TVA re Les beaux malaises (“La grande finale”)

FRENCH-LANGUAGE PANEL
CBSC Decision 16/17-0984
2017 CBSC 11
October 25, 2017
A. Noël (Chair), G. Bonin, J.-F. Leclerc, M. Lorrain, C. Scott

THE FACTS

Les beaux malaises was a comedy program that focused on the daily life of comedian Martin Matte, playing a fictional version of himself.  The program was a bit unusual, in the sense that the characters occasionally made reference to the fact that they were acting in a television program.

TVA broadcast the final episode of the series, entitled “La grande finale” (“The Finale”) on January 22, 2017 at 9:00 pm.

The broadcaster did not display any classification icon at the beginning of the program, but it did broadcast a viewer advisory.  At the beginning of the program, the advisory was broadcast in audio and video format, but coming out of every commercial break, it was only presented in video format, as a scroll at the bottom of the screen once the program had resumed.

The advisory was as follows:

[translation]

Warning:  This program contains explicit scenes and language that may not be suitable for young viewers.

The episode followed Martin Matte as he announced to the other actors that he had decided to end the show.  They had different reactions, with some finding it difficult to leave their characters, while others had very specific ideas about how their characters’ storylines should conclude.

These conversations frequently included the words “ʼestie”, “chrisse” and “calice”.  There was also a close-up of a purple dildo sitting in a dish drying rack.  In another scene, Martin’s brother repeated numerous times [translation] “cunnilingus is like fellatio, but on a woman”.

In the very last scene of the entire series, all the characters were shown dancing.  Characters who had appeared in various episodes throughout the program’s three-year run joined in the festivities.  There were also visual references to prior events that only loyal viewers would have understood.

For example, a old man wearing women’s lingerie and a strap-on dildo was shown dancing with Martin’s mother.  Later, someone offered the couple a marijuana joint, which they took turns smoking.

A woman in a red dress went up to Martin and said [translations] “Julie is okay with us having a threesome!”  Martin responded “Oh yeah?” and then Julie said “A threesome for you”.  A transvestite entered the frame and announced “I’m the third.”

There was a girl of about nine or ten years old, in a bathing suit dancing around a pole on a red rug.  A fat man emerged from giant inflatable buttocks.  He watched the girl appreciatively while eating a bag of potato chips.  A few seconds later, the girl was shown dancing again around the pole.

On January 25, a viewer complained to the CBSC about the short scenes described above:  the couple smoking drugs, the presence of a transexual, a man dressed as a woman, and the girl dancing around the pole while a large man watched.  The complainant felt that TVA was promoting drug use, child prostitution and transgenderism.

TVA responded on March 10.  The broadcaster argued that there were no violations of the broadcast codes because the images of the couple smoking marijuana and the transvestite simply reflected the diversity of current society and was not “propaganda” from TVA.  With respect to the scenes of the dancing girl, TVA argued that [translation] “one must consider these scenes in the context of a show whose theme it is to create a sense of discomfort for viewers.  For the finale, Martin Matte crafted a crazy scene in which a number of characters experienced situations completely unrelated to each other, in a sort of nod to the show’s three seasons.”  It also noted that [translation] “the girl was covered by a bathing suit at all times.  Although she was dancing around a pole, at no time did she exhibit any sexually explicit behaviour.  The images do not constitute degrading material”.

The complainant filed his Ruling Request on March 13.  He wrote that he understood the context of the program and the desire to present societal diversity, but he remained opposed to the scene with the young girl dancing around the pole because, in his view, it promoted [translation] “acts of sexual deviance” and did not protect children.  He wrote again on March 20 to reiterate his concerns.  (The full text of all correspondence is in the Appendix, in French only.)

THE DECISION

The French-Language Panel examined the complaint under the following provisions of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Violence Code, Code of Ethics and Equitable Portrayal Code:

CAB Violence Code, Article 4.0 – Classification

Guidelines for All Broadcasters

Technical Specifications

Placement

The icons are to be used in the top left-hand corner of the screen, inside the safe zone.

Icon Use Protocols

Frequency

The rating icon is to be keyed over the first 15-16 seconds of the program.

Classification System for French-Language Broadcasters

13+

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.

16 +

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.

