Except for Missing Ratings Icon, Second Season of The Sopranos Not in Breach of Codes, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, October 1, 2002 B The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the second season of the dramatic series The Sopranos, as broadcast at 10:00 pm on CTV. The CBSC National Conventional Television Panel determined that the content of the program did not breach any of the Canadian private broadcaster Codes. It did, however, find CTV in violation of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' (CAB) Voluntary Code Regarding Violence in Television Programming for its failure to provide a classification icon at the beginning of the second hour on those dates when the program ended, not on the hour at 11:00 pm but between two and ten minutes after the hour.

The CBSC had released a decision on May 24, 2001 concerning the first season of the program broadcast on CTV. Notwithstanding that, the Council received a number of complaints about the program once the second season had begun its run on that same network. In its first Sopranos decision, the National Conventional Services Panel concluded that the scenes involving nudity, coarse language and violence in the first season were not in breach of the broadcaster codes provided they aired after the "Watershed" hour of 9:00 pm and the episodes featured adequate viewer advisories. That decision can be found on the Council's website.

In accordance with the requirements of the CAB Violence Code, CTV's broadcasts of the program's second season included detailed advisories at the beginning of each episode and coming out of every commercial break. The task of the Panel with respect to the second season, then, was to determine whether any of the content was so different from that of the show in its first season as to amount to a breach of the Codes. The Panel found that it was not. As in the first season episodes, the coarse language and violent acts depicted in the series were found to be relevant to the plot and character development. The one substantive difference noted by the Panel was that some episodes of season 2 showed nudity paired with sexual activity. The Panel concluded, though, that such scenes were not problematic in a post-Watershed environment if accompanied by appropriate viewer advisories.

The Panel did, however, find CTV in breach with respect to the provision of classification icons. The CAB Violence Code requires that broadcasters air a classification icon in all dramatic programming which indicates the appropriate rating for the show. This icon is to appear at the beginning of the program and again at the beginning of the second hour for programs which run longer than one hour. As noted above, however, The Sopranos episodes in season 2 frequently ran longer than the program's one-hour time slot by as much as ten minutes. In fact, one complainant wrote that he had tuned in to the 11:00 pm newscast and was shocked to hear extremely coarse language in The Sopranos. The Panel acknowledged that, although "this would have been the case even if the icon had been present, the reality is that it was not. It would at least have constituted modest, but useful, advice to the viewer whatever the nature of the on-screen activity."

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 520 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