Promo for Police Drama Did Not Contain Graphic Violence, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, August 19, 2009 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a promotional spot for the police drama Flashpoint broadcast on CTV.  The promo was broadcast multiple times during afternoon football games on January 10 and 11, 2009.  It included images of a stand-off between two women, one of whom was brandishing a large kitchen knife.  The CBSC concluded that the promo did not show any scenes of actual violence being committed and that it could be broadcast before the Watershed hour of 9:00 pm.

Flashpoint is a Canadian police drama series that follows the members of Toronto’s Strategic Response Unit as they deal with high risk crime situations.  The promo in question consisted of scenes from an upcoming episode in which one woman confronts another whom she suspects of having an affair with her husband.  Both women appear extremely stressed.  One holds a knife at the other while the police officers plan their approach outside the house.  Suspense is created, particularly in the last few seconds of the 30-second spot, by the use of rapid cuts of scenes of one woman trying to get away from the other, and the officers bursting into the home with guns and shouting at each other to hurry.  The promo concludes with an image of exploding glass around the Flashpoint title logo.

A viewer complained that his children had been watching the NFL football game with him and had been frightened by this promo.  The CBSC’s National Conventional Television Panel examined the complaint under Article 3.2 of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Violence Code, which states that promotional material that contains scenes of violence intended for adult audiences shall not be telecast before 9:00 pm.  The Panel concluded that this particular promo did not contain any scenes of actual violence that would constitute material intended exclusively for adults and therefore CTV did not violate the Code.  The Panel made the following comments about the promo:

The Panel finds that, although the challenged promo was suspenseful and scary, there was no actual element of violence included.  Nor was there any depiction of the consequences of off-screen violence.  There were screams, guns (although only in the hands of law enforcement personnel), exploding glass, and several appearances of knives, but no violence at all.  This is not to say that the Panel disputes the frightened reaction of the complainant’s child.  It is only its analysis of the characterization of the elements of the promo itself.  It finds the promo free of the adult violence that would force it into a post-Watershed broadcast period.

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 and the pay television Codes, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic ethics created by the RTNDA – Association of Electronic Journalists in 1970.  More than 725 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