CAB Code of Ethics, Article 11 – Viewer Advisories

To assist consumers in making their viewing choices, when programming includes mature subject matter or scenes with nudity, sexually explicit material, coarse or offensive language, or other material susceptible of offending viewers, broadcasters shall provide a viewer advisory

1. at the beginning of, and after every commercial break during the first hour of programming telecast in late viewing hours which contains such material which is intended for adult audiences, or

2. at the beginning of, and after every commercial break during programming telecast outside of late viewing hours which contains such material which is not suitable for children.

Suggested language for suitable viewer advisories is outlined in Appendix A.  The suggestions are meant as possible illustrations; broadcasters are encouraged to adopt wording which is likeliest to provide viewers with the most relevant and useful information regarding the programming to which it applies.

CAB Equitable Portrayal Code, General Principles (b)

Television and radio programming shall strive to present all identifiable groups in various social and occupational roles, at home and at work outside the home.

CAB Equitable Portrayal Code, Clause 1 – Equitable Portrayal

Television and radio programming shall respect the principle of equitable portrayal of all individuals.

CAB Equitable Portrayal Code, Clause 2 – Human Rights

Recognizing that every person has the right to the full enjoyment of certain fundamental rights and freedoms, broadcasters shall ensure that their programming contains no abusive or unduly discriminatory material or comment which is based on matters of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability.

CAB Equitable Portrayal Code, Clause 8(b) – Exploitation

Broadcasters shall refrain from the sexualization of children in programming.

The Panel Adjudicators read all of the correspondence and viewed the broadcast in question.  The Panel concludes that TVA breached:  Article 4 of the CAB Violence Code for the absence of a classification icon, Clause 11 of the CAB Code of Ethics for not broadcasting all advisories in audio format, and Clause 8(b) of the CAB Equitable Portrayal Code for the scene with the young girl.  The representation of drug consumption and the transvestite did not violate any code provisions.

Classification

The Panel Adjudicators noted the total absence of a classification icon at the beginning of the program.  Given that this program does not fall into one of the categories of exempt programming, namely information, sports, variety, documentaries or infomercials, the broadcast is obligated to display the classification icon in the upper left-hand corner of the screen, within the safe zone, for the first 15 to 16 seconds of the program.

In failing to display the classification icon, in the appropriate place, at the appropriate moment and for the appropriate length of time, the broadcaster violated Article 4.0 of the CAB Violence Code.

The Panel Adjudicators then assessed the type of program as well as the language and visuals presented (coarse language and a certain amount of erotism, but no sexually explicit content) and concluded that the appropriate classification would have been 13+.  The program in question required a certain level of judgement, which adolescents have, in that they are more aware the fact that a program is not reality and are therefore better psychologically prepared to follow more complex or dramatic programs.  The program was nevertheless susceptible of offending the sensibilities of younger viewers.[1]

Viewer Advisories

The Panel then examined the question of viewer advisories.  It noted that TVA broadcast an advisory in video and audio format at the beginning of the program, as required by Clause 11 of the CAB Code of Ethics.  In addition, this advisory contained sufficient detail regarding the content of the program, in the view of the Panel.  Coming out of commercial breaks, however, TVA broadcast the advisory in video format only, in the form of a scroll at the bottom of the screen once the program had already resumed.

The Panel Adjudicators consider that this form of advisories does not meet the requirements of Clause 11 of the CAB Code of Ethics, as established in precedent decisions which have established that advisories must be in video and audio formats coming out of commercial breaks rather than during the actual program.[2]  The Panel therefore concludes that TVA violated Clause 11 of the CAB Code of Ethics in failing to broadcast advisories in both audio and video formats coming out of every commercial break.

In addition, the Panel Adjudicators note that this is not the first time that TVA has failed to respect the requirements of the aforementioned Clause 11.  On two previous occasions, TVA seemed to have confused the requirements regarding classification icons and viewer advisories.[3]  Again, on this occasion, it seems that TVA believed that classification icons and viewer advisories are interchangeable.

This is not the case.  The Panel reminds the broadcaster that classification icons and viewer advisories are not mutually exclusive.  They serve different purposes.  Classification icons are used to classify the program in function of the audience age group and to allow viewers to block the program with television blocking technology.  Advisories are used to warn viewers of potentially disturbing content.

Portrayal of Drug Consumption and Sexual Diversity

The complainant raised the issues of drug use and representation of transgendered people in the program.  There is absolutely nothing in the codes administered by the CBSC that prohibits the portrayal of transgendered people or transvestites on television, unless that portrayal is unduly negative.  While some viewers might hold personal views that are not compatible with such portrayal, those views do not amount to a reason to require discrimination.  Broadcasters should be commended for presenting society in all its diversity.[4]  As set out in Clause 2 of the CAB Equitable Portrayal Code:  “every person has the right to full and equal recognition and to enjoy certain fundamental rights and freedoms” which unquestionably include the right to appear on television.

