Sexual Century Episode Did Not Breach Scheduling Requirements but Needed Advisories, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, March 10, 2004 - The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the broadcast of a History Television episode of the series Sexual Century, a series examining human sexuality in the 20th century.  The broadcast originated from Toronto at 10:00 pm and wasreceived at 7:00 pm in Vancouver.  A viewer complained that the content was too sexually explicit to be aired before the 9:00 pm Watershed hour in his time zone. Recognizing the exception to the customary Watershed provision for broadcasts which respect the 9:00 pm to 6:00 am requirement in the time zone in which the signal originates, the National Specialty Services Panel found no breach of Clause 10 (Scheduling) of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) Code of Ethics.  The Panel, however, did find the broadcast in breach of Clause 11 (Viewer Advisories) of the CAB Code of Ethics, which requires that programming containing mature subject matter aired in late viewing hours include viewer advisories at the beginning and after each commercial break during the first hour of programming.

The challenged episode of Sexual Century dealt with the history and commerce of pornography.   It included scenes of full nudity, sexually explicit scenes and descriptions, and coarse language. The episode carried a PG classification but there were no viewer advisories provided either at the beginning of the program or coming out of any of the commercial breaks.  The complainant’s concern was that persons in every Canadian time zone are entitled to the same consideration with respect to the scheduling of adult material.  The Panel explained that the Watershed exception “exists to fulfill far larger national policy goals, including the furnishing of a broad panoply of programming choices to Canadians from coast to coast to coast.”  It also recognized the broadcaster’s sensitivity to the Watershed issue in the following terms:

The Panel also explained the importance of viewer advisories and History Television’s promised steps:

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 530 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