CFTM-DT (TVA Montreal) re Indéfendable (“Acharnement” and “Sugar Daddy”)

French-Language Panel
CBSC Decision 20.2223-0386
2023 CBSC 1
May 24, 2023
S. Courtemanche (Chair), K. Dubé, P. Gratton, M. Lorrain, P. Ouimet, C. Scott

The Facts

Indéfendable is a drama centred on the law firm of Lapointe-Macdonald and its criminal defence team. TVA (CFTM-DT, Montreal) broadcast the program at 7:30 pm.[1] The CBSC received complaints about scenes of suicide in two episodes. The first, “Acharnement” (Perseverence) was broadcast on November 28, 2022 and the second, “Sugar Daddy”, on February 28, 2023.

In each episode, TVA broadcast the following advisory in audio and video formats at the beginning of the program and coming out of commercial breaks:


Warning: This program contains scenes of violence. Viewer discretion is advised.

An 8+ icon was displayed on screen for 15 seconds at the beginning of each broadcast.

The episode “Acharnement” focusses on a woman, Elena Panepinto, accused of the murder of her husband, Dario. Mrs. Panepinto, awaiting the verdict of her trial, is represented by lawyer Léo Macdonald. In previous episodes, it was established that Elena was the victim of domestic violence and that she claims to have no memory of killing her husband. The jury eventually finds Elena not guilty and she returns home.

A few days later, Elena receives a notice of appeal of the verdict. Panicked, she telephones Léo who assures her that the appeal will not succeed and that he will come to see her the next day to discuss the matter. The next day, when Léo arrives at her house and opens the door, he is shocked by what he finds. An image of his stunned face is followed by a view of Elena’s feet dangling in the stairwell. The camera then pans up Elena’s body before resting on her face, eyes closed, strangled by an electrical cord attached to the banister.

Later in the episode, a flashback reveals what really happened the day of the murder. In the scene, Dario harasses Elena to make him lunch. He grabs Elena’s arm as she holds a jam jar, causing her to drop the jar which shatters on the floor. Elena gasps and Dario, angry, yells, [translation] “Look what you’ve done!” Dario pushes Elena towards the sink to wet a cloth, then forces her to her knees and shouts, [translation] “Clean it!” Elena begins to cry and Dario yells, [translation] “Come on! Stop crying.” Elena stands up. Dario grabs her by the throat, pushes her against the wall and goes to punch her in the face, but she turns her head and Dario’s fist smashes into the wall. The two scream, Elena in fear and Dario in pain. Dario rubs his hand to relieve the pain and yells at Elena who opens the kitchen drawer and pulls out a knife. Dario grabs Elena by the shoulder. She makes a gesture toward him and Dario yells even louder. Elena cries harder. Dario’s feet are shown with blood dripping onto the floor. Then Dario ascends the stairs, limping and yelling at Elena in Italian that she is crazy and he is going to kill her. He goes into the bathroom and closes the door while blood pools. Elena cries in the hallway.

In the second episode, ”Sugar Daddy”, a man suspected of being involved in the murder of a farmer is in his living room. This man, Alain Royer, is anxious and seems very nervous. There is cocaine on the living room table. A rifle in hand, he goes to the bedroom where his spouse, Julie, is sleeping. He points the rifle at her, begins to cry and returns to the living room. He sits on the couch. He puts the butt of the rifle on the table and positions the muzzle towards his chest. There is a close-up of his anguished face. A gunshot sounds and Julie is shown opening her eyes, startled. She gets out of bed and goes to the living room. She (and the viewer) see Alain slumped on the couch, a bullet wound in his chest. Julie yells Alain’s name and starts to cry.

On November 28, 2022, the CBSC received a complaint about the episode broadcast on that date, expressing concern that TVA had not applied [translation] “best media practices in handling the issue of suicide” by showing, in detail, a person who died by suicide by hanging.

TVA responded to the complainant on January 30, 2023. The broadcaster noted that it had broadcast viewer advisories during the program, and stated that the suicide scene was related to the character’s narrative arc and to the theme of the difficulties criminal lawyers experience in their relationships with their clients. For these reasons, TVA considered that it had not contravened the broadcast codes of standards.

The complainant submitted her Ruling Request on February 12, indicating that she remained dissatisfied. She did not question the context of the story, but rather [translation] “the way in which the subject was treated”. She mentioned the website of the Association québécoise de prévention du suicide (Quebec Association for Suicide Prevention) and objected to the decision to broadcast this episode at a time when children could watch it. She quoted suicide statistics in Quebec and complained about the lack of telephone numbers for suicide prevention resources at the end of the broadcast.