With respect to the use of drugs on screen, even if the scene amounted to one that was intended exclusively for adults, the Panel notes that this program was broadcast after the Watershed hour and that advisories were provided, even if TVA erred in the technical presentation of the latter.

Exploitation or Sexualization of Children

The Panel Adjudicators recognize that this program was entitled Les beaux malaises and provided a humorous take on uncomfortable situations experienced by Martin Matte in his daily fictional life.  The final scene was a culmination of this theme, showing various characters in questionable situations, all while dancing to the song “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones.  One portion of that final scene showed a young girl shimmying around a pole in a suggestive manner while a fat man ate potato chips and leered at her in an appreciative manner.  While the CBSC has afforded broadcasters considerable leeway when presenting sexually suggestive scenes involving adults, it has consistently drawn the line at any material that sexualizes children, even in a nuanced or comedic way.[5]  Given that pole-dancing is traditionally associated with strip clubs and the adult man was leering at the girl in a bathing suit while she “performed”, the Panel considers that the sexual connotation of this scene was undeniable and clearly unacceptable under Clause 8(b) of the CAB Equitable Portrayal Code regarding sexualization of children.

Broadcaster Responsiveness

In all CBSC decisions, the Panels assess the broadcaster’s response to the complainant.  The broadcaster need not agree with the complainant’s position, but it must respond in a courteous, thoughtful and thorough manner.  In this case, TVA provided an adequate response to the complainant, outlining its view of the broadcast. The broadcaster fulfilled its obligations of responsiveness and, subject to the announcement of this decision, nothing further is required in this regard in this instance.

Announcement of Decision

TVA is required to:  1) announce the 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 during the time period in which Les beaux malaises was broadcast, but not on the same day as the first mandated announcement; 2) within the fourteen days following the broadcasts of the announcements, to provide written confirmation of the airing of the statement to the complainant who filed the Ruling Request; and 3) at that time, to provide the CBSC with a copy of that written confirmation and with air check copies of the broadcasts of the two announcements which must be made by TVA.

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has found that TVA breached broadcast codes of standards its it broadcast of Les beaux malaises on January 22, 2017.  TVA breached the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Equitable Portrayal Code for broadcasting a scene that exploited a young girl.  TVA also breached the Violence Code and Code of Ethics for inadequate classification and advisories.

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

[1] See the following decisions for other examples of programs rated 13+:  TQS re the movie Strip Tease (CBSC Decision 98/99-0441, February 21, 2000); TQS re the movie L’Affaire Thomas Crown (Thomas Crown Affair) (CBSC Decision 98/99-0441 01/02-0622, December 20, 2002); TQS re an episode of Loft Story (CBSC Decision 03/04-0200 & -0242, April 22, 2004); TQS re the movie Film de peur (CBSC Decision 02/03-0940, April 22,http://loft 2004); TVA re La Série Montréal-Québec (CBSC Decision 10/11-0781, July 14, 2011); MusiquePlus re CTRL (CBSC Decision 15/16-0367, October 19, 2016)

[2] TQS re the movie Les Girls de Las Vegas (CBSC Decision 01/02-0478, December 20, 2002); TQS re the movie Film de peur (CBSC Decision 02/03-0940, April 22, 2004); TQS re two episodes of the program Sex Shop (CBSC Decision 03/04-0162 et -0320, April 22, 2004); MusiquePlus re Cliptoman (CBSC Decision 12/13-0387, June 3, 2013)

[3] TVA re La Série Montréal-Québec (CBSC Decision 10/11-0781, July 14, 2011) and TVA re Les jeunes loups (CBSC Decision 13/14-0808, September 10, 2014)

[4] Showcase Television re an episode of Queer as Folk (Episode #209) (CBSC Decision 01/02-0759, February 28, 2003)

[5] CILQ-FM re The Howard Stern Show (CBSC Decision 97/98-0487+, February 20, 1998); CFMI-FM re a satirical sketch (CBSC Decision 01/02-1062, January 14, 2003); CFRQ-FM (Q104) re a conversation about a concert (CBSC Decision 06/07-0310, August 8, 2007); CFNY-FM re comments made on the Dean Blundell Show (Justin Bieber fans) (CBSC Decision 09/10-0333, June 22, 2010); CKIS-FM re comments made on the Roz and Mocha Show (CBSC Decision 09/10-1980, November 12, 2010)


