MTV Live is a youth-oriented magazine/talk program broadcast on MTV Canada. The episode in question aired from 7:30-8:30 am on February 27, 2007. It appeared to be a rerun of a previously aired episode because the hosts referred to “tonight”. The episode was hosted by Daryn Jones, Jessi Cruickshank and Diane Salema. The theme of the episode was “self love”, i.e. masturbation. The episode did not contain any viewer advisories. It was rated PG.
During the program, a box was present in the lower right-hand corner of the screen that showed the comments of viewers who were participating in the live online chat session. The majority of the comments referred to the topic of day, masturbation. Also, at some points during the program, facts and information about masturbation and related topics appeared in words in a crawl at the bottom of the screen.
Diane introduced the topic of the day at the beginning of the program in the following terms (a more complete transcript of the relevant portions of the program can be found in Appendix A):
Um yeah, today’s topic on the show is about masturbation. Yeah, so let’s get in to chat and talk about this, ‘cause this is gonna be a good one. Ready, set, go, masturbate.
The first segment of the program consisted of hosts Daryn and Jessi talking with the program’s DJ and with members of the studio audience about the topic of the day.
Daryn: I’m gonna trap you right now. It’s all about self love. When you were in high school, did people talk about self love? What was the attitude towards, uh, wanrh?
DJ Dopey: Um, it was definitely kinda, like, you’re not supposed to talk about it at all. It was, like, kinda like, every, you knew everyone did it, it just, you can’t really talk about it.
Daryn: DJ Dopey masturbates; good to know. [audience laughter] All right, very good. Uh, it’s funny ‘cause it’s such a controversial topic and everybody’s got a strong opinion about it. People get very embarrassed about it. That’s why we’re talking about it today. We want to hear from you. Uh, get on your web cam and your phone. Let us know your experiences and we’ve got a couple of interesting experts that will be dispelling some myths. What was your experience like, uh, white mike, you went to Catholic school?
Young woman #1 in audience: Well, I went to Catholic high school and, like, sex was completely discouraged and masturbation and self love was definitely not talked about. But if you met any of the people that I went to high school with, you would definitely know it was going on.
Jessi: Sitting next to you, you sir?
Young man #1 in audience: I don’t think there’s anything to be ashamed about masturbation. I myself masturbated twice on the way here, so it’s, uh. [audience laughter]
Jessi: En route.
Daryn: But it’s –
Jessi: Uh, I’m sorry for anybody who takes the white mike next.
Daryn: But it is –
Young man #1: It’s white for a reason.
Daryn: But it’s like, you know, when guys talk about it, it’s, like, either joking, and especially when you see it in the movies, it’s goofy, like American Pie, doin’ a pie.
Jessi: And then girls, it’s like the soft lighting and uhn. The uhn. [audience laughter] You know what I’m saying.
Daryn: Everybody gets, everybody turns into an eight-year old when it’s brought up. It’s very interesting.
That introductory segment was followed by a comedy sketch featuring Pat Thorton and Holly Prazoff who provided their humorous “tips” on masturbation for men and women:
Thorton: Hey. Hey, MTV, I’m Pat Thorton. I’m here to give you some, uh, myths and tips about masturbating. For men.
Prazoff: Hi. I’m Holly Prazoff. And these are masturbation tips and myths for women.
Thorton: There are infared devices that can tell if you’ve left semen on a hotel bedspread. False. That sort of thing only exists on Star Trek. I’m right about that, right?
Prazoff: Women don’t masturbate. If you think that, you’re wrong. I’m masturbating right now. [camera pans to show she’s just sitting with her hands resting on her lap] It’s pretty awesome.
Thorton: Props and role-playing can be fun. Take this old telephone. Sometimes I pretend like I can call the past. Right now I’m calling Ancient Greece. I’m not gay.
Prazoff: Um, I might take this small hand mirror and just look at it for a second and just think, “Hey, you and me, we’re in this together. Let’s do it.” You know, like a pep talk sort of thing. And then, um, I think about my wedding day and how beautiful I’m going to look. And if that doesn’t work, then, uh, I just go to, uh, Housewives Gone Black 3 [holds up DVD]. It’s one of my favs. And it is true: Once you’ve gone black, you, you don’t go back.
Thorton: Don’t use hackneyed old sayings like “choking the chicken” or “pulling the goalie”. I personally like “downloading from iTunes” or “punching my [bleep] ‘til it throws up”.
