Ottawa, November 1, 1994 - The Ontario Regional Council of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) released its decision today regarding the childrens' program, "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. The program is aired on CBSC member station CIII-TV (GLOBAL Television) and on other non-member stations.
After viewing two weeks of "Power Rangers" episodes aired in April and May, 1994, the Regional Council unanimously decided that the program contravened several articles related to children's programming, in the industry's Voluntary Code Regarding Violence in Television Programming. In particular, the Regional Council agreed that the program depicted excessive violence and that the scenes of violence were not essential to the plot of the program and to character development. The members added that violence was generally the preferred means of conflict resolution and in fact, the program offered no alternative to violence in order to resolve conflict. The Regional Council concluded that the program glossed over the consequences of violence and, in this way I invited young viewers to imitate the martial arts techniques depicted in the program. Because of these Code violations, CIII-TV (GLOBAL) must announce the decision during prime time in the next thirty days.
This is the Council's first decision relating to the Violence Code, which came into force on January 1,1994. Private sector broadcasters (including Global), developed the Code in consultation with community organizations and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), to respond to public concerns about violence on television. While these broadcasters (and new pay/specialty services) must adhere to the Code, the Council noted that this requirement does not currently apply to existing pay/specialty services or to foreign broadcasters whose signal is delivered by cable into Canadian homes. Given that both YTV (a Canadian specialty service) and the U.S.-based Fox network also broadcast the "Power Rangers", the Regional Council deplored the fact that the systems established to protect Canadian children from violence on Canadian private sector television do not exist for other services. The decision highlights the need for all industry sectors: private sector television, pay/specialty television, and cable operators, to take responsibility for television violence.
Established by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (representing Canada's private sector broadcasters) in 1990, the CBSC administers industry Codes on sex-role portrayal and ethics, in addition to the Violence Code. Over 95% of CAB member stations are members of the CBSC and adhere to the industry Codes.
A copy of the decision and a sheet of highlights are attached.
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For more information, please contact Mr. Ronald I. Cohen, CBSC National Chair, at (###) ###-####.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE DECISION
The Ontario Regional Council decided that Global Television contravened the industry's Voluntary Code Regarding Violence in Television Programming by airing the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. After viewing ten episodes of the program, the Council unanimously concluded that:
- each program contained considerable violent activity, amounting to between 25% and 35% of the running dramatic time, in three or four fighting sequences. Article 2.1 of the Code states that "very little violence ... shall be portrayed in children's programming"; Council felt that "far from containing very little violence, the series appeared to convey considerable violent physical activity";
- the development of character took place entirely apart from the fighting components of the story and the only contribution made by the fighting sequences to the development of character was to the establishment of the individual Power Rangers as fighters. The plot was defined in terms of violence; nonetheless, this did not satisfy the requirement that violence is permissible only when essential to plot development. Therefore, the program contravened article 2.2 of the Code, which states that violence shown in children's programming "shall only be portrayed when it is essential to the development of character and plot”;
- fighting scenes tended to escalate in each episode and no alternative to violence was offered as a means of conflict resolution. The program contravened article 2.6 of the Code, which affirms that children's programming shall not contain scenes of violence "which create the impression that violence is the preferred way, or the only method to resolve conflict ...";
- the violent acts appeared to cause no physical damage to the characters in the program. Because the program did not "portray, in human terms, the consequences of ... violence to its victims and perpetrators", the program contravened clause 2.7 of the Code. As the Council noted, "the Power Rangers constantly gloss over all consequences other than the predictable result that they always win as the result of the exercise of their martial skills. And life is not like that."
- as complainants to the CBSC had emphasized, and as viewers in other countries had recognized, the program encouraged children to imitate the violent acts depicted. In the Council's words, "suggesting that the martial arts kicking and punching techniques do not have serious, or even minor, physical consequences invites, if not encourages, the seemingly risk-free imitation of the physical acts of aggression by children who have not reached the age of discernment, namely, the very audience for this program." The Code clearly states that "programming for children shall deal carefully with themes which could invite children to imitate acts which they see on screen."
These code violations led the Council to issue a negative decision and as such, Global is required to announce the decision during prime time within the next thirty days.
The Council nonetheless noted that the series is aired on YTV and on the U.S.-based Fox Network, available over cable in Canada. Council members deplored the fact that no code or regulatory system exists to deal with violent programming aired by these services. They affirmed that "sufficient time has passed for the remainder of the broadcasting industry, which includes the cable sector, to have put appropriate systems of protection in place. This is, however, no longer an abstract question. The Council is faced with the reality of Power Rangers." The Council concluded, "it is unreasonable to expect that Canadian children can be accorded protection against violent programming by a CBSC ruling against a series delivered on one channel which then remains available a push-button away on the same set. It is equally unreasonable to expect that conventional broadcasters adhering to their Code should be competitively disadvantaged vis-à-vis a specialty service delivered on extended basic cable service and a foreign-originating signal accessible to everyone with basic cable service.