Les jeunes loups is a ten-episode series that was broadcast by the TVA network on Mondays at 9 pm. It featured a team of young journalists attempting to free itself from the constraints of established rules and tell its readers the truth through its two publications, namely the newspaper Le Matin and its web counterpart Le Webmatin.
TVA displayed the classification icon “13+V” (“V” meaning “violence”) for ten seconds at the beginning of each of the episodes aired on January 13 and 20, 2014. It should be noted that during the January 20th episode, TVA rebroadcast that same icon for ten seconds following each commercial break. TVA did not air any viewer advisories.
Both of the episodes in question contained instances of coarse language, such as “hostie”, “câlice”, “chrisse”, “ciboire” in French as well as the English words “fuck” and “bullshit”.
In addition, the episode shown on January 13th contained scenes of sexuality and violence.
While devoid of nudity, the first sexual scene shows the journalist Philippe St-Pierre in bed with Marianne Desbiens, who also works for the Le Matin newspaper. The owner and editor-in-chief, Claudie St-Laurent, phones to remind him of the team’s editorial meeting scheduled for 10 am that day. Throughout the telephone conversation, Marianne is kissing Phillipe’s shoulders and chest as she makes her way down to his crotch.
In the second scene of a sexual nature, which takes place near the end of the episode, Philippe is in bed with Marianne who is wearing a negligee. Philippe kisses her breasts passionately through the delicate fabric. He then lies down on the bed and Marianne straddles him, their movements and moaning suggesting sexual intercourse. Once finished, Marianne lies on Philippe and she can be seen nude from the back while the couple embraces and kisses.
The violent scene occurs when a young man enters a police station where the policewoman at the counter asks [translation] “Hello, how can I help you?” Brandishing a pistol, the young man shoots her twice and the impact of the bullets to her bullet-proof vest pushes her backward. She raises a hand to her face for protection and the man fires a third shot resulting in blood dripping down the victim’s hand. He shoots one final time before fleeing the premises.
Le Matin photographer Pascale Circovic was able to take photos of the policewoman following the murder. When she e-mails the photos to Maripier Renaud, one of her colleagues at the newspaper, the viewers see the policewoman’s bloodied face on Maripier’s computer.
One of the photos resurfaces in four other scenes of that episode, sometimes on a computer screen and at other times on a page of the newspaper Le Matin.
While the episode aired on January 20 does not contain any scene of a sexual nature, it does contain threats of violence, albeit no violence as such. The photo of the murdered policewoman from the previous episode appears one more time on a computer screen featuring the site of the web newspaper Le Webmatin.
On January 21, a viewer complained to the CRTC who then forwarded her complaint to the CBSC.
The complainant noted that classification icons rating the program “13+V” were duly shown on the screen during the January 13th and 20th episodes. But, although the program aired at 9 pm, the complainant objected to the absence in both cases of viewer advisories informing [translations] “the viewers of sensitive content”, including violence, “a high level of coarse language” and scenes of sexuality (January 13 episode). In her opinion, [translation] “it would appear that the broadcaster attempted to evade that obligation”.
TVA’s Vice-President of Programming answered the complaint on April 8 saying in her letter that the broadcaster had duly noted the complainant’s concerns and stressing that in both cases referred to by the complainant the program was aired in the proper time slot, i.e. the watershed period after 9 pm.
With respect to viewer advisories, she went on to explain that their form [translation] “is left to the discretion of the broadcaster, who is free to adapt them according to the individual program’s circumstances”. Clarifying further, she said:
In this case, the broadcaster prominently displayed on-screen the fact that the program is intended for a “13+” (13 years of age or older) audience at the beginning of the program and after each commercial break and that it contains scenes of violence (“V”). This is in fact a system that is generally used by broadcasters both for films and television series that the viewing public has been accustomed to for many years. We feel these measures have met the relevant applicable requirements.
She concluded by telling the complainant that the broadcaster has informed its internal staff of the issue to [translation] “ensure that in future the concerns expressed are taken into consideration to the extent possible”.