On March 6, she submitted another complaint raising the same concerns about the February 28 episode. TVA provided supplementary explanations to the CBSC on March 23. TVA noted that it had broadcast a panel at the end of the second episode, displaying contact information for help with drug addiction and suicide prevention. TVA explained that the panel had not been put on the episode related to the first complaint [translation] “due to human error. Normally, these panels are always displayed at the end of disturbing episodes.” (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:

CAB Violence Code, Article 1.0 – Content

1.1 Canadian broadcasters shall not air programming which:

(*“Gratuitous” means material which does not play an integral role in developing the plot, character or theme of the material as a whole).

CAB Violence Code, Article 3.0 – Scheduling

3.1 Programming

3.1.1 Programming which contains scenes of violence intended for adult audiences shall not be telecast before the late evening viewing period, defined as 9 pm to 6 am.

CAB Violence Code, Article 4.0 – Classification

Classifications for French-Language Broadcasters

8 + 8+ (General – Not Suitable for Young Children)

These programs are suitable for the general public but could contain mild or occasional violence that may disturb young children. Viewing with adult supervision is therefore recommended for young children (age 8 and under) who are less able to distinguish between real and make-believe programming.

13 + 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 Ministry classifies in this category films that require a certain level of judgement. These programs contain passages or sequences that may offend the sensibilities of younger viewers.

For example, adolescents, aware of cinematic artifice, are psychologically better prepared to view more complex or dramatic programs. Also, violence, eroticism, coarse language or horror may be more developed than in programs rated General. These themes can even figure prominently in the programs in question. The program must, however, clearly demonstrate the reasons for the characters' actions, since adolescents have not yet reached the level of maturity required to face certain themes (drugs, suicide, troubling situations, etc.). These are, therefore, carefully examined. Moreover, the Ministry encourages parents to keep in mind the notice provided in this classification category.

16 + 16+

The program may be viewed, purchased or rented only by persons 16 years of age or older.

At the age of 16, adolescents move from adolescence to adulthood and attain a certain level of psychological maturity.

Programs with this rating present troubling themes, situations or behaviours. They express a more direct point of view about things and may contain scenes where violence, horror and sexuality are more graphic than in programs rated General (with or without the indicator "Not Suitable for Young Children") or 13+.

The members of the Adjudicating Panel read all of the correspondence and viewed the two episodes in question. The Panel concludes that TVA did not breach Articles 1.0 and 3.0, but it did breach Article 4.0 in rating these episodes 8+ when a 13+ classification is more appropriate.

Since, in the complainant’s view, TVA did not apply [translation] “best media practices in handling the issue of suicide”, the following questions were presented to the Panel about the two episodes of Indéfendable:

With respect to the issues of gratuitous violence and/or content that sanctions, promotes or glamorizes violence, the CBSC has established that, in a dramatic context – which is the case in these episodes of the series Indéfendable –, just because violence is graphic or gruesome does not necessarily mean it is gratuitous, as it may be integral to the development of plot, character or theme. In the view of the CBSC, this type of program does not sanction, glamorize or promote violence, especially if it emphasizes the negative consequences of violence.

The CBSC dealt with the issue of gratuitous violence in CTV re Complex of Fear (CBSC Decision 94/95-0022, August 18, 1995). In its decision, the Adjudicating Panel concluded that the four rape scenes in the movie did not constitute a breach of the second part of Article 1.1 of the Violence Code:

In no way did these scenes encourage or glorify violence against women. While the film dealt with a form of crime that is defined by violence against women, the film itself did not depict gratuitous, or unnecessary, violence against women. In other words, the Council affirmed that a film about rape does not necessarily condone rape.

Furthermore, in the decision CKCO-TV re Kazan (CBSC Decision 96/97-0226, February 20, 1998), the Panel examined a movie that depicted the strangulation of a man, as well as the dog Kazan being beaten, kicked and nearly drowned. The Panel determined that none of these scenes contained gratuitous violence or glamorized violence:

Given the storyline of the motion picture, the violent elements, which are in any event relatively few in number, are a necessary component both to the development of the character of the dog and to the progression of the dramatic elements of the plot. While violence is not a pleasant aspect of any story, it is often a defining element. It certainly is in this case.


In the circumstances of Kazan, since all of the perpetrators of violence in the movie are portrayed as despicable men, it would take a considerable stretch to conclude that the film in any way encourages violence.

