Discretionary Services’ Broadcasts Containing Adult Language and Sexual Content Required Post-9:00 pm Time Slots and Detailed Advisories, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, June 16, 2021 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning multiple programs and movies broadcast on the discretionary multiplex services Starz 1 and 2 in December 2020 and January 2021. The CBSC concluded that all of the broadcasts contained coarse language intended for adult audiences and therefore should not have been broadcast before the Watershed hour of 9:00 pm. Some of the broadcasts also contained sexual content that should not have been broadcast outside the Watershed period. The viewer advisories on a number of the broadcasts did not mention key elements of the programs, such as sexual content and violence. The CBSC found breaches of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics and Violence Code.

The broadcasts at issue were episodes of the dramatic programs High Fidelity and Ramy, and the comedy movie The Right Kind of Wrong on Starz 1, as well as the comedy movies The Hangover and Bridesmaids on Starz 2. All of the broadcasts occurred in the afternoon. A viewer complained about the coarse language, sexual content and violence in the broadcasts and suggested that putting an advisory on a broadcast does not excuse the requirement to adhere to the Watershed rule for adult content. Starz argued that it was a “discretionary pay service” only available to subscribers who had specifically requested it.

The CBSC English-Language Panel began its decision by pointing out that Starz is a “discretionary” service. It used to be a “pay” service, but the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) changed its licence categories in 2017, so Starz became a discretionary service then. As such, it must adhere to the CAB codes of standards which include a Watershed period of 9:00 pm to 6:00 am. Even the pay codes to which Starz used to adhere contained that same rule.

All of the broadcasts contained variations of the f-word and two contained the word “cunt”, which the CBSC considers to be coarse language intended for adult audiences. All of the broadcasts violated Clause 10 of the CAB Code of Ethics on that account. Ramy, The Right Kind of Wrong and The Hangover all contained scenes of explicit sexuality intended for adult audiences, including scenes of erotic asphyxiation, cunnilingus and fellatio. Those broadcasts violated Clause 10 of the CAB Code of Ethics on that account. The viewer advisories for Ramy, The Right Kind of Wrong, The Hangover and Bridesmaids failed to alert viewers to the sexual content in contravention of Clause 11 of the CAB Code of Ethics. While the violence in The Hangover was not graphic, it nevertheless required advisories, so failure to mention that element in the advisory was in contravention of Article 5.0 of the CAB Violence Code. The CBSC Panel considered that all of the broadcasts were acceptably rated 14+, though the episode of Ramy was close to the 18+ line given its mature sexual theme.

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 5 codes which deal with ethics, equitable portrayal, violence, news and journalistic independence. Around 800 radio stations, satellite radio services, conventional and discretionary television services across Canada participate in the Council.

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All CBSC decisions, codes, and related information are available on the CBSC’s website. For more information, please visit www.cbsc.ca.