerning a public service announcement (PSA), part of the private broadcasters' anti-violence campaign, aired on CFRA (Ottawa).

On behalf of Canada's private broadcasters, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters had developed a radio and television PSA campaign with the theme, “violence makes victims of us all.” One of the PSAs involved several women of different ages and backgrounds. The script included the following words: “they have all suffered at the hands of someone close to them. What begins with control, emotional and verbal abuse, often becomes physical violence.” A listener to CFRA heard this PSA and complained in March, 1996, that it showed only women as victims of violence and implied that men were the cause of family violence. He argued that the PSA violated industry policy on gender portrayal and added that the PSA ignored the reality of women's violence against children and men. CFRA responded to the listener by highlighting the fact that the PSA had been developed months ago and had been airing regularly since then, to support public awareness of family violence. CFRA added that the problem of domestic violence was well-documented both across Canada and in the local community, and there was no violation of the industry's Code on Sex-Role Portrayal. The listener, unsatisfied with this response, asked the CBSC to have its Ontario Regional Council review the matter.

In its decision (attached), the Ontario Regional Council recognized that the PSA was part of a campaign developed by the industry to address the consequences of violence upon society. While this particular PSA dealt with violence imposed by men upon women, other PSAs dealt with other aspects of violence. Even though this PSA (indirectly) portrayed men, the question for the Council was whether the portrayal of men was not necessarily negative or unfair. It concluded that it was not the case, observing that this portrayal did not misrepresent the problem of family violence. The Council added that “fair-minded men and women will acknowledge that physical abuse is more often perpetrated by men on women than the other way round and that this PSA is not a depiction of the actions of all men or even most men….Its fair, realistic and justifiable presentation do not constitute a breach of the Code.”

In addition to administering the Sex-Role Portrayal Code, the CBSC administers broadcasting industry codes on ethics, television violence and journalistic ethics.

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Ottawa, May 15, 1997 — The Ontario Regional Council of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) released its decision today concerning a financial advice program, “Family Fortune”, aired on CFRA (Ottawa).

The decision concerns an episode of the 90-second feature aired in February 1996, which dealt with the question of unnecessary interest charges on credit cards. While the program billed itself as “dedicated to the financial issues affecting women and their families”, the advice provided was not oriented toward either sex. Nonetheless, a CFRA listener complained that the program excluded men by portraying women as the sole and exclusive decision-makers and the beneficiaries of family life. He added that the CFRA programming lacked balance, since fathers were not mentioned on these programs, and that in airing “Family Fortune”, CFRA had violated the industry's Sex-Role Portrayal Code. In response, CFRA pointed out that the program contained practical advice on financial decisions and related matters and that, while it focussed on issues that were important to women, the content did not exclude men; furthermore, their demographics showed that many men also listened to it. The listener was unsatisfied with this response and asked the CBSC to have its Ontario Regional Council review the matter.

In its decision (attached), the Ontario Regional Council affirmed that the language of “Family Fortune” was absolutely gender-neutral and that there was not even a trace of a sexist approach to the subject addressed in the program. While the program was described as dedicated to financial issues affecting women and their families, the description in itself did not imply that the program was not useful to other listeners. Like many programs, “Family Fortune” had a target audience. In the Council's words, however, “that it may be aimed at women does not make it any more sexist, discriminatory or exclusive than targeting any particular demographic group in the creation or airing of any show.” Men were neither improperly nor inequitably portrayed, and CFRA did not breach the industry's Sex-Role Portrayal Code.

In addition to administering the Sex-Role Portrayal Code, the CBSC administers broadcasting industry codes on ethics, television violence and journalistic ethics.

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Ottawa, May 9, 1997 — The Ontario Regional Council of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a commercial for an adult video store, aired on CITY-TV.