In VRAK.TV re Charmed (“Dead Man Dating”) (CBSC Decision 02/03-0365, July 17, 2003), the Quebec Regional Panel dealt with a complaint regarding an episode of a drama series about three good witches. The episode began with a scene of a young man being surrounded in an alley by gang members. The gang then shot him, though no blood or wounds were visible, and doused his corpse in gasoline and set it on fire. Later in the episode, the characters encountered a supernatural villain who had sinister glowing eyes and a horned mask. Towards the end of the episode, one of the perpetrators of the young man’s murder was thrown down stairs via one of the witch’s powers of telekinesis, was then shot dead by police officers and his ghost was pierced by the lance of the horned spectre. A sub-plot also included a scene in which one of the main characters envisions a man being struck by a car. A viewer complained that this episode contained unnecessary violence which was inappropriate for children. The Panel did not find the episode problematic with respect to gratuitous violence:

The complainant was concerned with the “unnecessary” nature of the violence depicted. The Panel does not share his view. In the first place, it finds that there was actually very little violence during the course of the show. Second, it concludes that what violence there was was entirely material to the development of the plot. That it might have been somewhat shocking for young viewers is equally true but that does not render the violence gratuitous in nature. [...] There is, of course, no remedy for gratuitous violence in the sense that it is neither time-sensitive nor susceptible of remedial action by advice to viewers about such content. Programming that includes gratuitous violence cannot be broadcast on Canadian television.

The CBSC also examined an episode of a dramatic series about investigative journalism in CTV re The Eleventh Hour (“Hard Seven”) (CBSC Decision 03/04-1738, December 15, 2004). The episode contained scenes of violence, including the results of a suicide by hanging, a man being beaten in prison, flashbacks of a prison rape and a man shooting another man dead. A viewer described the episode as “graphic, abhorrent, brutal and disgusting”. The Panel noted that the episode was aired after the watershed hour and concluded that the violence was not gratuitous:

Whether violence is or is not gratuitous of course depends on an appreciation of the plot and character development in each program. In the matter at hand, [...] the Panel finds that neither “act of violence […] was dramatically unsubstantiated. In other words, [each] such act was contextual and had a clear role in the advancement of the plot or was ‘justified’ (not, of course, in a societal legal context)” in the “rules” of prison conduct.


In the episode under consideration here, the Panel finds that the scene involving the suicide and the two scenes of prison violence were integral to the development of plot and character. [...] [T]he acts of violence were relatively infrequent and contextual to both of the storylines. They were not, in that material sense, gratuitous.

In this case, the Adjudicating Panel considers the scenes of violence, including the scenes of suicide, to serve an “integral role in developing the plot, character or theme of the material” and that the violent acts do not dominate the majority of the storylines. It concedes that some images could be difficult to watch, but thinks that their presentation certainly does not sanction, promote or glamorize violence. The consequences of the violence in these episodes clearly demonstrate the effects on loved ones and on society in general, an important fact since this violence “had a clear role in the advancement of the plot”.

On the issue of scheduling, Article 3.0 does not define what level, nature and quantity of violence constitutes scenes “intended for adult audiences”. It has been left up to the CBSC, through its decisions, to interpret the meaning of that phrase. There is no mathematical formula for establishing that definition, but the CBSC has said that factors such as gore, explicitness, fear, suspense and overall tone or theme of the program will be taken into consideration. Broadcasts that contain a significant amount of gore, brutality and graphic violence fall into the “intended exclusively for adults” category. Consequently, broadcasts that contain scenes of violence which are not particularly gory or graphic do not fall into the “intended for adults” category and therefore can be broadcast at any time of day, although in some cases the violence may be considered “unsuitable for children”.

In TQS re the movie L’inconnu (Never Talk to Strangers) (CBSC Decision 98/99-0176, June 23, 1999), the Panel found TQS’s broadcast of the feature film Never Talk to Strangers at 7:30 pm in breach of the scheduling provision of the CAB Violence Code. The Panel found that some of the scenes depicting violence and sexuality were intended for adult audiences:

In this case, the Council has no hesitation in concluding that the combined elements of fear, suspense, gore and explicitness, referred to in the Kazan decision, are present in at least the scenes showing the mutilated cat, the bloody writing on the wall and the final showdown where the psychiatrist kills her father and her lover. The Council considers that the presence of these elements, in combination with the overall suspenseful and frightening nature of the movie, renders the aforementioned scenes as “intended for adult audiences”. [...]

