Two Decisions of Canadian Broadcast Standards Council Released Today Say Host of News Program Has Greater Flexibility for Comment and French-language Broadcasters Must Rate Their Own Movies

Ottawa, February 17, 2003 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released two decisions involving television broadcaster TQS. The first concerned a news report broadcast on the midday episode of Le Grand Journal on December 6, 2001. The second dealt with the broadcast of the feature film L'Affaire Thomas Crown (the dubbed French version of the movie The Thomas Crown Affair) on March 10, 2002 at 7:00 pm. The Québec Regional Panel found no breach of any broadcaster Code in the first case, but did find breaches with respect to classification and viewer advisories in the second.

The news story broadcast on Le Grand Journal told the story of a woman who had been sheltering approximately 150 cats and dogs and was being evicted from her property because it was not equipped to accommodate that many animals. An on-site reporter provided details on the situation and updates were provided throughout the broadcast. Interviews with SPCA representatives and the woman herself were included in the report. The program's host, Gilles Proulx, introduced and concluded the reports with his own sound effects of dog barking and references to the animals as “doggies”, “bow-wows”, etc. He also at one point referred to the woman in question as “a rare animal” and commented on her sarcastic replies to the reporter by saying that she should join a well-known comedy troupe. The complaint came from the woman who felt that the news item had been treated inappropriately. The Québec Panel concluded that the broadcast did not breach any provisions of either the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' (CAB) Code of Ethics or the Radio Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) Code of Ethics. The Panel found that the report was accurate, balanced and fair since it featured interviews from experts and provided an opportunity for the woman in question to give her side of the story. The Panel did express the concern that Proulx's antics “made both the subject and the complainant look trite and foolish”, but did not find the comments sufficiently inappropriate to find a Code violation since Proulx does not have the same responsibilities as reporters.

The Panel did find a breach in the case of L'Affaire Thomas Crown. The 7:00 pm broadcast was rated 8+ and contained no viewer advisories. A viewer complained that the time slot was too early and the rating too low for the film due to a lengthy love scene between the two main characters which showed bare breasts and buttocks. The Panel concluded that, although TQS had relied in part on the classification given to the theatrical distribution of the film by the Régie du cinéma du Quebec, French-language broadcasters, which use the Régie's classification system created for and employed in connection with theatrical films, must rate their own broadcasts based on the more readily accessible television context. The Panel determined that this television broadcast should have been given the higher rating of 13+ and that the rating icon should have appeared for the requisite 15-16 seconds at the beginning of the movie and at the top of its second hour. TQS should also have provided viewer advisories at the beginning of the movie and coming out of each commercial break. TQS was found in breach of the CAB Voluntary Code Regarding Violence in Television Programming on both accounts.

Canada's private broadcasters have themselves created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, gender portrayal and television violence 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 practices first created by the Radio Television News Directors Association of Canada (RTNDA) in 1970. More than 530 radio and 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