Drama Containing F-Word Requires Post-9:00 Time Slot and Detailed Viewer Advisories, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, April 11, 2006 - The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning Global Television’s broadcast of an episode of the scientific investigative series ReGenesis on August 29, 2005.  The CBSC National Conventional Television Panel concluded that the broadcast of the f-word unmuted before 9:00 pm and the failure to provide adequate information about the content of the program in its viewer advisories breached the CAB Code of Ethics.  An episode entitled “Baby Bomb”, which aired at 8:00 pm in Alberta, included a brief scene of sexual activity, one unmuted instance of the f-word and other scenes showing the results of injury and disease. 

The Panel was evenly divided on whether the scene of sexual activity, which lasted 16 seconds and showed the buttocks of a woman straddling a man, was sufficiently explicit to require a post-9:00 pm time slot.  All Adjudicators concluded that “the sexual component in the scene is fleeting and not intense, being as much denouement as exposition” but half considered that it should be relegated to a post-Watershed broadcast, while the other half agreed that it could air before 9:00 pm.  Consequently, there was no finding of a breach on account of the sexual component. 

The Panel made the following general comments about the 9:00 pm “Watershed” hour: 

There is, in the pre-Watershed period, a run of 15 hours (a strong majority of the broadcast day and about 90% of our customary waking hours), during which broadcasters offer their audiences a safe haven, namely, a period in which their television viewing can be free of adult-oriented material, whether sexual or otherwise.  There may still, in that time frame, be programming that some parents will not wish their families to see (all adults should make the effort to weigh the appropriateness of all kinds of programming for themselves and their children) but it will not be due to its exclusively adult orientation.  And even in the pre-Watershed period, broadcasters advise their audiences of the nature of what is to come. 

With respect to the coarse language issue, the Panel unanimously concluded that the unedited presence of the f-word did necessitate a post-9:00 pm broadcast.  Insofar as the scenes of injury and disease were concerned, the Panel concluded that they were not graphic enough to require a post-9:00 pm time slot.  On the subject of the wording of the viewer advisory, which only mentioned coarse language, the Panel found Global Television in breach of the Code for failing to alert viewers to the sexual content.  

While the nudity was not full frontal nudity and the sexual element was brief, some viewers, such as the complainant, would have wished such information in the advisory.  The failure to include it, readily acknowledged as an inadvertence by the broadcaster, constitutes a breach of Clause 11 of the CAB Code of Ethics

Canada’s private broadcasters have themselves created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, gender portrayal and television violence 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, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic practices first created by the Radio Television News Directors Association of Canada (RTNDA) in 1970.  More than 590 radio and 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