Wildest Spring Break Moments Requires Post-9:00 pm Time Slot, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, May 26, 2010 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the broadcast of a program called E!’s Wildest Spring Break Moments in December 2008 and May 2009 on CHCH-TV when it was still known as E! and owned by Canwest Media.  The program featured scenes of young people participating in various alcohol- and sex-related activities at Spring Break events around the world.  The program aired at 1:00 pm on both occasions.  The CBSC concluded that it should only have aired after the 9:00 pm “Watershed” hour according to the guidelines set out in the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics.

E!’s Wildest Spring Break Moments included numerous scenes of young men and women in various states of undress, participating in various contests and stunts, such as wet t-shirt contests, oil and pudding wrestling, and sexual position contests.  There were frequent close-ups of breasts and buttocks, but any actual nudity was pixillated.  The scenes were interspersed with clips of comedians making humorous or sarcastic comments about the activities being shown on screen.  Many of those comments were sexually suggestive.

The CBSC received a complaint from a viewer who felt that the program should not have aired in the middle of the afternoon, especially without a viewer advisory or classification icon.  The broadcaster explained that it had included a viewer advisory and a PG rating on its December 2008 broadcast, but that those viewer alerts had not been included in the May 2009 broadcast due to human error.  The CBSC Ontario Regional Panel observed that a PG icon had in fact appeared on the May 2009 broadcast, but no viewer advisories.

The Panel decided that the program should only have aired after 9:00 pm, in accordance with Clause 10 of that Code, which requires that sexual content intended for adults only be shown between the hours of 9:00 pm and 6:00 am.  The Panel made the following comments:

[A]lmost every segment of the hour-long program was aggressively suggestive of sexual activity and that, collectively, the impression inevitably left on viewers is raucous, libidinous, relationship-less sexual coupling.  The Panel finds no inherent problem with the broadcast of such programming; its question is only when it may be aired.  The Panel finds that the constant barrage of the sexual message renders it utterly inappropriate for a pre-Watershed broadcast.  […]  The Panel wishes to make clear that the pixillation of genitalia during the program did not diminish the explicitness of the sexual content.  […]  The breach is in the consistent sexual content at 1:00 pm, which is neither helped nor hindered by the pixillated visuals.

The Panel also concluded that the program should have been rated 14+ rather than PG due to the constant sexually suggestive content, and it should have been accompanied by viewer advisories at the beginning and coming out of every commercial break, as required by Clause 11 of the CAB Code of Ethics.

Canada’s private broadcasters have themselves created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, equitable portrayal, television violence and journalistic independence 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 and the pay television Codes, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic ethics created by the RTNDA – Association of Electronic Journalists in 1970.  More than 735 radio stations, satellite radio services, 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