The decision relates to a complaint about a commercial for Adults Only Video aired in early March 1995. In the commercial, the video component consisted solely of the owner of the stores seated on a stool in one of his shops making a statement to the effect that Canadians had a right to make an entertainment choice, which included the right to choose to visit his stores. The complainant, a representative of an anti-pornography group, informed the CBSC that the owner was “up on charges of obscenity” and questioned the station's ethics in selling him airtime to advertise his stores. CITY-TV replied, however, that the commercials aired later in the evening (after 8:00 p.m.), that they included no provocative footage or descriptions of specific titles and that these precautions demonstrated that CITY-TV had taken audience sensitivities into account in airing the commercials. The complainant was unsatisfied with CITY-TV's response and asked the CBSC Ontario Regional Council to review her complaint.

While not mandated to deal with all advertising complaints, the CBSC does review complaints concerning local advertising aired by member stations. The industry's Code of Ethics, administered by the CBSC, also contains a clause on advertising. Therefore, the Regional Council considered that the matter could reasonably be reviewed by the CBSC. The Council felt that the commercial could not be judged to be in poor taste, nor was it unfair. In fact, the Council recognized that the complainant was fundamentally concerned that the adult video stores should not be in operation. This latter issue is not, however, a matter for the CBSC to determine. Thus, in its decision (attached), the Council decided that CITY-TV did not breach the industry's Code of Ethics. The Code stipulates that broadcasters should ensure that the advertisements they are “shall be in good taste, simple, truthful and believable, and shall not offend what is generally accepted as the prevailing standard of good taste.” The Council also noted that CITY-TV had responded adequately to the complainant's concerns.

Composed of women and men from the broadcasting industry and the general public, the CBSC Ontario Regional Council is chaired by Al MacKay, a broadcasting industry representative. Robert Stanbury, a representative of the public, is the Vice-Chair. Nearly 400 stations from across Canada are members of the Council and adhere to its Codes.

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Ottawa, May 9, 1997 — The Ontario Regional Council of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the airing of comments from a phone poll conducted by Sudbury's CJRQ-FM.

The station conducted an informal poll of its listeners in February, 1995 on the question of OHIP-funded sex-change operations. 198 listeners called to leave their comments, and the station selected three of those messages to air. In the first, the caller stated, “these are pretty sick times when the health-care system would refuse to finance a leg-brace for a small child but would willingly open its purse strings if some sick, demented, obviously mentally disturbed homosexual minces into a hospital or clinic demanding a vagina. And the health-care professionals are tripping over each other to accommodate this misfit of the natural order.” The other messages were negative, but not as virulent. The program host indicated that 90% of callers believed the province should not fund such operations.

A CJRQ-FM listener complained about the poll and the comments aired. She believed that the comments were extremely offensive and homophobic and added that, when she contacted the station directly to complain, she was told that “people are entitled to their opinions.” She retorted, “I do not agree with your employees that any opinion can be broadcast and I don't think Canadian licensing laws would condone this situation.” In his 32-word response to the listener, the station's General Manager merely stated that the incident had been a “learning experience” that forced the station staff to reexamine its policies regarding the poll. The station appended those policies to the letter. The listener was unsatisfied with this response and asked the CBSC Ontario Regional Council to review the matter.

In its decision, the Regional Council noted that, although the host himself had not made the comments in question, the station, by selecting the comments to be aired, was responsible for the program. The Council agreed with the complainant that the comments selected for broadcast were blatantly homophobic. While the other two callers had expressed strong opinions, the first caller's reference to “some sick, demented, obviously mentally disturbed homosexual” and “this misfit of the natural order” constituted abusive material based on matters of sexual orientation. In its words, “the Council is never troubled by the expression of opinion, as long as it does not become abusively discriminatory.” The Council concluded that CJRQ-FM had breached both the industry's Code of Ethics, which forbids the broadcast of such material, and the RTNDA Code of (Journalistic) Ethics, which states that news broadcasts should not be sensationalized. Moreover, the Council decided that the station's letter had been totally unresponsive. As a result of this negative decision, CJRQ-FM must announce the decision during peak listening hours within the next 30 days.

Nearly 400 stations from across Canada are members of the Council and adhere to CBSC- administered codes on ethics, journalistic ethics, gender portrayal and television violence.

