Tools for Audiences

Canadian television broadcasters air programming that informs, enlightens and entertains. They are expected to broadcast different types of programming that appeals to a wide variety of viewer interests and tastes.

Some programming may include content that some viewers find offensive or that may not be appropriate for younger audiences. Canadian broadcasters recognize that fact, so they have created tools to help audience members make informed viewing choices for themselves and their families.

The Watershed Period

Broadcasters shall not air programming that contains material intended exclusively for adult audiences before 9:00 pm or after 6:00 am. The period of time is often referred to as the “Watershed period” and sometimes 9:00 pm is called the “Watershed hour”.

There are some exceptions to this rule, such as if a station in one part of the country reaches other parts of the country in different time zones, or if a Canadian station is carrying American programming via simultaneous substitution.

Viewer Advisories

Broadcasters must air viewer advisories during programs that contain material intended exclusively for adults or that may be unsuitable for children, depending on the type of content and the time of broadcast. Advisories must be shown at the beginning of the program and coming out of commercial breaks. Advisories must be in audio and video formats (i.e. in voice-over and as words on screen). They should also specifically mention the type of content that viewers may find offensive, such as violence, coarse language, sexuality, etc.

Rating Classifications

Canadian broadcasters are required to rate certain types of programming. A rating icon appears in the upper left-hand corner of the screen at the beginning of the program. The icon indicates the intended audience age group for the program. This is also sometimes called the “classification” or “classification icon”. The rating is encoded into the television signal, so it can be blocked using blocking technology.  For more information about the classification systems and categories, see the Ratings Classifications page.

Blocking Programs

The V-chip is a technology that allows television users to block out programming based on a rating system. While “V-chip” technically refers to a specific patented technology, the word has also come to be used as a generic term to describe any type of television blocking feature.  For more information on blocking programs, see the Blocking Programs page.