Having determined that the movie contained scenes of violence and sex intended for adult audiences, the Council must conclude that the movie should not have been broadcast in a pre-watershed time period. Accordingly, the Council concludes that the broadcaster is in violation of Clause 3.1 of the Violence Code which states that “programming which contains scenes of violence intended for adult audiences shall not be telecast before the late evening viewing period, defined as 9 pm to 6 am.”

In another decision, the CBSC examined two episodes of a crime drama series that followed the activities of a group of special investigators as they used forensic techniques to solve crimes in New York City in TQS re two episodes of Les experts: Manhattan (CSI: New York) (CBSC Decision 08/09-0880, August 11, 2009). Each episode began with an investigation of a dead body at the scene of the crime, including close-ups of the wounds. The bodies were then taken to the lab for autopsies where the viewer saw the bodies on the examination tables with incision marks. As the investigations progressed, more and more details of the murders were revealed in flashback. For example, a young woman was stabbed in the stomach with a sharp hook and then her body was dumped out of a window onto the top of a school bus. Another woman was pushed onto the hose of a liquid nitrogen tank, such that the hose pierced her chest and induced a heart attack from the intense cold temperature.

The second episode involved a man being beaten and struck in the mouth with the muzzle of a rifle and a young woman dying of a gunshot as the rifle was flung off the top of a building. Both episodes aired at 8:00 pm. The Panel concluded that the violent scenes were intended exclusively for adult audiences and so should only have been broadcast after 9:00 pm. The Panel concluded that

the level of gore and explicitness of the murders, including the plunging of a hook into the stomach of a woman, the dumping of her body out a window onto the roof of a school bus, the plunging of a liquid nitrogen hose into a woman’s chest, the beating of a man to death with a rifle butt, and the shooting of a woman with that rifle tossed off a building, qualified as exclusively adult. All of these scenes featured graphic, explicit, realistic and vivid detail. The Panel concludes that any pre-Watershed broadcast of these episodes of Les experts: Manhattan breaches the scheduling provision in Article 3 of the CAB Violence Code.

In TQS re an episode of Coroner (CBSC Decision 98/99-0162, June 23, 1999), the Panel examined a complaint about the 7:30 pm scheduling of a program which dramatized real case files of a city coroner. The episode in question dealt with the death of a man who was involved in sado-masochistic practices. A pathologist explained the principles of mummification, while a criminologist-sexologist and a psychologist provided their respective insights into the motive and intent related to the actions which led up to the death. The scenes of re-enactment showed a woman wearing a leather corset and fishnet stockings tying the man up, putting a noose around his throat and pulling on the other end of the cord. The Panel concluded the scenes were not intended for adult audiences and therefore TQS did not violate Article 3.1.1 for airing the program before 9:00 pm.

In another case, the Adjudicating Panel in the decision VRAK.TV re Charmed (“Dead Man Dating”) (CBSC Decision 02/03-0365, July 17, 2003) dealt with a complaint regarding an episode of a drama series about three good witches which aired from 7:00 pm. The Panel concluded that the episode was not problematic with respect to scheduling or gratuitous violence.

[T]he content is far from being exclusively intended for adult audiences (and was thus susceptible of being broadcast prior to the Watershed hour of 9:00 pm). That it might have been somewhat shocking for young viewers does not force it into a post-9:00 pm time slot.

A CBSC Panel had to examine a crime drama in Séries+ re CSI: Miami (CBSC Decision 09/10-1730, January 25, 2011). Episodes of the program frequently contained scenes of violent crimes being committed, both as they occurred during the story or via flashbacks as the investigators pieced together the clues. Séries+ aired the program at 5:00 pm.

The CBSC received a complaint from a viewer who was concerned that the program was too violent for 5:00 pm and noted the previous CBSC decision involving a different version of the program (Les experts: Manhattan (CSI: New York)) where the Panel had found that the program should not have aired prior to 9:00 pm. The complainant listed four episodes of the program that concerned him. Those episodes contained scenes of a man being hit in the stomach with a pick-axe, a woman bludgeoning another woman with a golf club, a man being decapitated by a wire strung across a road while he was sitting on the roof of a car, and a man stabbing his girlfriend with a letter opener. The Panel compared the scenes of violence in this CSI series and found it “far less graphic, explicit, realistic, vivid and intense than that dealt with in the TQS CSI: New York decision” so there was no code breach for the broadcasts before 9:00 pm. The Panel members considered “it important to emphasize that its decision relates to the four episodes of CSI: Miami assessed by them. The broadcaster needs to remain vigilant about ensuring that other episodes of the series do not cross over the ‘intended exclusively for adults’ content line.”

