Revealing Swingers Segment Broadcast Too Early, Says Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, February 28, 2001 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a segment dedicated to the issue of swinging during an episode of W-Five, broadcast by CTV at 8:30 p.m. in Halifax. The segment illustrated the resurgence of the swingers lifestyle in Canada through the experiences of two couples, from clothed interviews to the verge of their sexual interaction near the end of the segment. While the program did not contain any sexually explicit activity, the segment included suggestive scenes that revealed men’s buttocks and women’s breasts. The segment began with the following viewer advisory from the host himself, which was repeated midway through the broadcast: “We caution that this is a mature subject and it is intended for adults.” A viewer complained that the segment is “highly inappropriate for the time slot allotted to the program.”

With respect to the portrayal of the sexes, the Atlantic Regional Panel found that the segment was “not exploitative with respect to the presentation of either of the sexes vis-à-vis the other”, “[n]or was there anything in the segment which would lead anyone to conclude that there is anything negative or degrading stated or suggested with regards to either men or women as a group.”

The Panel then considered whether the segment’s subject matter was, in terms of the Violence Code’s scheduling provisions, intended for adults. While the programming was of the nature of news and public affairs, the Panel’s review of prior CBSC decisions regarding the presentation of bare breasts prior to the Watershed led it to conclude that “there can be no doubt that the material went beyond the bare breasts of Strip Tease.” In its view,

Here, the bare breasts and buttocks were displayed precisely because they were related to sexual activity. In fact, the discussion of that activity by third parties and by the very participants made it clear that this link was intended. The scenes of groping on the dance floor, the foreplay in the hot tub, the preliminary retirement to bed all make it clear to any viewer that what nakedness is shown is in a sexual context. The Council does not consider that it is necessary that the purpose of the show’s producer is to titillate. It suffices that the link between nudity and sexual activity is sufficiently established.

Having concluded that the segment was intended for adults, the Panel had no difficulty in finding that its broadcast pre-Watershed was in breach of the scheduling provision of the Violence Code. With respect to the exception provided in the Code regarding “Canadian distant signal importation”, the Panel explained:

It should be clear to broadcasters and members of the public that the exception provided in the Violence Code regarding “Canadian distant signal importation” only applies to the time zone in which the signal originates and not to the time zone in which the programming originates. The difference, in other words, is between the extension over two or three or more time zones of a signal which is transmitted at one instant in time to that broader audience, on the one hand, and the simple delivery of a program (whether by satellite, cassette or other means) on a non-time sensitive basis to the broadcaster which will then deliver the signal to its local audience, on the other. In the first case, the Code protects the originator of the signal; in the second case, it does not.

In this case, the Panel accepted the point that the programming originated in Toronto where it ran at 10:30 p.m.; however, in the Atlantic region, the segment in question was broadcast at about 8:30 p.m., prior to the Watershed and contrary to the Code.

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 430 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 World Wide Web at . For more information, please contact the National Chair of the CBSC, Ron Cohen, at (###) ###-####.