Perpetuating Link between Women and Violence Breaches Codes, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, February 15, 2004 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the broadcast of an episode of Ed’s Night Party by CITY-TV (Toronto).  In that episode, during a dialogue between the puppet character Ed the Sock and his “co-host”, in rather colourful (but appropriately bleeped) language, the co-host said that redheads “[bleep] like you’re stabbing them.”  At the start of the show, the broadcaster aired an 18+ classification icon for 15 seconds, along with a viewer advisory, which alerted viewers to potentially offensive content, including “adult themes, partial nudity and coarse language.”  The audio form of the later advisories provided less information about the content, ultimately simply advising that the “program is intended for mature audiences.”  A complainant alleged that the segment was offensive, both by being degrading and by connecting the violent and sexual acts. 

With respect to the first concern, the Ontario Regional Panel disagreed with the complainant.  It said: 

that, to describe redheads as “fiery” or inclined toward “fire in bed” is neither exploitative nor degrading.  It is a description or a generalization, to be sure, but not a generic form of exploitation.  Moreover, it is a statement that could likely be applied to either men or women.  That in the matter at hand it is a woman does not change the foregoing appreciation. 

With respect to the second concern, the Panel agreed with the complainant.  It said: 

In the circumstances of the episode of Ed’s Night Party, there is an undoubted connection drawn between violence and sexual activity.  There is nothing subtle in the terminology selected.  There is nothing equivocal in the words used.  Sexual intercourse is linked to stabbing.  Such imagery is violent and without either justification or redemptive aspects.  It makes no contribution to the Canadian airwaves.  

The Panel was also concerned about the increasingly uninformative nature of the later advisories in the show.  Following the initial warning, they made no reference to the “adult themes, partial nudity and coarse language”, which the broadcaster itself considered material from the start of the program.  The Panel concluded that the “failure to include such essential information as a part of the viewer advisories coming out of each commercial break constitutes a breach of Clause 11 of the CAB Code of Ethics.” 

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