Ottawa, August 27, 1997 -- The Atlantic Regional Council of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning an episode of the CIHF-TV (MITV) series, X-Files, entitled "Home", which was broadcast on October 11, 1996 at 10:00 P.M.
The episode dealt with the theme of genetics in a setting of science fiction/suspense. An MITV viewer argued that the show was "extremely violent, sadistic and unacceptable for public viewing." Furthermore, in her opinion, the series was aimed at children and put "violence, sadism, senseless brutality and incest" into their living rooms. The broadcaster disagreed. Referring to the use of camera angles, editing, lighting, plot development and special effects, the station defended the episode as merely implying acts of violence which were integral to the plot. MITV also pointed out that the show was aired well after the watershed hour and targeted an adult audience. The viewer was unsatisfied with this response and asked the CBSC to have its Atlantic Regional Council review the matter.
In its decision (attached), the Atlantic Regional Council agreed that some scenes "were graphic and occasionally left a gory record of what had occurred off-camera." The Council clarified the issue of off-camera violence by explaining that scenes which merely show "traces of off-screen occurrences" rather than the violent actions themselves may still constitute violence within the meaning of the Code. The Council concluded, however, that the violent scenes in this episode were integral to the development of the plot and theme and, consequently, did not constitute "gratuitous violence". Furthermore, the Council had no difficulty in concluding that the broadcaster, by scheduling the program at 10 p.m., had not "aimed [it] at children". As the Council decided, "This is not to say that there may not be children watching at any given hour of the day but only that the program is not aimed at children and that is the point at issue."
The Council also reviewed some of the basic principles relating to the CAB Violence Code and observed in particular that freedom of expression is not without limits in Canada: "It is subject to a series of the most stringent rules regarding programming directed at children, rules at least as precise and restrictive as any adopted by any of the major Western democracies and far more protective of our children than anything provided by our powerful neighbour to the South." One of those restrictive rules requires that a broadcaster, in exercising its freedom to air programs containing scenes of violence intended for adult audiences, include "advisories which permit viewers to make informed viewing choices." Although the broadcaster had respected the industry's 9 p.m. watershed hour, MITV did not provide any advisories, which constitutes a breach of Article 5.1 of the Violence Code. Consequently, MITV is required to announce this decision in the terms prescribed within the decision during prime time within thirty days of its publication.
In addition to administering the Violence Code, the CBSC administers broadcasting industry codes on ethics, gender portrayal and journalistic ethics. Some 400 private sector television and radio stations from across Canada are members of the CBSC.
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This and all other decisions of the CBSC, the Codes and considerably more related information are available on the World Wide Web at www.cbsc.ca. For more information, please contact the National Chair of the CBSC, Ron Cohen, at (###) ###-####.