Sexually Explicit Documentary Requires Post-9:00 pm Broadcast, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, January 12, 2006 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the broadcast of a documentary entitled Dirty Business:  Sex, Thighs and Videotape on CHFD-TV (Thunder Bay Television).  Thunder Bay Television broadcast the hour-long program about the adult entertainment industry on May 15, 2005 at 1:00 pm.  A viewer complained that this type of sexual content should not be available on a Sunday afternoon when children could be exposed to it.  The CBSC’s Ontario Regional Panel concluded that the documentary contained sexually explicit scenes intended for adult audiences and should not have been broadcast before 9:00 pm.  The broadcast should also have been accompanied by viewer advisories. 

Dirty Business dealt primarily with the business aspects of the adult entertainment industry and consisted mainly of interviews with individuals who work in the industry, including a porn actress, amateur adult film producers, a porn webmaster and a couple who run a website featuring footage of the wife nude.  The program did, however, also include sexually explicit dialogue, some sexual images and an overall sexual theme. 

The Ontario Regional Panel examined the complaint under Clause 10 of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics which requires that television stations not air sexually explicit programming outside the “Watershed” period of 9:00 pm to 6:00 am.  Based on previous CBSC decisions regarding sexual content, the Panel concluded that the broadcaster had violated that Clause for airing the program at 1:00 pm.  The Panel also found Thunder Bay Television in violation of Clause 11 of the CAB Code of Ethics for its failure to include viewer advisories during the program, alerting audiences to the sexual themes.  The Panel made the following observations about the program: 

In the present matter, the focus of the documentary film is the combination of sexual and erotic activities and the maximization of pecuniary benefit from them.  There is not even the modicum of an overlay of other issues […].

While, in the matter at hand, the interviews were with clothed people, there were clips from “pornographic” movies, website photographs, footage shot at a sex trade show, clips of couples in various states of undress engaging in sexual activities, and discussions with the Edmonton couple as they determined how far Dawn should progress from her isolated erotic performances to new levels of sexual contact with others.  The collective effect was clearly content that was, in the view of the Panel, exclusively intended and solely appropriate for adult audiences.

Nor is the documentary saved by techniques such as blurring or pixilation.  The intent and message were undeniably evident.  […]

The Panel hastens to add that it does not express any concern regarding the documentary film itself.  It is dealing only with the issue of the Watershed and, on this point, it concludes that the broadcast of the documentary prior to the Watershed constitutes a breach of Clause 10 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