The ratings classification system used by Canadian broadcasters was developed by the Action Group on Violence on Television (AGVOT) during the mid-1990s. Canadian French-language broadcasters suggested that they use the ratings of Quebec’s provincial film board, the Régie du cinéma du Québec, because French-Canadian audiences were already familiar with that system. The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) approved that approach in June 1997 and it was implemented by broadcasters in September 1997.
Canadian English-language and third-language conventional and specialty television services use the ratings system devised by AGVOT. Canadian French-language broadcasters use the classification system of the Régie du cinéma du Québec, but they added one additional category (8+). The ratings reflect the generally-accepted states of child development. Nevertheless, caregivers must make their own decisions about what is appropriate for the individual younger members of their households.
Broadcasters themselves rate their programs based on the descriptions set out for each of the classification categories. Canadian French-language conventional and specialty broadcasters use the system of the Régie, but they must still evaluate the programs themselves. They cannot necessarily simply use the Régie’s classification of a particular film or program because consumption of television content is different from paying to see a film or purchasing a copy of a program. For more information about the Régie du cinéma du Québec, visit its website at www.rcq.gouv.qc.ca.
Even if a Canadian channel is airing a foreign-produced program, it must put a Canadian rating on it. Viewers who feel a program has been rated incorrectly can file a complaint with the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC).
Programs exempt from classification.
This classification applies to:
Exempt programming does not require an on-screen classification icon and broadcasters are not required to encode a rating into the broadcast signal.
The program is appropriate for viewing, rental or purchase by persons of all ages.
A classification of “Visa général” does not necessarily mean that the program is of interest to children. It only means that its content is not likely to be disturbing to young viewers. However, when a program with a “G” rating might offend the sensibilities of children under eight years of age, the Régie du cinéma adds “Not suitable for young children” to the Visa général classification.
Programs classified as Visa général have only occasional scenes of violence. These are not overly intense and are not condoned. The tone and genre of the program are important elements in the decision-making process: scenes of violence in a comedy or adventure program centring on a hero who is larger than life do not have the same impact on children as those in a more realistic program.
Although there may be some nudity, love scenes remain rather discreet. Depending on the context, some expletives are tolerated.
These programs are suitable for the general public but could contain mild or occasional violence that may disturb young children. Viewing with adult supervision is therefore recommended for young children (age 8 and under) who are less able to distinguish between real and make-believe programming.
The program may be viewed, purchased or rented only by persons 13 years of age or older. Children under 13 may be admitted only if accompanied by an adult.
The Régie classifies in this category programs that require a certain level of judgement. These programs contain passages or sequences that may offend the sensibilities of younger viewers.
Teenage viewers are more aware of the fact that a program is not reality and are therefore better psychologically prepared to follow more complex or dramatic programs. Violence, eroticism, coarse language or horror may be more developed and may constitute a dominant characteristic of the program. However, it is important that the program allow viewers to discern the meaning that should be attributed to the various characters and their actions, because teenagers are not necessarily prepared to face everything. This is why certain themes (drugs, suicide, troubling situations, etc.) and their treatment are carefully examined.
The program may be viewed, purchased or rented only by persons 16 years of age or older.
At the age of 16, young people enter a transition period between the end of adolescence and the beginning adulthood. They are more independent, and have usually attained a certain level of psychological maturity.
Programs with this rating present troubling themes, situations or behaviours and adopt a more direct point of view about things. They may therefore contain scenes where violence, horror and sexuality are more graphic.
The program may be viewed, purchased or rented only by persons 18 years of age or older.
Programs reserved for adults most often deal primarily with the representation of explicit sexual encounters. They may also be extremely violent, showing scenes of hyperrealistic cruelty, torture and horror.
A document was created to assist French-language broadcasters in applying the classification categories to television programming. Click here to access the French Classification & Icon Use Manual (June 1997) (available in French only).
The icons are to be used in the top left-hand corner of the screen, inside the safe zone.
The icons are to be a minimum of 52 scan lines tall. This should be big enough to cover the US rating on any programming which is fed to the Canadian broadcaster with the American icon burned in. However, broadcasters will find there is some degree of inconsistency in the size of US icons. Stations are advised to experiment to ensure their icons are big enough to cover the US rating symbol on shows fed to them from American distributors.
The Canadian icons are to be 100% opaque, in order to fully cover any US rating symbols, therefore they do not require a linear keyer for operational use.
The icons are to be in the colours and style established by the Régie du cinéma du Québec for G, 13+, 16+ and 18+. The 8+ icon is orange and should match the style of the others.
The rating icon is to be keyed over the first 15-16 seconds of the program. It is expected the Americans will have their ratings up for 15 seconds. For programs which run longer than one hour, the icon is to be repeated at the beginning of the second hour. These are minimal use standards; stations may wish to use the icons more frequently on programs with particularly sensitive content.
It is incumbent on Canadian program services to cover any US rating icons on those program categories which must be classified by Canadian broadcasters. Therefore, it a service receives any children’s programs, drama programs, reality-based drama programs or feature films with the US icons burned in, it is required to superimpose a Canadian classification.
On programs such as talk shows, which carry a US rating but which are not required to be classified under Canadian regulations, no Canadian icon is required.
It is suggested that the icon not appear in any advisory which precedes a program, but rather be keyed over the first 15-16 seconds of the actual show, following the advisory.
There is no regulatory requirement to report how a show was rated on the program log which is filed with the CRTC. However, a record of how a program was rated should be retained for a minimum of 30 days in the event of a viewer complaint.
Program services are requested to add the classification information to their program schedules that are filed with the various tv listings services. This will allow the ratings to be included in the various TV guides.
Although the above Technical Specifications and Icon Use Protocols were originally set out in a document for English-language broadcasters, in practice they have also been applied to French-language broadcasters.