Program Segments about Virtual Sex Contained Dialogue Too Explicit for Daytime TV, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, April 4, 2007 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a repeat episode of MTV Canada’s magazine/talk program MTV Live on the subject of virtual sex that aired on Monday, April 17, 2006 at 8:00 am.  The CBSC’s National Specialty Services Panel determined that the episode contained dialogue that was too sexually explicit for a morning time-slot. 

The MTV Live episode contained segments relating to cyber-dating and cyber-sex, a virtual sex machine, and an online role-playing sex game.  While some of the segments featured only vague or mild references to sex, others provided more detailed descriptions of sexual activity.  For example, both the virtual sex machine discussion and the conversation about the online sex game included explicit verbal explanations of their features and functions.  The broadcast did not contain any viewer advisories and was rated PG. 

The CBSC received a complaint from a viewer who felt that the program’s sexual content was inappropriate for early morning broadcast, especially on a school holiday (Easter Monday).  The viewer was particularly concerned about the segment on the virtual sex masturbation machine which he described as “indecent” and “distasteful”. 

The National Specialty Services Panel examined the complaint under Clause 10 (Television Broadcasting) of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics which states that “[p]rogramming which contains sexually explicit material […] intended for adult audiences shall not be telecast before the late viewing period, defined as 9 pm to 6 am.”  The Panel concluded that this MTV Live episode contained material that should not have been aired before 9:00 pm: 

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.  […]  [E]ven 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.

[…]

Applying these principles to the challenged program, the Panel finds that the discussion of the Virtual Sex Machine, and the Naughty America on-line sexual game were 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.  […]  [T]he theme of the episode, namely, internet sex, would not per se have been problematic; however, the illustration of the theme with references to the […] segments noted in this paragraph was unduly explicit.  Consequently, the Panel concludes that the broadcast in question was in breach of Clause 10 of the CAB Code of Ethics

The Panel also concluded that the absence of viewer advisories in the broadcast breached the Code.  It also observed that, although MTV Canada was not required to rate the program at all because MTV Live is an information program that is exempt from classification, the appropriate rating for such a broadcast would have been 14+. 

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