In the view of the Adjudicating Panel, the Indéfendable episodes in question undoubtedly contain content that could affect younger viewers. Even if it is hard to watch, this drama could be seen as a teachable moment for young audiences. Given that the violence here is not gratuitous and the program does not sanction, promote or glamorize violence, the Panel concludes that the content is not necessarily intended for an adult audience. However, it is true that viewing this type of content requires a certain maturity and this aspect will be determinative in dealing with the question of the classification assigned to these episodes, as explained below.

The issue of the 8+ classification that TVA assigned to these two episodes of the Indéfendable series is the last question examined by the Adjudicating Panel. The CBSC assesses the classification level assigned to each program when it examines any complaint about a program. If the CBSC concludes that a program was assigned an incorrect classification or no classification at all, it will find the broadcaster in breach of Article 4.0.[2]

In Public Notice 1997-80, Classification System for Violence in Television, the CRTC acknowledged that French-language broadcasters could use the rating system of Quebec’s provincial film board, the Régie du cinéma du Québec, rather than the AGVOT system employed by English-language broadcasters. The view was that Quebec audiences were already familiar with the Régie’s classification system. As of April 1, 2017, the Régie du cinéma du Québec was abolished and responsibility for film classification became integrated into the activities of Quebec’s Ministry of Culture and Communications.

Quebec’s provincial system consists of the levels G, 13+, 16+ and 18+. Television broadcasters added the category 8+. The descriptors for the four provincial classifications come from the Ministry of Culture and Communications itself, while the 8+ descriptor was written by the French-language participants of the AGVOT.

As the descriptors suggest, the type of content that falls into each category depends on the nature and quantity of violence, nudity, sex, coarse language and mature themes. G-rated programs are appropriate for all ages. 8+ programs might contain mild violence or other material that could be inappropriate for young children. In the 13+ category, violence, eroticism and coarse language may be more developed. 16+ programs can contain more graphic violence and sexuality. 18+ is generally reserved for explicit sexual scenes or extremely violent scenes.

As described above, in VRAK.TV re Charmed (“Dead Man Dating”) (CBSC Decision 02/03-0365, July 17, 2003), the CBSC dealt with a complaint regarding an episode of a drama series about three good witches which aired at 7:00 pm. With respect to the 13+ classification, the Panel stated:

The Panel considers that the 13+ rating was entirely appropriate for the program. As noted above, the violent content was limited and was germane to the story.

Another CBSC Panel also concluded that the 13+ classification given to a crime drama detailed above (Séries+ re CSI: Miami (CBSC Decision 09/10-1730, January 25, 2011)) was acceptable since the violence was “far less graphic, explicit, realistic, vivid and intense than that dealt with in the TQS CSI: New York decision” where the CBSC had concluded that the broadcaster should not have aired the program before 9:00 pm and should have rated it 16+ because the violence was “too graphic, explicit and realistic”.

In TVA re Les jeunes loups (CBSC Decision 13/14-0808, September 10, 2014), the Adjudicating Panel examined two episodes of a dramatic program about a team of young journalists. One episode contained scenes of violence, namely a man shooting a police officer and then photographs of the officer’s bloodied face. TVA aired the episodes at 9:00 pm with a classification icon of 13+V (“V” meaning “violence”). The Panel concluded that 13+ was the correct rating for the program because the language, as well as “the scenes of sexuality and violence, although present, were not sufficiently explicit or did not contain a level of violence that would preclude teenagers from viewing them.”

With respect to the relevance of using an 8+ classification rather than 13+, the Adjudicating Panel in TQS re two episodes of Les experts: Manhattan (CSI: New York) (CBSC Decision 08/09-0880, August 11, 2009) concluded that the episodes should have been rated 16+:

As to the broadcaster’s choice of 8+, the nature and level of the violence (as discussed in the previous section of the decision) clearly reflect the need for a higher rating. On that issue, the Panel considers that 16+ would be appropriate. The Panel has judged the violence as too graphic, explicit and realistic to be broadcast before 9:00 pm. Nonetheless, it considers that teenagers of 16 years have the judgment to be able to view such programming with discernment, and that a rating of 16+ would have been the appropriate rating. In conclusion, the Panel finds that, by not having included a 16+ classification icon at the beginning of the program, TQS has breached Article 4 of the CAB Violence Code.

