Police Drama Containing Very Coarse Language Should Be Aired after 9:00 pm with Viewer Advisories, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, March 14, 2003 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the British police drama series The Cops broadcast on the specialty service Showcase Television. The CBSC National Specialty Services Panel concluded that the program should air after the “Watershed” hour of 9:00 pm and be accompanied by viewer advisories due to the frequent use of coarse language in the program.

The CBSC received a complaint about the program from a viewer who was concerned about the program's 5:00 pm time slot and the lack of viewer advisories, given the recurring presence of the f-word in the program. The National Specialty Services Panel examined the complaint under the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' (CAB) Voluntary Code Regarding Violence in Television Programming, which requires that scenes intended for adult audiences shall not be telecast before 9:00 pm and should be accompanied by viewer advisories. The particular episode reviewed for the decision did not contain any viewer advisories, but the broadcaster indicated in its reply to the complainant that it would be putting advisories on all future episodes as a result of the viewer's letter.

With respect to the coarse language, the Panel noted that “the use of coarse language may well be relevant, in this case constituting an accurate representation of how urban police officers and the individuals with whom they interact would speak”, but that that was not the Panel's issue. The issue for the Panel was whether scenes featuring the f-word are considered “intended for adult audiences”. Based on previous CBSC decisions, the Panel concluded that the scenes were to be categorized as intended for adult audiences and therefore must be scheduled after 9:00 pm. This also meant that the program required viewer advisories. The Panel commended Showcase, however, for taking measures to ensure advisories were included in future broadcasts. The Panel also noted that this action demonstrated “the effectiveness of the broadcaster-complainant dialogue process.”

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 530 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