Annexe

La plainte

Le CCNR a reçu la plainte suivante le 25 janvier 2017 par l’entremise de son formulaire Web :

Station de radio ou de télévision :           TVA

Nom de l’émission :                                        Les beaux malaises Grandes finales

Date de l’émission :                                        16/01/2017 [sic]

Heure de l’émission :                                     21:00:00

Préoccupation :                La série télévisée parle de Malaises, mais la GRANDE FINALE, TVA et le Groupe MARTIN MATTE, on montre des photos CHOQUANTES :

#1 un couple qui fume de la Drogue, de la marijuana

#2 Une fille de 12 ans env danse sur un poteau de danseuse nue pendant qu’un Gros barbu la regarde

#3 La propagande transsexuelle, gay, homme qui s’habille en femme.

JE TROUVE INNADMISIBLE QUE TVA, une télé familiale, fasse autant la promotion de DROGUE, DE PROSTITUTION JUVÉNILE, DE TRANSGENDER [sic].

J’ai pris des copies d’écran, mais l’émission est « LES GRANDS [sic] MALAISES LA GRANDE FINALE »

Les images sont à la fin du spécial télé.

Je comprends pas. Y’a aussi Les galas JUSTE POUR RIRE ou c [sic] rendu que le monde s’embrasse, ont des rapports GAY, les langages inappropriés.

La réponse du télédiffuseur

TVA a répondu au plaignant le 10 mars 2017 :

La présente fait suite à votre plainte du 25 janvier 2017 portant sur la diffusion de l’épisode La Finale de la série Les Beaux Malaises que vous indiquez avoir visionné le 16 janvier 2017. Plus spécifiquement, votre plainte porte sur une vidéo diffusée à la fin de l’émission que vous qualifiez de choquante parce qu’elle contiendrait : 1- des images d’un couple qui fume de la drogue; 2- une fille de 12 ans qui danse sur un poteau de danseuse nue; 3- de la propagande transsexuelle, gay, et d’un homme qui s’habille en femme. Vous indiquez qu’il est inadmissible selon vous que TVA fasse la promotion de drogue, de prostitution juvénile, et de transgenre.

D’entrée de jeu, nous tenons à souligner que votre plainte nous semble irrecevable, car l’épisode La Finale n’a pas été diffusé le 16 janvier 2017 comme vous l’indiquez, mais plutôt le 22 janvier 2017. Ceci dit, et à tout événement, nous sommes d’avis que cet épisode ne viole pas les codes supervisés par le CCNR.

En effet, l’art. 1 du Code de déontologie de l’ACR indique que chaque diffuseur doit présenter une programmation variée qui tienne compte des goûts divers du public afin que toutes les catégories d’auditeurs et de téléspectateurs trouvent dans ces services de la programmation qui réponde à leurs préférences et vœux spéciaux. Par ailleurs, le Code sur la représentation équitable de l’ACR reconnaît l’importance d’assurer une représentation équitable des divers groupes identifiables dans la société et exige que les radiodiffuseurs représentent tous les groupes identifiables dans le cadre de leur programmation. Par ailleurs, ces deux codes contiennent des dispositions qui prohibent de discriminer des individus dans le cadre des émissions, notamment sur la base de leur orientation sexuelle.

De ce qui précède, il est clair qu’en montrant des adultes qui fument un joint, une personne transsexuelle, un travesti ou encore une personne homosexuelle, TVA reflète la diversité de notre société. À titre de diffuseur généraliste, TVA se veut un reflet de son auditoire et de la société telle qu’elle existe actuellement. Contrairement à ce que vous indiquez, et soit dit avec le plus grand respect, il ne s’agit pas de « propagande » de la part de TVA. Notons également que ces images ont été diffusées après la plage des heures tardives à 21h et étaient accompagnées des avertissements d’usage au début de l’émission et au retour des pauses publicitaires.

Quant aux images d’une fille qui danse autour d’un poteau, il faut replacer ces dernières dans le contexte de l’émission dont le thème est de créer le malaise chez les téléspectateurs. Pour la finale, Martin Matte a imaginé une scène déjantée où étaient présents plusieurs personnages de la série dans des situations sans connexité les unes aux autres, un genre de clin d’œil aux trois ans de l’émission.