Prazoff: This cheese grater will represent my vagina, okay? And, um, this gnome from Ikea, um, will represent, um, it’ll represent how much I like this cheese grater representing my vagina. Sometimes you like, like, the thicker pieces of cheese if you’re going to melt it or, like, sometimes you want those thinner, thinner strips of cheese. And, um, that’s how you make a lasagna.
A bit later in the program, the conversation with audience members continued, with young men and women offering their thoughts and experiences with masturbation.
Daryn: The thread today is all about self love. We’re talking about why people go so crazy about it. Everyone, uh, becomes juvenile. And everyone’s got a strong opinion about it, so that’s what we’re talking about. And you wanted to share, on white mike, on yellow mike, uh, you wanted to share your first time experience.
Young man #2 in audience: Well it wasn’t my first time experience, but it was pretty embarrassing. Uh, in grade nine, I was watching a Mariah Carey video. The one where she goes into the bathroom. You know, there’s like two of her and she’s fighting in the cinema.
Jessi: With the torn jeans, yeah, yeah.
Young man #2: Yeah, well, I was watching it and I was watching, uh, really, really enjoying it and, uh, I was pleasuring myself, if you will. And, uh, my mom came in and caught me and it was pretty awkward. That’s about, that’s about it.
Daryn: How, okay, [laughs].
Young man #2: Wow, did everyone hear the awkward silence that fell upon that room then?
Jessi: That was because, I think what we were all thinking is “who pleasures themself to Mariah Carey?”
Young man #2: She’s hot, okay? If you’re in grade nine, she was hot, all right?
Daryn: To be fair, speakin’, uh, for the fellas, that’s actually pretty normal on the range of things you can do it to.
Young man #2: Yeah, seriously. Thanks, Daryn.
Daryn: Oh. Like a Consumers Distributing catalogue. There’s a lot of things you can …. What did your mother do? Like, how did she react? ‘Cause that’s what we’re talkin’ about today, uh, people’s attitudes and opinions about it. She sees her son doing this. Obviously very natural, very normal thing to do. What does she do?
Young man #2: She was pretty cool about it. She was just, like, uh, “What do you want for dinner?” [audience laughter] And I was, and I was, like, yeah, like I just told her that I was checking to see if it had gotten any bigger that week, so, yeah, it was pretty cool.
Daryn: And, and last question: Did that, uh, change your opinion on, er, or did you feel weird? Did you feel like you had done something wrong?
Young man #2: Not at all. I was totally comfortable with it.
Daryn: Oh, good for you, buddy.
Young man #2: Thanks, Daryn.
Daryn: Thanks for sharin’, man.
Jessi: Well your mom actually sent me this book [holds up book], The Big Book of Masturbation, um, which I have been consulting and there’s some amazing facts in here. Are you ready for some of this? Um, masturbation is the most common and widespread sexual behaviour on the planet. Uh, corn flakes and graham crackers were initially developed to curb masturbatory impulses in young boys.
Jessi: There you go. Uh, also, did you know that Poland has the world’s highest percentage of male masturbatormate-, male masturbators?
Jessi: Yeah. Insert Pole joke here. Uh, to comment, on the phone is –
Daryn: Ah, that’s good. You saying “insert”.
Jessi: – Sean. Thank you. Sean is a random Polish guy. He’s on web cam. Hey, Sean.
Jessi: Good. Uh, your glorious nation has the most self-pleasurers in the world. Are you proud of that?
Sean: Well, I’m not sure if it’s something that we should be proud of, but, uh, I don’t know. I was thinkin’ about it earlier and I was tryin’ to think of, uh, you know, maybe a reason why and, uh, the only thing I came up with, uh, there’re a lot of kovbasa, there’re a lot of, uh, Polish sausages so I was thinkin’ maybe, you know, they got the ideas. You know, one thing led to another.
Jessi: Provide a reminder.
Daryn: It’s always on the brain.
Jessi: Sean, do you personally contribute to this statistic?
Sean: [laughs] Of course. Obviously. [audience laughter] […] If there was an Olympic medal for self love, I would be on every single Kellogg box in the world, all right? [audience laughter]
Jessi: So, Sean, very enlightening. Thank you so much. I’m going to give you your privacy.
Daryn: Where’s that other hand, dude? [audience laughter]
Jessi: Yeah. Please don’t think of me. Please do not think of me. Thank you, Sean.
Daryn: Thanks, Sean, the masturbator, everybody.