Finally, in Canal D re C’est incroyable! (“Malfaiteurs Détraqués”) (Most Shocking – “Criminals Out of Control”) (CBSC Decision 11/12-0954, September 18, 2012), the Panel examined an episode of a reality program that showed videoclips of real crimes in progress that were captured by security cameras or by bystanders on their mobile devices. A narrator provided background information about the situations and there were occasionally interviews with police officers or other people involved. Most of the crimes were violent, such as two men entering a restaurant, kicking a waiter in the crotch and dragging a woman out by her hair; a man holding a young girl hostage with a large knife; a man throwing his girlfriend up against a brick wall; gunfire during an attempted robbery; a bloody fistfight between neighbours; and two large groups of young men fighting in the street. The videoclips were shown repeatedly, both during each segment and as “teasers” leading into commercial breaks. Canal D broadcast the program at 2:00 pm. The CBSC received a complaint from a viewer who asked how this [translations] “extraordinary violence” and “murderous insanity” was allowed to be broadcast in the middle of the day. She also argued that young people imitate these types of acts that they see on television. The station asserted that the program did not endorse the violence and that it had rated the program 13+ and included viewer advisories. Although the Panel concluded that the broadcast did not violate Article 1 of the CAB Violence Code, it did find that the program should only have been broadcast after 9:00 pm and should have been rated 16+ because “it contained a large number of scenes of violence of a graphic nature rather than passages or sequences that would have merely offended the sensibilities of younger viewers.”

In this case, the Adjudicating Panel considers that viewing these two episodes of the Indéfendable series requires a certain maturity. The themes treated in these episodes are, among others, domestic violence, murder and suicide, and even if the violent content does not monopolize these episodes, the repercussions of domestic violence and suicide form an integral part of these drama programs and their images.

The 8+ classification is considered content for the whole family (General), but nevertheless inadvisable for young children. A program could contain “mild or occasional violence that may disturb young children.” For young children (age 8 and under) who are less able to distinguish between real and make-believe programming, viewing with an adult is therefore recommended.

The 13+ classification applies to content that requires a certain level of judgement, since “These programs contain passages or sequences that may offend the sensibilities of younger viewers.” For example, adolescents “are psychologically better prepared to view more complex or dramatic programs”. In addition,

The program must, however, clearly demonstrate the reasons for the characters' actions, since adolescents have not yet reached the level of maturity required to face certain themes (drugs, suicide, troubling situations, etc.). These are, therefore, carefully examined.

Consequently, the definition of the 13+ classification applies to a certain type of content, like suicide, that clearly demonstrates the sense of the characters’ actions, which is certainly the case with the broadcasts in question. In addition, this content requires a certain maturity which, in the view of the Panel, exceeds the classification assigned by the broadcaster, namely 8+. In effect, the climax involving the suicide, particularly the visual scenes of the character Elena hanging, require a judgement and maturity that exceed the 8+ classification. In addition, the long scene of domestic violence in the “Acharnement” episode is particularly violent for an audience who is not yet adolescent, given the intensity of the psychological and physical violence as well as the length of the scene.

The purpose of program classifications is to inform the public, particularly parents, of the presence of content that could disturb a younger audience. They serve as an important tool in the Canadian broadcasting system. The Panel is aware of the fact that common practice is to apply one classification to an entire series. Here, the Panel can only rule on the two episodes at issue. The 8+ rating is perhaps acceptable for other episodes of the series, but the Panel nevertheless believes that the 8+ rating employed by TVA for these two episodes contravenes Article 4.0 of the CAB Violence Code.

The CBSC understands that a series targets a certain audience and it is preferable to apply a uniform classification to the series as a whole so as not to confuse viewers. However, it is important that all episodes in a series respect its given rating, otherwise broadcasters who choose a rating that is too low put themselves at risk. Broadcasters are free to choose different ratings for each episode. The most important point is that the chosen rating respects the applicable standards.

Lastly, the complainant believes that content dealing with the theme of suicide should respect the practices of the Association québécoise de prévention du suicide (Quebec Association for Suicide Prevention). Those standards, however, are not enshrined in the applicable codes and the Panel does not seek to limit producers’ creativity. In any event, the Panel acknowledges that the choice to provide useful telephone numbers to access appropriate resources at the end of an episode dealing with disturbing subject matter such as domestic violence and suicide is a good practice. This is practice is not, however, mandatory for the broadcasts in question, although it is used more and more often by television broadcasters as well as radio broadcasters.

