Unusual Game Show Content Necessitates Viewer Advisories, According to Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, November 26, 2002 - The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a comedic game show called Gutterball Alley broadcast on the specialty service The Comedy Network at 9:30 pm. While many of the game show stunts and quizzes relied on sexual content or innuendo, the CBSC National Specialty Services Panel did not find the game show in breach of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Sex-Role Portrayal Code. It did, however, find a violation of the CAB Violence Code due to the broadcaster’s failure to air advisories coming out of every commercial break alerting viewers to the coarse language present in the program.

Gutterball Alley is a game show in which contestants have to answer quizzes or perform unusual stunts, frequently with a sexual component to them, in order to win prizes. These included unusual examples, which are described in the text of this decision. In addition, members of the performance art troupe “Puppetry of the Penis” were incorporated into one of the segments. In that act, two men wearing only capes manipulated their genitalia to form different shapes, leaving the contestant to guess what each shape represented. The f-word was also used twice in this episode.

The CBSC received complaints from viewers who characterized the program as “degrading” and “disrespectful”. The National Specialty Services Panel did not find the program’s sexual humour degrading or exploitative under the CAB Sex-Role Portrayal Code. The Panel did, however, conclude, that the inclusion of the f-word in the program rendered it “intended for adult audiences”, which necessitated viewer advisories coming out of every commercial break. The presence of a single advisory at the beginning of the program that only unspecifically mentioned “mature subject matter” was inadequate. The Panel also noted that, due to the coarse language, the episode should have carried an 18+ rating rather than the 14+ which The Comedy Network had given it. The Specialty Services Panel found no violation on this account, however, because game shows are technically exempt from classification under the CAB Violence Code. The Panel in fact commended the broadcaster for providing an icon when one was technically not required.

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