Another portion of the program was a pre-taped segment featuring Diane on location at a sex store interviewing the owner, Gillian Lamon. Throughout the interview, the camera occasionally zoomed in on various items in the store, such as a “Penis Pokey” game, harnesses, whips, dildos, etc.
Diane: Hey, folks, what’s up? I’m here with Gill Lamon. She is the owner of Come As You Are Sex Shop in T.O. Now I hear there’s an annual masturbate-a-thon?
Lamon: Indeed. It is a month-long celebration of masturbation and a fundraiser for various sexual health initiatives in North America.
Diane: So what happens exactly at this?
Lamon: Uh, well there’s a couple of things that happen. Um, the first thing is that we put on a show every year. It’s called [bleep] Off and so it tends to be an erotic art show which is just, like, a really fun party to celebrate [bleep] Off. And the other thing that happens is the actual masturbate-a-thon. You actually raise money per minute of masturbation. So you hit up your friends, your family, they sponsor you, you raise money for a great sexual health initiative and you [bleep] off and having fun doin’ it.
Diane: No way. So, like, is everyone together in one room just goin’ at it?
Lamon: There’s definitely some public masturbate-a-thons. Uh, we don’t actually put on one here in the store. We sort of encourage people to get their friends together and, you know, have their own masturbation party or to do it in the privacy of their own home.
Lamon: But there are some public [bleep]-offs that go on, for sure.
Diane: Wow. So they can bring toys into this and it’s fair game?
Lamon: Yeah, totally. I mean, we encourage people to masturbate however they want to.
Diane: [aside, pointing to items on wall] This here, not really my thing. [to Lamon] What’s the most popular one for females?
Lamon: [holds up vibrator] The Hitachi Magic Wand. Which is a toy that has been around for decades.
Diane: The Hitachi Magic Wand.
Lamon: It is the strongest vibrator on the market.
Lamon: It actually came out of the movement in the late 1800s around hysteria where the theory was that women became crazy because they didn’t have enough sexual release. So companies started making massagers for doctors to use in their offices.
Diane: So the doctor would use it on patients?
Diane: No way. What are the top five reasons why someone should masturbate?
Lamon: It encourages prostate health in men, prevents yeast infections in women; it’s the only time you can actually have sex without anyone judging you. I think that was five. I’m hoping it was. It may have only been four though.
Diane & Lamon: Here’s to Jerk-[bleep].
In addition, occasionally throughout the program, Diane would comment on some of the remarks being made in the simultaneous online chat session associated with the episode. For example, at one point, she said,
You guys are hilarious. You guys are crazy. We need more, uh, terms for female masturbators. There’s not really …. I like the “beef curtains” one; that was funny. […]
The second half-hour of the program included a discussion with two sex researchers, Megan McChesney, a sex columnist with the Toronto Star and Tanya Spreckley, a producer of the television program SexTV. That segment began with an excerpt from an episode of SexTV showing drawings of devices to prevent masturbation and an expert discussing them.
Daryn: All right, so. It seems so stupid. It’s self love, it shouldn’t be that big a deal, but everyone’s got an opinion on it, everyone has ideas in their head. Why is it so controversial?
Spreckley: Well, I think that […] we’re really a pleasure-negative society […] and culture. […] It’s, we’re, we’re taught to, you know, to, to seek pleasure from advertising and whatnot. Like, excess is, is, you know, um, excess is frowned upon, but at the same time we’re taught to, you know, um, indulge in this, indulge in that, buy this, buy that, spend, spend, spend, but at the same time, you know, there’s a real stigma against indulging in too much pleasure. It means that you’re either, you know, you don’t have enough self-control or you’re just indulgent or, you know, something’s wrong with you. It’s really kind of vilified.
Daryn: But if you’re so medieval, where do the shame and the guilt come from?
Spreckley: Well, I mean, you know, I, I think that a lot of it has to do with this, there’s still a real, sort of, puritanical vein that runs through our society from, you know, like, the Victorian period where, you know, we saw from the clip all these sort of –
Spreckley: – crazy contraptions. And he hit, you know, a great note on the end of that, which is that this is very, seems very, kind of macabre and, and foreign to us, but at the same time there’s still a lot of that, you know, shame and embarrassment and, you know, I guess, you know, effort to, sort of, clamp down and, and, and stop.
Daryn: What was your experience in, uh, high school, on, uh, on white mike?
