Siblings’ Scuffle Not Too Violent for Children’s Show Promo, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, November 18, 2008 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a promotional spot for the children’s program Naked Brothers Band broadcast on YTV during an episode of the cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants on January 27, 2008.  The promo featured one of the bandmembers dressed in a chicken suit.  When he fell down, his brother kicked him.  The CBSC concluded that the spot did not violate the Children’s Programming provision of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Violence Code.

The Naked Brothers Band is a scripted program about real-life brothers Nat and Alex Wolff (12- and 9-years old, respectively), who formed their own pop band.  The series follows the two brothers and their bandmates as they pursue their musical career and deal with typical pre-teen trials and tribulations.  There are occasional arguments and physical scuffles between the siblings.  The 15-second promo, which aired at 11:00 am Mountain Time, showed Nat and Alex making a music video.  Alex, wearing the chicken suit, kept walking in front of Nat, flapping his “wings” to the amusement of the other bandmates.  When his antics caused him to fall down off-screen, Nat gave him a kick.

The CBSC received a complaint from a viewer who felt that this type of violence was not appropriate for children’s programming.  YTV explained that the promo was reflective of the sibling rivalry found in the Naked Brothers Band program and that the kick was not particularly brutal or intense.  The CBSC’s National Specialty Service’s Panel examined the complaint under Article 2.0 of the CAB Violence Code, which relates to children’s programming.  While the Panel considered that the scene was a poor choice for inclusion in a promo for a children’s program, it found no breach for the following reasons:

[T]he words used in […] sub-paragraphs of the article give a sense of the intensity of the violence that will fall under its terms.  These include:  threatening, death, street crime, dangerous, frightening, excessive, and realistic scenes or depictions of violence.  The concern of the standards is with major, not minor, violence.

[…]

The Panel simply does not view the off-screen kicking of one brother dressed in a chicken suit by the other brother as sufficiently violent to constitute a breach of any prohibition included in Article 2 of the Violence Code.  This is not to say that the Panel views the message flowing from, or reflected in, the brotherly kick as positive or friendly.  It does not.  It does understand, though, that siblings often scuffle.  It fully appreciates that the best thing that could be said about the kick is that it was in bad taste and a lousy choice of what to air during a program aimed at under-12s, but the worst thing that could be said about it does not go so far as to breach the Code.  Not one of the words or phrases cited in the previous paragraph could be said to apply: not threatening, dangerous, frightening, or excessive, much less death, or street crime.  Nor does it consider that there was any intention to cause bodily injury.

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, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic ethics created by the RTNDA – Association of Electronic Journalists in 1970.  More than 690 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