In its response, TVA notes that it broadcast a panel at the end of the second episode, displaying contact information for help with drug addiction and suicide prevention. It also explained that the absence of the panel on the first episode was [translation] “due to human error. Normally, these panels are always displayed at the end of disturbing episodes.” The Panel wishes to acknowledge TVA’s efforts in this regard and it encourages this practice when necessary, even if it is not obligatory.

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 a thoughtful and detailed response to the complainant. The broadcaster fulfilled its obligations of responsiveness and, subject to the announcement of this decision, nothing further is required on this occasion.

Decision Announcement

TVA is required to: 1) announce the decision, in the following terms in audio and video format, 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 Indéfendable 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 Article 4.0 of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Violence Code in two episodes of Indéfendable on November 28, 2022 and February 28, 2023. The two episodes contained scenes of suicide that should have been rated 13+ instead of 8+.

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

1 According to TVA’s website, the program is broadcast at 7:30 pm, but the correspondence of both the complainant and the broadcaster noted 7:00 pm. The logger file provided by TVA did not contain any time indicator.

2 Except in the case of a program exempt from classification.


La première plainte

Le CCNR a reçu la plainte suivante par l’entremise de son formulaire web le 28 novembre 2022 :

Station de télévision ou de radio : TVA

Titre de l’émission : Indéfendable

Date de la diffusion de l’émission : 28/11/2022

Heure de l’émission : 19 h 00

Préoccupation précise :

Bonnes pratiques médiatiques pour aborder la problématique du suicide non appliquées. Une scène d'une personne s'étant suicidée par pendaison a été diffusée en détails.

La plaignante a communiqué avec le CCNR le 19 janvier 2023, indiquant qu’elle n’avait pas encore reçu une réponse du télédiffuseur. Le CCNR lui a expliqué qu’il avait accordé à TVA une prolongation au délai de réponse.

La réponse du télédiffuseur

TVA a répondu à la plaignante le 30 janvier 2023 avec une lettre en date du 27 janvier :

Le Conseil Canadien des Normes de la Radiotélévision (« CCNR ») nous a transmis pour analyse et réponse votre plainte datée du 28 novembre 2022 portant sur la diffusion par le Groupe TVA (« TVA ») sur la chaîne TVA de l’émission Indéfendable du 28 novembre 2022, 19 h 00 (l’« Émission »).

Nous prenons bonne note de vos commentaires et du fait que l’Émission ait pu vous faire réagir. Plus particulièrement, vous vous plaignez ainsi :

« Bonnes pratiques médiatiques pour aborder la problématique du suicide non appliquées. Une scène d'une personne s'étant suicidée par pendaison a été diffusée en détails. »

Soyez assurée que nous traitons avec beaucoup de sérieux toutes les plaintes de nos téléspectateurs. Cependant, nous considérons que, dans les circonstances, il n’y a pas eu contravention aux codes supervisés par le CCNR et ce, pour les raisons suivantes.

D’abord, l’avertissement suivant a été affiché et annoncé au début de l’Émission ainsi qu’après chaque pause publicitaire :

« AVERTISSEMENT : Cette émission comporte des scènes de violence. Nous préférons vous en avertir. » 8+

Ces mises en garde à l’auditoire permettaient donc aux téléspectateurs de prendre une décision éclairée afin de déterminer si l’Émission leur convenait ainsi qu’aux membres de leur famille.

Nous sommes par ailleurs d’avis que la scène qui a été présentée durant l’Émission doit être interprété[e] et évaluée dans son contexte dramatique et informatif. À cet effet, cette scène délicate s’inscrivait parfaitement dans l’arc narratif du personnage d’Elena Panepinto (« Elena »).

Les téléspectateurs savaient déjà qu’Elena, qui avait été accusée du meurtre de son mari, était victime de violence conjugale. Après un long procès qui s’est échelonné sur plusieurs épisodes de la saison, le jury a enfin rendu le verdict durant l’Émission. Le jury acquitte Elena du meurtre son mari mais, malheureusement, Elena reçoit un avis d’appel de ce verdict quelques jours plus tard. Cette nouvelle est trop lourde pour Elena, en raison de tout ce qu’elle a vécu dans les derniers épisodes (violence conjugale, accusation du meurtre de son mari, procès de longue durée, possibilité d’être emprisonnée à vie).