On April 8, the complainant e-mailed the CBSC saying she was not satisfied with [translation] “TVA’s arguments to the effect that they did not deem it necessary to issue an advisory”. In fact, she was of the opinion that the broadcaster is confusing classification icons with viewer advisories and noted that [translation] “under no circumstances does an icon replace the wording of an advisory at the beginning of a program and after each break”. She also pointed out that [translation] “the vulgar language and scenes of sexuality were not taken into account”. (The full text of all correspondence can be found in the Appendix to this decision.)
The Quebec Regional Panel examined the complaint under the following provisions of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics and the CAB Violence Code.
CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 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
Suggested language for suitable viewer advisories is outlined in Appendix A [of the code]. 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 Violence Code, Article 5.0 – Viewer Advisories
5.1 To assist consumers in making their viewing choices, broadcasters shall provide a viewer advisory, at the beginning of, and during the first hour of programming telecast in late evening hours which contains scenes of violence intended for adult audiences.
5.2 Broadcasters shall provide a viewer advisory at the beginning of, and during programming telecast outside of late evening hours, which contains scenes of violence not suitable for children.
5.3 Suggested language for suitable viewer advisories is outlined in Appendix A [of the code].
CAB Violence Code, Article 4.0 – Classification System
Icon Use Protocols
The rating icon is to be keyed over the first 15-16 seconds of the program. It is expected the Americans will have their ratings up for 15 seconds. For programs which run longer than one hour, the icon is to be repeated at the beginning of the second hour. These are minimal use standards; stations may wish to use the icons more frequently on programs with particularly sensitive content.
It is suggested that the icon not appear in any advisory which precedes a program, but rather be keyed over the first 15-16 seconds of the actual show, following the advisory.
Classification System for French-Language Broadcasters
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.
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.
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.
The Panel Adjudicators read all of the correspondence and viewed recordings of the challenged broadcasts. The Panel concludes that the broadcaster did not breach Clause 11 of the CAB Code of Ethics with respect to viewer advisories on sexual content since the scenes of sexuality were not sufficiently explicit to be intended for adult audiences and the program was correctly classified as 13+. The level of violence was not sufficient to justify a viewer advisory, accordingly, the broadcaster did not violate the provisions of Article 5 of the CAB Violence Code.
The same cannot be said, however, for the instances of coarse language. The CBSC has determined on several occasions that the use of words such as “hostie”, “chrisse” and “câlice” in French as well as the English word “fuck’ constitutes coarse language intended for adult audiences1. Consequently, TVA was in breach of Clause 11, quoted above, for its failure to provide advisories with respect to coarse language. Finally, the Panel concludes that by airing the classification icon for at most ten seconds at the beginning of the program and after each commercial break, TVA did not comply with the protocols on the use of icons set out in Article 4 of the CAB Violence Code stipulating that icons must appear for a period of 15 to 16 seconds.
After viewing the two programs in question, the Panel Adjudicators are of the opinion that the 13+ icon was the appropriate one because 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 them2.
However, Article 4 of the CAB Violence Code on the protocols governing the use of icons is clear:
The rating icon is to be keyed over the first 15-16 seconds of the program. […] These are minimal use standards; stations may wish to use the icons more frequently on programs with particularly sensitive content [the underlining is ours].
In airing the icon for ten seconds maximum, the broadcaster did not comply with the provisions of Article 4 concerning the protocols on the use of icons3.
The Panel finds that the scenes of sexuality in the January 13 episode were at the very most suggestive and innocuous and were therefore not explicit enough to be intended exclusively for an adult audience4. As a consequence, TVA did not breach Clause 11 of the CAB Code of Ethics for not airing viewer advisories concerning the scenes of sexuality in the program aired on January 13.
The Panel is of the opinion that the scene showing the young man entering a police station, shooting a policewoman at the reception desk and likely directing a bullet to her head (a blood-soaked hand is seen over her face) cannot be considered a scene of violence exclusively for adult audiences. The same applies to the subsequent airing of the photo of the policewoman’s bloodied face shown a few times in the January 13 episode and once more in the January 20 broadcast. Not only are these scenes not intended exclusively for an adult audience5, they serve to develop a plot that does not sanction violence.