Young woman #2 in audience: Um, I just remember sex ed was, you know, they’d talk about intercourse and abstinence, but they would never really talk about the in-between. Like, they didn’t really give us much of an alternative.
Daryn: And so you, okay, you write the column, you write a sex column. Are you surprised by how ignorant people are? I mean, not even taught it. What are people’s attitudes towards this?
McChesney: Well, I, I actually, I feel a lot for people who are trying to teach about sexuality in the schools today simply because there aren’t, there’s not the time or the resources to devote to something like masturbation. You know, the priorities would be talking about STIs and how to prevent pregnancy and that kind of thing. And, I mean, really every year the average student gets somewhere between three to five hours of sex education. And within those three to five hours it’s simply not, there’s not time to address it. It’s not that it’s, you know, that they don’t want to. It’s just probably, it’s not a priority for the school boards generally.
Jessi: Do you think that if, if kids learned about, um, self love and that, that they would have sex later, that kids wouldn’t start having sex so early? I’ve heard that before.
McChesney: Well, I mean, I guess, in, in any situation where you’re teaching people about having respect for their own bodies and for the bodies of their partners it’s potential to delay sexual activity. I wouldn’t necessarily draw the direct correlation, but I suppose it’s a possibility. But I think, you know, teaching about something like that would foster a better understanding and a better respect for one’s body.
Daryn: Why don’t we get some of the myths out of the way? Uh, for people watching at home. Um, self love myths. Go ahead. Let’s rapid-fire.
Spreckley: Well, I think one of the, the, you know, the one that’s sort of lasted for the longest time, and I think, you know, it’s of benefit to people that’ve, sort of, helped, sort of, perpetuate this myth is that you’re gonna break out. I think that’s, that resonates with a lot …. Did, did you guys not hear that, when you were younger?
Daryn: Like, acne?
Spreckley: Yeah. Like, it’ll, no?
McChesney: I’ve heard, uh, hair will grow on your palms.
Daryn: I’ve heard that one, yeah.
McChesney: That’s not true.
Daryn: That’s –
Someone in audience: You’ll go blind.
Jessi: You go blind.
Daryn: You go blind. What was your experience? Uh, just pass that yellow mike down. What was your experience, uh, coming out of high school?
Young man #3: Well, my experience with high school was that, um, with a bunch of guys, if you’re masturbating, you’re not getting any, so you didn’t talk about it because you weren’t getting any, so you just kinda kept that under wraps ‘cause you wanted to be getting it, you know what I mean?
Daryn: Meanwhile you were.
Young man #3: Of course. I was gettin’ it. [audience laughter]
Daryn: Well it’s also interesting, uh, the United States government, I was watching your documentary. The, uh, uh, ….
Daryn: Yes, thank you. The Surgeon-General said, came out and said, well, maybe it might be a good idea in sex ed to teach it and she was canned.
Spreckley: Yeah. Well, I mean, this was in the early nineties and […] it wasn’t, you know, like she wanted some really graphic sex education to take place, but it was basically just to, sort of, teach kids […] more about their bodies. Which, I mean, as you were saying, like, has a lot of benefit. I think that, you know, you can apply that idea to anything in life, whether it’s, you know, happiness, pleasure. You gotta make yourself happy before you can make other people happy. You know, so, you gotta understand your own body first.
Jessi: Oh, green mike, yes?
Young woman #3: And I definitely agree with that. Like, who knows you better than yourself, right? And how are you going to get other people to get you there if you can’t even get yourself there? And if you don’t know yourself also. Like, a matter of just knowing yourself and being comfortable with yourself first before you bring in another naked person into the equation, you know?
McChesney: It’s actually, that’s something that’s often discussed, you know, in, in sex therapy circles. That if you’re a woman and you’re not, not able to orgasm, one of the first steps would be to learn yourself so that you can then teach your partner.
Daryn: I’m way ahead of myself. Last comment on, uh, yellow mike, yes?
Young woman #4: My mom always taught me that, uh, sleep with as many men as you can and just marry the best one.
The dialogue was then interrupted with more commentary from Diane, suggesting another sub-topic for discussion in the online chat room:
Diane: I never got the birds and the bees talk, man. What’s up with that? And this chick’s mom? Even though I kind of agree with her, I don’t think that’s something you say to your kids. I don’t know, would you guys tell your kids that? Did you get the birds and the bees talk? I did not. […] So tell me what you guys think about this birds and the bees business. And, uh, yeah, we’re talking about masturbating. It’s not true if you do it more than seven times a day you go blind. I got twenty-twenty vision, people. Twenty-twenty.
