Ratings Classifications

The Canadian ratings classification system has been in effect since 1997. The approach to classification for Canadian broadcasters was developed by an industry group called the Action Group on Violence On Television (AGVOT) which included broadcasters, cable companies and program producers. It was approved by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).  For more information about the history of the AGVOT and ratings classifications in Canada, see the History page.

The classification system involves on-screen rating icons and rating information electronically encoded into the broadcast signal to be compatible with V-chip and other blocking technology. The classification system relates to violence, coarse language, sexuality and other mature themes. The rating indicates the intended audience age group for the program. It appears in the upper left-hand corner of the screen at the beginning of the program. The rating provides information to audience members to help them make informed viewing choices for themselves and younger members of their families. The existence of ratings and blocking technology should not be seen as a substitute for parental supervision of children’s viewing. They are only meant to be tools to assist caregivers in making responsible viewing choices for their households. Additional tools include the 9:00 pm to 6:00 am Watershed period for adult programming and viewer advisories that list potentially offensive content in upcoming programming.

Although the rating indicates the intended age group for the program, this only serves as an approximate guideline. Parents and caregivers must make their own decisions about what is suitable for the younger individuals in their households.

Broadcasters rate their programs based on the descriptions set out for each of the classification categories. Viewers who feel a program has been rated incorrectly can file a complaint with the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC).

Canadian broadcasters are required to provide a rating for certain types of programming; some types of information and non-fiction programming are exempt from classification. If a Canadian station is airing an American or other foreign program, it must put a Canadian rating on the show.

Not all broadcasters in Canada use the same classification system. Different broadcasters use different classification systems depending on which language they broadcast in:

Classification Systems

Television Service Providers’ Ratings Systems

Many cable and satellite television providers offer their own blocking technology and may use rating categories on their on-screen menus that are different from those established for Canadian broadcasters by AGVOT. Viewers watching Canadian channels nevertheless still see the AGVOT icon symbols at the beginning of programs. Viewers who subscribe to cable or satellite television service should contact their providers for information on those ratings categories and how to block programs using those individual technologies.