TQS re two episodes of the program Sex Shop

QUEBEC REGIONAL PANEL
(CBSC Decision 03/04-0162 & -0320)
G. Bachand (Chair), T. Rajan (Vice-Chair), R. Cohen (ad hoc) and R. Parent

THE FACTS

On October 11 and , TQS broadcast episodes of the “docutainment” program Sex Shop.  Both episodes featured adult-entertainment stars.  The broadcasts contained interviews with the entertainers and showed clips of their work, including numerous sexually explicit scenes.  A viewer advisory was presented both on-screen and in audio format at the beginning of the show.  It stated “Cette émission comporte des scenes de nudité et d'érotisme s'adressant à un auditoire adulte averti.”  The advisory was shown again coming out of each commercial break but only as a “crawl” at the bottom of the screen.  The crawl did not include an audio component. 

The broadcaster also rated the program “18+” with the extra mention of “érotisme” and it displayed an icon indicating this rating at the beginning of the program as well as following each commercial break (for 8 seconds the first time and 5 seconds the second time). 

A complaint was received from a viewer who stated, in part (the full text of all the correspondence can be found in the Appendix to this decision):  

Another viewer stated the following (in part): 

TQS' Vice-President of Communications responded, in part, to the complaints in the following terms: 

Neither complainant was satisfied with this response and both returned their signed Ruling Request form.  The complainant in the first file also provided additional comments regarding her views on the station in question.  These can be found in the Appendix to this decision.

 

THE DECISION

The Quebec Regional Panel considered the matter under various provisions of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' (CAB) Code of Ethics, the CAB Voluntary Code Regarding Violence in Television Programming relating to classification icons, as well as the exploitation clause of the CAB Sex-Role Portrayal Code:

CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 10 – Television Broadcasting 

CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 11 – Viewer Advisories

CAB Violence Code, Article 4.0 (Classification System): 

CAB Sex-Role Portrayal Code, Article 4 (Exploitation):

“Sex-ploitation” through dress is one area in which the sexes have traditionally differed, with more women portrayed in scant clothing and alluring postures.

Panel Adjudicators reviewed all of the correspondence and viewed the logger tapes of both episodes.  The Panel finds that TQS is in breach of Article 11 regarding viewer advisories, but not in breach of the other articles listed above.

Sexual Explicitness and Sexual Exploitation

The CBSC has frequently been called upon to deal with the question of sexual exploitation in the context of sexually explicit broadcasts.  In its first decision dealing with an erotic film broadcast, TQS re été sensuel (CBSC Decision 95/96-0233, August 14, 1998), the Québec Regional Panel said that it

On the issue of sexual explicitness, in the more recent decision TQS re the movie Les girls of Las Vegas (Showgirls) (CBSC Decision 01/02-0478, December 20, 2002), the Quebec Regional Panel stated the following:

On the basis of the foregoing principles, namely, a) that there is a difference between sex and sexual exploitation, b) neither gender was degraded at the expense of the other, and c) the subject matter of the episode relating to the erotic film industry was bound to have an erotic component, the Panel finds no aspect of the content of either of the two episodes of Sex Shop in any way problematic in terms of and of the foregoing codified content provisions.

Advice to Viewers

In addition to the content issues, the Panel finds no difficulty in either the hour of the scheduling or the classification of the program in question.  In fact, the Panel appreciates that TQS has displayed the classification icon on a broadcast which normally would be exempt from the classification system since Sex Shop can be said to fall within the category of documentaries and other information programming”, which require no rating under the approved classification system for Canadian broadcasters.  (It should be noted, however, that had the on-screen classification been required, TQS' broadcast would not have met the technical requirements which specify that the icon must remain on-screen for 15 to 16 seconds.  In this case, it was on-screen for 8 seconds initially and then appeared again for 5 seconds after each commercial break.)

That being said, the Panel considers that, by failing to provide all viewer advisories in both audio and video format, the broadcaster has done a disservice to its viewers and has breached Clause 11 of the CAB Code of Ethics.   Classification icons and viewer advisories differ in nature and purpose and the rules applicable to each reflect those differences.  Broadcasters must display each at the times and according to the rules established for their use.

Repetitive Nature of the Broadcaster's Breaches

This is not the only time that TQS has been found in breach with respect to the provision of viewer advisories.  See the decision taken on this date by this Panel in TQS re the movie Film de peur (CBSC Decision 02/03-0940, April 22, 2004), concerning the repetitiveness of breaches by TQS with respect to the proper display of viewer advisories.  

Broadcaster Responsiveness

It is a fundamental obligation of broadcasters to be responsive to complainants who take the time to express in writing their concerns about programming they have heard or seen on the airwaves.  It is the duty of the CBSC Panels to assess the thoughtfulness of the broadcaster replies on each occasion that they adjudicate a file.  In this case, the broadcaster's letter does deal in sufficient detail with the substantive issues raised by the complainant and the Panel finds that it is a satisfactory response.  Nothing more is required of TQS in this respect on this occasion. 

TQS is required to: 1) announce this decision, in the following terms, once during prime time within three days following the release of this decision and once more within seven days following the release of this decision in the time period in which Sex Shop was broadcast; 2) within fourteen days following the broadcast of the announcements, to provide written confirmation of the airing of the announcements to the complainants who filed the Ruling Request; and 3) at that time, to provide the CBSC with that written confirmation and with air check copies of the broadcasts of the two announcements which must be made by TQS.

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has found that TQS broadcast of the program Sex Shop on January 19, 2002 breached a provision of the CAB Violence Code.  By failing to provide viewer advisories in audio as well as video format following every commercial break, TQS breached the article of the Code which requires such information to be provided so that the audience can make the necessary viewing choices for themselves and their families. 

This decision is a public document upon its release by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.