Proper Viewer Advisories and Ratings Icon Display Required for Mature TV Matter, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, February 10, 2005– The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the broadcast of the motion picture Up! on the specialty service Bravo! at 11:45 pm.  The movie included some scenes with explicit sexual activity and others with violence, including two scenes involving rapes.  Before the start of the movie and following each commercial break, the broadcaster aired oral and visual advisories alerting viewers to scenes of nudity, coarse language and mature subject matter (there was, however, no reference to sexuality).  An 18+ classification icon was shown at the beginning of the movie for 13 seconds, at the hour (midnight) for 12 seconds, and then at 1:00 am for 13 seconds. 

The Complainant was concerned about what she described as the “blatant pornography” of the film.  The National Specialty Services Panel disagreed with her characterization.  Although it acknowledged that, “on the basis of the graphic nature of both the sexual and the violent components of the motion picture, its broadcast was intended exclusively for adult audiences,” the Panel commended the broadcaster for airing the film long after the start of the Watershed hour, namely, at 11:45 pm (the Watershed begins at 9:00 pm).  The Panel re-emphasized the steps taken by broadcasters to ensure that viewers can avoid programming that does not suit the viewing choices of their households.  They said: 

Broadcasters have made a major effort to provide viewer tools to families so that they can avoid programming considered inappropriate for their households.  These include the aforementioned Watershed hour, classification icons and viewer advisories (of which more below), and encoded information that permits audiences to avoid inappropriate programs by the use of the V-chip or comparable devices on their digital boxes.

 Insofar as content issues were concerned, the Panel considered that 

the sexual activity in the present film does not fall within the boundaries of pornographic material.  Although there is also sexual explicitness in Up!, there is neither a degrading nor a dehumanizing aspect associated with it.  There is also violence in Up! but it is not either associated with the sexuality itself.  Although there are scenes of rape in the present film and it is, of course, acknowledged that rape is by its nature a violent act, there is no rule that rape, like any other crime of violence, cannot be shown on television screens.

On other issues, the Panel decided that the “12-13 second displays of the ratings icon were insufficiently long and that insufficient warning of the specific content was supplied in the display of viewer advisories, which was of no assistance in enabling audiences to determine whether the film was or was not suitable for viewing by them and their families.

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