Viewer Advisories Must Specify Sexual Content, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, October 24, 2012 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning TV5’s broadcast of a documentary called Le sexe autour du monde on March 27, 2012.  The CBSC found the station in violation of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics for failing to mention the sexual content of the program in the viewer advisories, but it had no problem with the content or scheduling of the program.

Le sexe autour du monde is a documentary series that explores sexual practices and values around the world.  The March 27 episode focussed on Japan and contained discussions and images of nudity and sexual activity.  TV5 provided a viewer advisory indicating simply that the program was intended for an adult audience.

TV5 broadcast the program at 9:00 pm Eastern time, but a viewer in Alberta saw it at 7:00 pm Mountain Time.  The viewer complained that the content was too sexually explicit for that hour and that it was degrading to women.

The CBSC’s Quebec Regional Panel examined the complaint under relevant provisions of the CAB Equitable Portrayal Code and Code of Ethics.  The Panel concluded that the content did not exploit or degrade anyone because the codes do not prohibit the depiction of sexual activity between consenting adults.  The Panel also had no problem with the scheduling of the program because TV5 respected the 9:00 pm Watershed hour in the time zone in which its signal originates as required by the Code of Ethics.  It did, however, find a breach of the Viewer Advisory provision because TV5 failed to alert viewers specifically to the program’s sexual content.

The CBSC was created in 1990 by Canada’s private broadcasters to administer the codes of standards that they established for their industry.  The CBSC currently administers 7 codes which deal with ethics, equitable portrayal, violence, news and journalistic independence.  Nearly 750 radio stations, satellite radio services, television stations and specialty and pay television services 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