Bien que nous soyons conscients que l’idée d’une fille qui danse autour d’un poteau puisse choquer certains téléspectateurs, nous sommes d’avis que son inclusion ne viole pas pour autant les codes supervisés par le CCNR. En effet, la fille est en tout temps habillée d’un costume de bain. Bien qu’elle fasse une danse autour d’un poteau, à aucun moment elle n’a de comportement sexuellement explicite, et les images ne représentent pas du contenu dégradant ou de l’exploitation qui seraient prohibées par les articles 7 et 8 du Code sur la représentation équitable de l’ACR. Nous arrivons à cette conclusion notamment en raison du contexte dans lequel ces images sont présentées, qui en est un de comédie et d’humour dans une situation relevant de l’imagination débordante de Martin Matte (art. 10 du Code sur la représentation équitable de l’ACR).

Par conséquent, nous veillons à ne pas mettre en ondes du contenu qui contreviendrait aux Codes supervisés par la CCNR.

Nous espérons le tout conforme et vous prions de recevoir, Monsieur [D.], l’expression de nos sentiments les meilleurs.

Correspondance afférente

Le plaignant a déposé sa demande de décision le 13 mars :

J’ai pris note de la lettre explicative de TVA. Je suis en d’accord et comprends leur point de vue, mais, par contre, la chose qui me fatigue, c’est la jeune fille de 12 ans qui danse avec le poteau de danseuse. Je crois sincèrement que le fait de montrer une enfant de 12 ans et en avant-plan, un adulte peut confondre certain esprit et personne perverses fait de montrer un type [sic]qui la regarde en mangeant des chips, affiche un msg que la société n’accepte pas que si une personne mettrait en ligne sur YouTube de telle image dégradante aura une trolée [sic] de commentaires négatifs.

Mais que les Médias semblent en faire la promotion et semblent avoir tous les droits quant à la diffusion de tel msg.

Des scènes de bécotages, d’actes de déviance sexuelle, des messages qui semblent corrects pour TVA diffusés à 21h, mais lesquels émission ont des enfants qui y jouent, donc on peut présumer que des adolescents(es) pourraient voir cela comme Acceptable et convenable, de faire danser sa sœur ou amies de façon inappropriée. Je comprends que la Présentation voulait provoquer un malaise, qu’elle ne comporte pas de scènes sexuelles, mais je dis que c’est sur la limite.

Je comprends le contexte de l’émission, la diversité de la société, mais, vous encouragez certain actes qui ne soient pas acceptables en société.

Je demande que TVA reconnaisse qu’ils ont été à cet égard été [sic] trop loin dans la diffusion de cette scène.

Le reste, bon d’accord, c’est vrai que la société est rendue ce qu’elle rendue, sauf à ce niveau faut simplement pas encourager et diffuser de telles images qui sont choquantes et ne protègent pas les enfants.

Je demande à TVA de formuler des excuses et pas des justifications irresponsables et insouciantes.

Le plaignant a réécrit au CCNR le 20 mai :

C’est quoi cette soi-disant justice alors que VOUS LES MÉDIAS mettez en place un système pour porter plainte alors que finalement ça donne RIEN….

Ça continue à nous montrer des Messages SEXUELS, DES MSG DE DROGUES.

ALLEZ, ALLEZ METTEZ-EN DES COCHONNERIES SANS QUE PERSONNE DISE ET FAIT [sic] RIEN.

C [sic] RIDICULE….Justice a un coter [sic] alors que TVA, LES BEAUX MALAISES continue et que le CCNR ne prenne pas en CONSIDÉRATION MA PLAINTE.

J’ai reçu un msg de TVA disant OUI C’EST NOTRE SOCIÉTÉ, LES PÉDÉ, LES TRANS, LES PETITES FILLES QUI DANSENT COMME les danseuses nues.

C’EST QUOI CETTE STUPIDITÉ!? ALORS QUE PERSONNE FAIT RIEN ET QUE MA PLAINTE RESTE MORTE.

Quoi devrais-je faire, imprimer GRAND FORMAT DES POSTERS GÉANTS, ACHETER DES PANNEAUX RÉCLAME ET FAIRE JASER?

Je SUIS DANS LE DOMAINE DU MARKETING donc FAIRE IMPRIMER DES BANNIÈRES de 100 pieds par 100 pied y’a RIEN LÀ.

Je peux même acheter un panneau Reclame pour que le QUÉBEC SACHE.

ALORS SI TVA et MARTIN MATTE ne font pas des Excuses en règle, je vais faire une Campagne publicitaire.

C’EST FRUSTRANT