Mild Coarse Language Acceptable before the Watershed, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, February 14, 2007 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the broadcast of the feature film Smokey and the Bandit on the specialty service Prime (now known as Tvtropolis).  The movie was broadcast midday on May 13, 2006 and contained some instances of coarse language.  Prime provided advisories alerting viewers to the language content and rated the broadcast PG.  The CBSC’s National Specialty Services Panel concluded that the broadcast did not violate any broadcaster codes of standards. 

Smokey and the Bandit is a 1977 comedy starring Burt Reynolds and Sally Field.  In the film, Bandit (Reynolds) and his partner were hired to illegally transport a truckload of beer across state lines.  Carrie (Field) was a runaway bride they encountered along the way.  Mayhem ensued as they tried to evade the police.  The film contained numerous instances of coarse language, such as “ass”, “son-of-a-bitch”, “damn”, “shit” and “bullshit”.  A viewer advisory was provided at the beginning of the broadcast and coming out of every commercial break.  A PG icon also appeared twice during the two-hour broadcast as required by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Voluntary Code regarding Violence in Television Programming. 

The CBSC received a complaint from a viewer who was concerned about the amount of coarse language in the daytime broadcast, especially since he was aware that an edited version of the film existed.  Prime acknowledged that it may have been more appropriate to air the edited version during the day, but also pointed out that it had provided appropriate advisories and classification icons to advise viewers of the coarse language. 

The Specialty Services Panel examined the complaint under Clause 10 (Television Broadcasting) of the CAB Code of Ethics which requires broadcasters to air programming which contains “coarse or offensive language intended for adult audiences” only during the “Watershed” period of 9:00 pm to 6:00 am.  The Panel determined that “the particular coarse language used in [the movie] is insufficient to characterize the film as exclusively adult fare.”  Prime was thus permitted to air the unedited version of the film prior to the Watershed with sufficient viewer advisories, like those Prime had indeed provided.  The Panel also concluded that PG was an acceptable rating for the broadcast, since that classification allows for a certain amount of profanity.  

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 600 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