Towards the end of the program, there was a comedic sketch which was a “testimonial” by an “Anonymous Masturbater” telling the story of the time his father caught him masturbating. The account was accompanied by a video “dramatization” of the event. The video did not contain any nudity, but it did imply that the young man was masturbating.
I was, uh, it was a week-night. I was having trouble sleeping. And, uh, I thought that maybe, uh, watching some, uh, some tv would help. The, uh, the tv that night just, uh, wasn’t, uh, doing it for me, so I, uh, went into the computer room and, uh, was checkin’ out some sites online. I’d gotten these noise-cancelling headphones for Christmas and I was, uh, I was eager to try them. After a few minutes, I started looking, uh, at some adult websites. One thing led to another and, uh, the next thing I knew I was, uh, I was masturbatin’. And, uh, couldn’t hear a thing. I didn’t even hear my dad come into the room. All I remember is the look of, uh, disgust and, and disappointment on my dad’s face. It’s something that, uh, will haunt me for the rest of my life. Uh, I haven’t, uh, I haven’t masturbated since.
The CBSC received a complaint about this episode of MTV Live dated February 27, 2007. A viewer was concerned about the explicit content being aired in a morning time slot. She expressed her thoughts as follows (the full text of all correspondence can be found in Appendix B):
It was very explicit and offensive. They were discussing “self-love”, masturbating etc., and displayed different types of vibrators, etc.
This was on at 8:00 in the morning. We have young children that watch the Family Channel on Channel 51, just one channel away from MTV and we are extremely concerned as to what may happen if they happen to accidentally change the channel and view this type of show.
We would ask that you take whatever actions necessary to ensure that this does not happen again.
MTV Canada responded with the following on March 20:
We’re sorry that our discussion about masturbation on MTV Live offended you. MTV’s mission is to champion the art of conversation. MTV Live aims to be an innovative and interactive television experience with topics covering the conversational gamut including important social issues, relationships, fashion and celebrity to politics, the environment, technology, entertainment and sex. Through frank, lively and humorous debate, we aim to put the last sexual taboo on the table because, although lots of people do it, not many actually talk about it. The purpose was to spark debate and give all Canadians the opportunity to interact and voice their opinions, which is why the MTV hosts take phone calls, emails and web cams during the show; we welcome your participation, both positive and negative, into the conversation.
The complainant submitted her Ruling Request on March 23 with the following note:
My main concern with this program is the time of day that it was broadcasted. I wouldn’t have as much of a problem with it if it aired at 9 or 10 pm when young children should already be asleep and not watching television. However, I do have a problem with the fact that it aired at 8:00 am. There should be some regulation as to the time of day that programs like this should be allowed to air.
The National Specialty Services Panel examined the complaint under the following provisions of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics and the CAB Violence Code:
CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 10 – Television Broadcasting (Scheduling)
a) Programming which contains sexually explicit material or coarse or offensive language intended for adult audiences shall not be telecast before the late viewing period, defined as 9 pm to 6 am. […]
CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 11 – Viewer Advisories
To assist consumers in making their viewing choices, when programming includes mature subject matter or scenes with nudity, sexually explicit material, coarse or offensive language, or other material susceptible of offending viewers, broadcasters shall provide a viewer advisory
a) at the beginning of, and after every commercial break during the first hour of programming telecast in late viewing hours which contains such material which is intended for adult audiences, or
b) at the beginning of, and after every commercial break during programming telecast outside of late viewing hours which contains such material which is not suitable for children.
CAB Violence Code, Article 4 – AGVOT’s Classification System for English-Language Broadcasters
Exempt programming includes: news, sports, documentaries and other information programming; talk shows, music videos and variety programming.
Note: Exempt programming does not require an icon for on-screen ratings.
PG – Parental Guidance
This programming, while intended for a general audience, may not be suitable for younger children (under the age of 8). Parents/guardians should be aware that there might be content elements which some could consider inappropriate for unsupervised viewing by children in the 8-13 age range.
Programming within this classification might address controversial themes or issues. Cognizant that pre-teens and early teens could be part of this viewing group, particular care must be taken not to encourage imitational behaviour, and consequences of violent actions shall not be minimized.
