Pre-Watershed Coarse Language and Misuse of Viewer Aids Breach Codes, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, January 27, 2005 - The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decisions concerning the specialty service Bravo!’s broadcast of three movies, namely Kitchen Party, Perfect Timing and Ordinary People.  The CBSC’s National Specialty Services Panel concluded that the inclusion of the f-word in the late morning or early afternoon broadcast of all three movies violated Clause 10 (Scheduling) of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics; it also ruled that the failure to provide on-screen icons in two cases and accurate viewer advisories in another violated code rules that enable viewers to make informed decisions regarding their viewing choices.

CBSC Panels have long held that the broadcast of the f-word and its derivatives must take place after the start of the 9:00 pm Watershed hour for programming intended for adult audiences. The Panel also found that, in the case of Perfect Timing, which is a sex comedy that has many instances of nudity and sexual activity, the broadcaster breached the scheduling provision for airing sexual content intended for adults before the Watershed.

In the matter at hand, the Panel considers that the frequent level of sexual activity, combined with yet more frequent nudity, make it clear that the film was exclusively intended for adult audiences. The fact that the film could be characterized as a romp, rather than a serious erotic film changes nothing in this regard. The material is inappropriate for viewing at a time of day when the younger members of families can be expected to be watching television and when the more adult members of families can expect that this can be done without the need to ensure that there will not be exclusively adult fare on the airwaves. Perfect Timing clearly fails this test and the Panel concludes that Bravo! has also breached the scheduling requirements of Clause 10 of the CAB Code of Ethics on the basis of the sexual content of the program.

The Panel also concluded that Bravo! failed even to refer to the issue of sexually explicit content in the movie in its advisory (which dealt only with coarse language, mature subject matter and nudity). For this reason, the Panel found Bravo! in breach of the CAB Code of Ethics for its failure to identify that aspect of the content. In the Panel’s words,

[An advisory] can be conservative in its approach and can exceed what is there but it must not miss potentially offensive matter. It has missed in this case. It refers to coarse language. Fair enough. It refers to nudity. Plenty of that. It refers to mature subject matter. That is there, too. There is, however, not a single reference to what will be the most offensive material for some viewers; namely, explicit sexual content.

In addition, in Ordinary People and Perfect Timing, the Panel noted that the broadcaster aired the rating icons at the beginning and at the top of the hour for only a part of the required 15-16 seconds, and thus fell afoul of the code article on classification:

One of the tools that broadcasters are required to provide their audiences is an on-screen classification system. It is a source of information for viewers, which enables them to make informed viewing decisions. Moreover, it is but one of the panoply of tools provided by broadcasters to their audiences. When Canada’s private broadcasters established the classification system with on-screen icons, they determined that the minimum duration of the visibility of the icon would be 15 seconds. It can, of course, be longer, but it must be no less than 15 seconds.

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 550 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 For more information, please contact the CBSC National Chair, Mme Andrée Noël CBSC Executive Director, John MacNab