However, the Panel Adjudicators are of an entirely different opinion with respect to the use of coarse language. The CBSC has consistently ruled that the words “hostie”, “chrisse”, “câlice” and the English word “fuck” in a French-language program constitute coarse language that is intended for adult audiences and that the broadcaster is consequently required to air viewer advisories, even if the program is broadcast within the watershed period6. As TVA neglected to air viewer advisories concerning the coarse language, it did not meet the requirement set out in Clause 11 of the CAB Code of Ethics.
In addition, the Panel noted that in its April 8 reply TVA does appear to confuse viewer advisories and classification icons:
The form of these viewer advisories is left to the discretion of the broadcaster, who is free to adapt them according to the individual program’s circumstances. In this case, the broadcaster prominently displayed on-screen the fact that the program is intended for a “13+” (13 years of age or older) audience at the beginning of the program and after each commercial break and that it contains scenes of violence (“V”).
Although broadcasters do enjoy some latitude with respect to the wording of viewer advisories7, the fact remains that viewer advisories must contain a text presented in video and audio formats. In other words, they must contain wording appearing on the screen and read aloud8 and they must be relevant9.
Consequently, the Panel concludes that TVA did not meet its obligation to air viewer advisories concerning coarse language, thereby breaching Clause 11 of the CAB Code of Ethics and that it did not allot the required time for classification icons contrary to the provisions of Article 4 of the CAB Violence Code.
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 reply 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 THE 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 jeunes loups 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 has breached Clause 11 of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics by not broadcasting suitable viewer advisories regarding the use of coarse language during the broadcast of both episodes 1 and 2 of the series Les jeunes loups on January 13 and 20, 2014; and that TVA has also breached Article 4 of the CAB Violence Code by broadcasting the classification icon for a period of less than 15 seconds in the same broadcasts.
This decision is a public document upon its release by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.
1 TQS re an episode of Scrap Metal (CBSC Decision 08/09-1711, August 11, 2009); TVA re La Série Montréal-Québec (CBSC Decision 10/11-0781, July 14, 2011); TVA re Juste pour rire : Le gala hommage à Denise Filiatrault (CBSC Decision 11/12-0977, August 8, 2012); TVA re Les galas « Juste pour rire » 2011 : Le party à Mercier (CBSC Decision 11/12-2033, January 23, 2013).
2 TQS re Strip Tease (CBSC Decision 98/99-0441, February 21, 2000); TQS re the movie L'Affaire Thomas Crown (The Thomas Crown Affair) (CBSC Decision 01/02-0622, December 20, 2002); VRAK.TV re Charmed (“Dead Man Dating”) (CBSC Decision 02/03-0365, July 17, 2003); Séries+ re CSI: Miami (CBSC Decision 09/10-1730, January 25, 2011).
3 For examples related to the duration of the icon display, see the following CBSC decisions: TQS re the movie L'Affaire Thomas Crown (The Thomas Crown Affair) (CBSC Decision 01/02-0622, December 20, 2002); TQS re the movie Film de peur (CBSC Decision 02/03-0940, April 22, 2004); TQS re an episode of Loft Story (CBSC Decision 03/04-0200 and -0242, April 22, 2004); TQS re the Bleu nuit movie Mission de charme (CBSC Decision 03/04-0976, February 10, 2005); Telelatino re the movie La Chiave Del Placere (The Key to Sex) (CBSC Decision 06/ -0081, May 1, 2007).
4 TVA re Les galas « Juste pour rire » 2011 : Le party à Mercier (CBSC Decision 11/12-2033, January 23, 2013)
5 VRAK.TV re Charmed (“Dead Man Dating”) (CBSC Decision 02/03-0365, July 17, 2003); Séries+ re CSI: Miami (CBSC Decision 09/10-1730, January 25, 2011); TVA re Les galas « Juste pour rire » 2011 : Le party à Mercier (CBSC Decision 11/12-2033, January 23, 2013).
6 TQS re an episode of Scrap Metal (CBSC Decision 08/09-1711, August 11, 2009); TVA re La Série Montréal-Québec (CBSC Decision 10/11-0781, July 14, 2011); TVA re Juste pour rire : Le gala hommage à Denise Filiatrault (CBSC Decision 11/12-0977, August 8, 2012); TVA re Les galas « Juste pour rire » 2011 : Le party à Mercier (CBSC Decision 11/12-2033, January 23, 2013).
7 See Clause 11 in fine of the CAB Code of Ethics.