Other Content Guidelines
Language: – might contain infrequent and mild profanity
– might contain mildly suggestive language
Sex/Nudity: – could possibly contain brief scenes of nudity
– might have limited and discreet sexual references or content when appropriate to the storyline or theme
14+ – Over 14 Years
Programming with this classification contains themes or content elements which might not be suitable for viewers under the age of 14. Parents are strongly cautioned to exercise discretion in permitting viewing by pre-teens and early teens without parent/guardian supervision, as programming with this classification could deal with mature themes and societal issues in a realistic fashion.
Other Content Guidelines
Language: – could possibly include strong or frequent use of profanity
Sex/Nudity: – might include scenes of nudity and/or sexual activity within the context of narrative or theme
The Panel Adjudicators read all of the correspondence and viewed a tape of the “Self Love” episode of MTV Live. The Panel concludes that the challenged broadcast is in violation of Clauses 10 and 11 of the CAB Code of Ethics. It only makes observations with respect to Article 4 of the CAB Violence Code.
The Nature of the Challenged Material: Sexually Explicit?
In a related decision, MTV Canada re an episode of MTV Live (“Virtual Sex”) (CBSC Decision 05/06-1459, January 8, 2007), the National Specialty Services Panel dealt with another episode of MTV Live, the same youth-oriented magazine/talk program broadcast at 8:00 am. The topic of the day on that occasion was virtual sex. In that decision, rendered by this very Panel, there was a useful summary of the criteria that are associated with the analysis of such programming.
It goes without saying that there is no mathematical formula that can be applied to determine whether sexual content is exclusively intended for adult audiences. Nonetheless, the CBSC Panels have developed criteria which they apply to programming in order to make that determination. (It should be noted that the criteria applied to French-language programming in this area tend to be less conservative than those applied to English-language broadcast fare.) Generally speaking, it has been the combination of nudity and sexual activity that has led CBSC Panels to conclude that programming is exclusively adult-oriented. Over time, though, and in the face of differing content, the CBSC has refined that position and the key to its definition is sexual explicitness. Therefore, even where there is neither nudity nor sexual activity, there may still be enough explicitness in the dialogue, discussion or descriptions to conclude that the programming is intended for adults. In its definition of explicitness, the Panel not only includes evident or obvious matter but also that which may be somewhat obscure or ambiguous. It must, needless to say, judge whether the obscurity or ambiguity of the challenged matter becomes inappropriate for viewing by those who are not adult. The CBSC Panels have, over time, built empirical criteria in the Council’s body of precedents and that jurisprudence grows, in principle, with every grey-scale decision.
This Panel also refers to a series of decisions cited in the first MTV decision that are as pertinent here, but without repeating the discussions that can be found in that decision: Showcase Television re the movie Rats (CBSC Decision 99/00-0772, August 23, 2001), Bravo! re Love on the Line (CBSC Decision 00/01-1050, May 3, 2002), Canal D re Festival Juste pour Rire and Comicographies Juste pour Rire: Fran�ois Morency (CBSC Decision 02/03-0142 & -0143, July 17, 2003), and CHFD-TV re the documentary Dirty Business: Sex, Thighs and Videotape (CBSC Decision 04/05-1580, December 15, 2005).
In the earlier MTV decision, this Panel concluded that parts of the dialogue were problematic for early morning broadcast and parts were not. In general, the Panel concluded that the “theme of the episode, namely, internet sex, would not per se have been problematic.” In the present file, it concludes similarly.
While the Panel considers that the subject of masturbation is hardly, by its nature, destined exclusively for adult audiences, it does readily acknowledge that most of the dialogue on the subject on the challenged program was utterly inappropriate for young children (under 12 years of age) and that a considerable portion of it was inappropriate for non-adults. The episode did not, after all, just deal briefly or peripherally with the subject; it was a full hour that focussed on a wide range of inclusive masturbatory sub-themes. These included a sex store with an array of sexual objects, such as whips and dildos, discussion of public masturbate-a-thons, vibrators, doctors’ use of masturbatory massagers on patients, at least one videotaped sketch implying an individual masturbating, and so on. The Panel considers that the full, wall-to-wall nature of the coverage of the theme, punctuated by examples such as those just noted, amounted to a program that ought not to have been broadcast between 7:30 and 8:30 am. In fact, the Panel considers that it should have been restricted to a post-9:00 pm time slot. As this Panel ruled in the earlier MTV decision noted above, the subject matter was “sufficiently explicit and specific to be inappropriate for non-adult eyes and ears before the Watershed, particularly in an 8:00 am time slot and as a part of a program intended for non-adult viewers.” The Panel finds the challenged broadcast in violation of the terms of Clause 10(b) of the CAB Code of Ethics.