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Ottawa, May 5, 1997 –– The Action Group on Violence on Television (AGVOT) today released its proposed rating system for Canadian television programs in Ottawa. Since AGVOT does not have a website of its own, the CBSC has posted the AGVOT Media Release and AGVOT's Report on a Classification System for Violence in Television Programming to be used in conjunction with V-Chip Technology (presented to the CRTC on April 30 and to the public today) on the CBSC website.

News Release
from the
Action Group on Violence on Television

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Ottawa, May 5, 1997 — The Action Group on Violence on Television (AGVOT) today outlined its proposals to classify the content of television programs; and to make those classifications available to parents.

The Action Group, an organization representing all elements of the Canadian broadcast, cable and production industries, released details of its submission to the CRTC. AGVOT is recommending a six level rating system that uses consistent and clear guidelines to evaluate the content of television programs. The guidelines centre on violence, but include language and sexual content as well. The content evaluation is assigned a rating according to the generally accepted stages of child development. Parents are already familiar with this approach in classifying movies, books, games, toys and other childrens' products.

Trina McQueen, chair of AGVOT, and President of the Discovery Channel, said the system is based on extensive research and consultation with parents and with public interest groups. “The classification system will work with the broadcasters' Code on Violence and the independent compliance mechanism of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, to give Canadian parents the most comprehensive and advanced parental control system in the world,” she said.

Research included in-home public opinion studies, focus groups, and a national trial of the system with the V-chip technology in nearly 400 homes in five Canadian cities over five weeks. All studies found high levels of approval by parents.

“Parents were easily able to set appropriate viewing levels for their families with the V-chip technology,” said Richard Stursberg, President and CEO of The Canadian Cable Television Association. “Eighty four per cent of families found it easy to use.”

However, in its report to the CRTC, AGVOT points out that there are issues still to be resolved that make a launch of the V-chip unlikely by the fall program season.

In the interim, Canadian program services will display program ratings on-screen. The CBC, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, and the Specialty and Premium Television Association have all agreed to the on-screen display. French language programmers and premium services will continue to use their own established ratings systems for this purpose, as had been agreed to by the CRTC.

“This voluntary move will give parents the benefits of the new classification system by this fall, when the on-screen ratings system will be in place,” said Michael McCabe, President and CEO of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters. McCabe noted that all sectors of the industry remain committed to achieving program coding which works with V-chip technology, and that the industry will continue to work through the unresolved issues.

AGVOT chair Trina McQueen noted that, in all studies, families expressed a strong preference for a North American rating system, rather than a system in Canada that is different from the United States.

“The Canadian Television Ratings system is based entirely on what we heard from parents and from child development experts,” McQueen said. “But we expect that this system will evolve and change with experience. We present the system as the beginning of a dialogue with viewers.”

The Action Group on Violence on Television is a pan-industry organization formed in 1993 to co-ordinate broadcast and cable industry strategies and initiatives to deal with the issue of violence on television. It is chaired by Trina McQueen, President of the Discovery Channel. The Executive Committee includes Michael McCabe, President and CEO, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, Richard Stursberg, President and CEO, the Canadian Cable Television Association, André Bureau, Chairman of Astral Broadcasting and, until his recent appointment to the CRTC, Charles Bélanger.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Trina McQueen
President, Discovery Channel
Chair, Action Group on Violence on Television
Phone: 416-494-8222

Michael McCabe
President & CEO
Canadian Association of Broadcasters
Phone: 613-233-4035

Richard Stursberg
President & CEO
Canadian Cable Television Association
Phone: 613-232-2631

André Bureau
Chairman & CEO, Astral Broadcasting
514-939-5000

Media Advisory

The following experts in family issues and media literacy have agreed to make themselves available for comment on the AGVOT News Release.

Alan Mirabelli
Executive Director
Vanier Institute of the Family,
Past Chairman, Alliance for
Children and Television
(613) 228-8500

Father John Pungente
President, Canadian Association
of Media Education Organizations (Cameo)
(416) 515-0466

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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