La scène dans l’Émission dramatique s’inscrivait donc dans le développement du personnage d’Elena et du thème de l’énorme fardeau de naviguer le système judiciaire, surtout dans le cadre d’accusations criminelles aussi importantes. Le thème des difficultés vécues par les avocats criminalistes et de leurs relations avec leurs clients est également abordé et développé avec cette scène délicate.

Conséquemment, nous sommes d’avis que TVA n’a pas contrevenu aux Codes du CCNR lors de la diffusion de l’Émission.

Nous vous remercions d’avoir pris le temps de nous écrire et vous prions d’agréer l’expression de nos sentiments distingués.

Correspondance afférente

La plaignante a soumis sa demande de décision le 12 février avec le message suivant :

J'ai reçu la réponse du diffuseur et je demeure insatisfaite. Je ne remets pas en question les motivations du personnage ou le contexte de l'histoire ayant mené au suicide du personnage, ce que le diffuseur aborde dans sa réponse. Ce que je remets en question, c'est la façon que le sujet fut abordé. Je vous invite à consulter le site internet de l'Association québécoise de prévention du suicide, onglet média et créateurs, comment parler du suicide dans les médias. Vous constaterez que de montrer une personne pendue ne fait pas partie des bonnes pratiques pour aborder le suicide, ce que vous avez fait durant l'émission. Une émission diffusée à grande écoute, donc, possiblement avec des enfants qui regardent cette émission. De plus, à la fin de l'émission, les numéros de téléphone pour rejoindre les ressources de prévention du suicide étaient absents. Le but de ma plainte est de vous sensibiliser à la façon d'aborder un sujet délicat. Malheureusement, nous avons environ 3 personnes qui décèdent par suicide à tous les jours au Québec. Les taux de tentative de suicide sont sous-estimés, mais il y aurait 30 tentatives de suicide pour chaque suicide complété. Ce n'est pas un sujet à prendre à la légère. Sachez que je n'attends pas de réponse. Je souhaite seulement que vous preniez 10 minutes pour lire les bonnes pratiques pour aborder le suicide dans les médias afin de vous sensibiliser pour les prochains projets qui seront créés.

La deuxième plainte

La plaignante a soumis une nouvelle plainte le 6 mars 2023 :

Station : TVA

Titre de l’émission : Indéfendable

Date de l’émission : 28/02/2023

Heure de l’émission : 19:00

Préoccupation précise :

Non-respect des bonnes pratiques médiatiques pour aborder la problématique du suicide. Je ne remets pas en question que le personnage se suicide. Je déplore que le suicide soit démontré de façon explicite, et ce, à heure de grande écoute. Je vous réfère au site internet de l'Association québécoise de prévention du suicide, sous l'onglet médias afin de consulter le document incluant les bonnes pratiques pour aborder le sujet du suicide dans les médias. Merci.

Le CCNR a offert à TVA une deuxième occasion de répondre à la plaignante concernant cet épisode additionnel. TVA a écrit au CCNR ce qui suit :

Nous ne répondrons pas à nouveau à la plaignante. Bien que ce soit un personnage différent qui s’est suicidé dans cet épisode, notre réponse demeure la même, à savoir :

Le CCNR fournit au radiodiffuseur une dernière opportunité d’ajouter au dossier lorsqu’il établit la date de la réunion du comité décideur. TVA a envoyé le message suivant le 23 mars :

Nous avons de l’information additionnelle que nous aimerions vous communiquer dans le cadre de cette plainte. Nous aimerions que cette information soit également acheminée à la plaignante.

Nous voulons soumettre que lorsque nos épisodes traitent de sujets délicats, comme le suicide, nous plaçons des panneaux d’aide à la fin de ces épisodes. Pour la deuxième plainte de [la plaignante], nous vous confirmons que le panneau ci-dessous apparaissait effectivement à la fin de l’épisode :

[capture d’écran du panneau à la fin de l’émission sur lequel on voit :

Besoin d’aide?
Les Maisons Péladeau
Soutien à la désintoxication

Prévention suicide :
24 HEURES/24

Malheureusement dans l’épisode lié à la première plainte de [la plaignante], le panneau n’avait pas été placé à la fin de l’épisode dû à une erreur humaine. Normalement, ces panneaux sont toujours affichés à la fin d’épisodes sensibles.

Nous espérons que ces précisions aideront le comité dans leur réflexion. Nous espérons également que ces précisions réconforteront [la plaignante], qui demandait notamment à TVA d’afficher de tels panneaux.

Nous demeurons disponibles pour répondre à toute question additionnelle.