Very Coarse Language & Graphic Violence Should Not Have Aired Before 9:00 pm, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, April 18, 2018 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning an episode of Star Trek: Discovery broadcast on the discretionary television service Space on October 15, 2017. Space broadcast the episode at 8:00 pm Eastern time with viewer advisories. The CBSC found a breach of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics and Violence Code for broadcasting the f-word and graphic violence before 9:00 pm, and for failing to put a classification icon on the program.

Star Trek: Discovery is a science fiction series, set a decade before the original Star Trek series. One episode was entitled “Choose Your Pain”. It contained two instances of the word “fucking” as the crew members expressed excitement about a scientific discovery, as well as numerous scenes of violence between the Federation and the Klingons. One scene showed a Klingon ripping out the heart of a pilot, while others showed graphic beatings and torture of prisoners and a lengthy fight sequence as Federation members tried to escape a Klingon ship.

A viewer complained about the scheduling of the content, suggesting that the coarse language was inconsistent with previous Star Trek series, and not acceptable in prime time. Space noted that it had provided a viewer advisory and the coarse language was not used to insult anyone. It also explained that it had chosen to air the episode uncensored given the expectations of loyal Star Trek fans.

The CBSC’s English-Language Panel examined the complaint under Clause 10(a) of the CAB Code of Ethics and Article 3.1.1 the CAB Violence Code which, respectively, require coarse language and violence intended for adult audiences to be broadcast only after 9:00 pm. The Panel maintained that the f-word should not have been aired prior to 9:00 pm. It also concluded that the violence was graphic and explicit, and should not have aired before 9:00 pm. Despite the fact that Space said it rates this program 14+, there was no classification displayed during this episode. The lack of classification breached Article 4.0 of the CAB Violence Code.

The CBSC was created in 1990 by Canada’s private broadcasters to administer the codes of standards that they established for their industry. The CBSC currently administers 5 codes which deal with ethics, equitable portrayal, violence, news and journalistic independence. Around 800 radio stations, satellite radio services, conventional and discretionary television services across Canada participate in the Council.

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All CBSC decisions, codes, and related information are available on the CBSC’s website at www.cbsc.ca.