More Detailed and Precise Viewer Advisories Required for Adult Animated Film, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, August 20, 2008 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the broadcast of the movie Team America: World Police on Teletoon, which featured coarse language, violence and sexual activity among the movie’s marionette characters.  The CBSC concluded that the movie was appropriately scheduled after 9:00 pm, but that Teletoon’s viewer advisories should have mentioned the violence and sexual activity.

Team America is a 2004 comedic motion picture made by the creators of the adult animated cartoon SouthPark.  The marionette puppets are members of a special police force established to combat global terrorism.  The movie contained numerous scenes of violence, including a slow-motion scene of a man being killed with automatic weapons, another being shot in the head, still another being eaten by a shark, and a woman’s face being blown off.  It also included sexual dialogue and other coarse language, as well as a lengthy scene in which a male and female Team America agent engaged in sexual activity in a variety of positions.  Teletoon broadcast the film at 9:30 pm with an 18+ rating, and the icon and viewer advisories were aired following every commercial break.

The CBSC received a complaint from an individual who was concerned that his young child had viewed the sex scene.  He argued that this type of content should not be shown on a “children’s channel” and that the advisories should have warned of the sexual content.  The CBSC’s National Specialty Services Panel noted that Teletoon is not exclusively a children’s channel, but rather provides animated programming for all age groups.  As a result, “[a]fter the Watershed [9:00 pm to 6:00 am], audiences ought to be aware that any television services, including Teletoon, may provide programming that is intended exclusively for adult audiences.”  The Panel further noted that “[e]ven though puppets, not people, were involved, the violence in Team America was bloody and gory, the sexuality was explicit, and there were numerous examples of coarse and offensive language.  Each of those components on its own would have relegated the animated feature to a post-Watershed broadcast.”  Since Teletoon did schedule the movie after 9:00 pm, the Panel found no breach of the scheduling provisions of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics or Violence Code.

It did, however, conclude that the viewer advisories were inadequate because they mentioned only “coarse language” and “mature subject matter” and failed to specifically mention the violence and sexuality.  “While the Panel has no problem with the additional designation of ‘mature subject matter’, it concludes that this is insufficiently precise in the face of any of the categories of sexual content, violence, or coarse or offensive language [which] must be explicitly identified in viewer advisories.”  The Panel found the broadcast in violation of Clause 11 of the CAB Code of Ethics and Article 5.3 of the CAB Violence Code.

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 – Association of Electronic Journalists in 1970.  More than 690 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