Here, too, the issue regarding the presence of audience warnings is identical to that dealt with in the first MTV decision. The Panel adopts the explanation it provided in that decision.
Viewer advisories provide audiences with the opportunity to alert viewers to forthcoming content that may be “susceptible of offending viewers”, in the language of Clause 11. In other words, the threshold is not as high as that which determines whether the underlying program must be shown after the Watershed. Where, though, as in the case of the content of the challenged episode, the Panel has determined that the program ought to have run after 9:00 pm, it is clear that viewer advisories will be necessary at the start of the program and coming out of each commercial break.
Because MTV did not provide such advisories in its February 27 episode, the Panel concludes that it has breached Clause 11(b) of the CAB Code of Ethics.
The issue of the use of the PG rating for this episode also echoes MTV’s practice in the case of MTV Live on the previous occasion adjudicated by this Panel. As explained in that decision,
Classification is only required for certain types of programming, namely, children’s programming, dramatic programming, reality programming and feature films (which are, of course, a form of dramatic programming). All information-based programming such as newscasts, public affairs shows, magazine programs, talk shows, and documentaries, is exempt. Sports programming, music videos and variety programming also fall into this category. As a magazine / talk show program, MTV Live is, therefore, exempt from any requirement to include classification icons. In a comparable circumstance, that of a documentary film, dealt with by this Panel in Bravo! re the film Chippendales & the Ladies (CBSC Decision 01/02-0379, September 13, 2002), the broadcaster also included ratings information although the program fell into an exempt category. This Panel echoes its observation in that decision, namely, that “the broadcaster’s decision to include such information [was] thoughtful, helpful and praiseworthy.” When, at any time, a broadcaster provides the viewer with more information on which to base a tuning decision, it is taking a positive and helpful step, and one that is to be lauded and encouraged. That being said, the Panel is of the view that the PG classification adopted by the broadcaster was not high enough, since the challenged episode included “themes or content elements which might not suitable for viewers under the age of 14.” There is, however, no Code breach associated with this conclusion on this occasion.
As in the earlier decision and for the same reasons adopted by this Panel then, the Panel finds that the proper rating to have been applied (should one have been applied at all), would be 14+. Nonetheless, as in the previous decision, because there is no requirement to include any on-screen classification at all, the Panel concludes that there is no finding of a breach for the inclusion of an incorrect ratings icon.
A Second Occurrence
The Panel notes that this is the second occasion on which it has been called upon to adjudicate a substantially similar issue. It also recognizes that its first MTV decision, while rendered on January 8, 2007, was only released on April 4. Consequently, there was no way for MTV to be aware of the substance of the first ruling prior to the broadcast of the challenged episode of MTV Live that is the subject of this decision. The Panel expects that MTV’s future broadcasts of episodes of MTV Live will reflect these two CBSC rulings.
The CBSC always assesses the broadcaster’s responsiveness to the complainant, which is a responsibility of membership in the Council. It expects that response to be thoughtful and focussed on the substance of the complaint. In the matter at hand, the Panel considers that the response from the Sr. Vice-President & General Manager of MTV constitutes a sufficient reply to fulfill MTV’s obligation of responsiveness on this occasion.
announcement of the decision
MTV Canada is required to: 1) announce the decision, in the following terms, once during prime time within three days following the release of this decision and once more within seven days following the release of this decision during the time period in which this episode of MTV Live was broadcast; 2) within the fourteen days following the broadcasts of the announcements, to provide written confirmation of the airing of the statement to the complainant who filed the Ruling Request; and 3) at that time, to provide the CBSC with a copy of that written confirmation and with air check copies of the broadcasts of the two announcements which must be made by MTV Canada.
The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has found that MTV Canada breached the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Code of Ethics in its broadcast of an episode of MTV Live on February 27, 2007. The Council found that the sexual explicitness of the early morning broadcast breached the requirement of Clause 10 of the CAB Code of Ethics that such content not be aired before the industry-established Watershed hour of 9:00 pm. The Council also concluded that, by failing to air any viewer advisories during the course of the program, alerting potential viewers to the sexual content of the program, MTV Canada breached the provision in Clause 11 of the CAB Code of Ethics requiring the use of viewer advisories.
This decision is a public document upon its release by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.