CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 6 – Full, Fair and Proper Presentation
It is recognized that the full, fair and proper presentation of news, opinion, comment and editorial is the prime and fundamental responsibility of each broadcaster. This principle shall apply to all radio and television programming, whether it relates to news, public affairs, magazine, talk, call-in, interview or other broadcasting formats in which news, opinion, comment or editorial may be expressed by broadcaster employees, their invited guests or callers.
CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 10 – Television Broadcasting (Scheduling)
(a) Programming which contains sexually explicit material or coarse or offensive language intended for adult audiences shall not be telecast before the late viewing period, defined as 9 pm to 6 am. […].
CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 11 – Viewer Advisories
To assist consumers in making their viewing choices, when programming includes mature subject matter or scenes with nudity, sexually explicit material, coarse or offensive language, or other material susceptible of offending viewers, broadcasters shall provide a viewer advisory:
(a) at the beginning of, and after every commercial break during the first hour of programming telecast in late viewing hours which contains such material which is intended for adult audiences, or
(b) at the beginning of, and after every commercial break during programming telecast outside of late viewing hours which contains such material which is not suitable for children.
CAB Violence Code, Article 4 – Classification
Icon Use Protocols
The rating icon is to be keyed over the first 15-16 seconds of the program. […]
Classifications for French-Language Broadcasters
E – Exempt
Programs exempt from classification.
This classification applies to:
|· information programming:||news, current affairs, public affairs|
|· sports programming:||sporting events, sports news|
|· variety programming:||performance programs, talk shows, game shows, music videos|
|· magazine programming|
Exempt programming does not require an on-screen classification icon and broadcasters are not required to encode a rating into the broadcast signal.
8+ (General – Not Suitable for Young Children)
These programs are suitable for the general public but could contain mild or occasional violence that might disturb young children. Viewing with adult supervision is therefore recommended for young children (age 8 and under) who are less able to distinguish between real and make-believe programming.
The program may be viewed, purchased or rented only by persons 13 years of age or older. Children under 13 may be admitted only if accompanied by an adult.
The Régie classifies in this category programs that require a certain level of judgement. These programs contain passages or sequences that may offend the sensibilities of younger viewers.
Teenage viewers are more aware of the fact that a program is not reality and are therefore better psychologically prepared to follow more complex or dramatic programs. Violence, eroticism, coarse language or horror may be more developed and may constitute a dominant characteristic of the program. However, it is important that the program allow viewers to discern the meaning that should be attributed to the various characters and their actions, because teenagers are not necessarily prepared to face everything. This is why certain themes (drugs, suicide, troubling situations, etc.) and their treatment are carefully examined.
The program may be viewed, purchased or rented only by persons 16 years of age or older.
At the age of 16, young people enter a transition between the end of adolescence and the beginning of adulthood. They are more independent, and have usually attained a certain level of psychological maturity.
Programs with this rating present troubling themes, situations or behaviours and adopt a more direct point of view about things. They may therefore contain scenes where violence, horror and sexuality are more graphic.
The Panel Adjudicators read all of the correspondence and viewed a recording of the challenged broadcast. The Panel concludes that MusiquePlus breached Clause 11(b) of the CAB Code of Ethics for failing to broadcast viewer advisories during the program and Article 4 of the CAB Violence Code for failing to display the classification icon for 15 to 16 seconds at the beginning of the program. MusiquePlus did not breach any of the other aforementioned code provisions.
Insults towards an Individual
The Panel Adjudicators first examined the complaint with a view to the [translation] “disparaging and gratuitous comment” raised by the complainant under Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics and the related jurisprudence. They conclude that the term “gross” (“dégueu” in French), used by one of the female hosts regarding a contestant appearing in a video taken from YouTube, does not constitute a violation of Clause 6 because it is not particularly mean or pejorative.
Scheduling of Coarse Language or Sexual Content
The Panel Adjudicators then examined the complaint under Clause 10 of the CAB Code of Ethics and relevant previous CBSC decisions to determine whether there was coarse language or explicit sexual content “intended only for adult audiences” outside of late viewing hours, namely between 9:00 pm and 6:00 am.
Historically, when it receives a complaint, the CBSC has always examined the program content as a whole, without limiting itself to the elements raised by the complainant. In so doing, the Panel noted the use of the English word “fuck” in two instances in the broadcast. Although the CBSC has found in some previous decisions that the English word “fuck” constitutes language “for adults” even in a French-language program, the Panel Adjudicators note that the English word “fuck” does not have the same vulgar connotation when used in French. The Panel emphasizes, in this regard, that language is evolutionary and reflects current society. The Panel prefers to impress upon broadcasters the need for appropriate viewer advisories and correct classification of programs rather than to target the occasional usage of vernacular language.
The Panel Adjudicators therefore conclude that the use of the English word “fuck” in some circumstances will not breach Clause 10 of the CAB Code of Ethics. First, the primary language of the program must be French, since the word “fuck” in French does not have the vulgar connotation it can have in English; second, the use of the word must be infrequent; and third, the word cannot be used to insult or attack and individual or group. If a broadcast meets these three criteria, it is probable that the CBSC will not find a violation of Clause 10. The Panel comes to that conclusion in this case.
With respect to sexual content, the CBSC has established in previous decisions that the term “explicit sexual content” refers to scenes showing actual sexual acts or conversations that describe such acts in detail. The Panel thus concludes, in light of those precedents, that the appearance of dildos used mainly as props at the rally was not in the best taste, but does not constitute sexual content that is sufficiently explicit as to be directed solely to an adult audience during the watershed period. The Panel concludes likewise with respect to the comment about the macaroni sounds. The Panel concludes that the broadcaster did not breach Clause 10 of the CAB Code of Ethics.
The Panel then considered the question of viewer advisories. Although it concluded that the broadcast in question was not intended exclusively for adult audiences, in the Panel’s view, the program’s content was not suitable for children due to the coarse language and the mature subject matter of a sexual nature that was present in the program. Consequently, the broadcaster should have aired an appropriate advisory, mentioning the program’s coarse language and sexual content at the beginning and coming out of every commercial break. It did not do so. The Panel therefore concludes that the broadcaster breached Clause 11(b) of the CAB Code of Ethics.
The Panel notes that the broadcaster decided to air such advisories after receiving the complaint, but they were not present in the November 11, 2022 broadcast.
Finally, the Panel Adjudicators find that CTRL is not an exempt program under the terms of Article 4 of the CAB Violence Code and that the 13+ classification chosen by the broadcaster was the appropriate classification for this program.
The Panel Adjudicators, however, also find that MusiquePlus only broadcast the classification icon for nine seconds at the beginning of the broadcast, instead of the 15 to 16 seconds required by the CAB Violence Code. Furthermore, it displayed the icon 32 seconds after the beginning of the broadcast. While there is no code provision defining what constitutes the “beginning” of a program, the Panel considers a delay of 32 seconds to be somewhat too long. The broadcaster therefore breached the provisions of Article 4 of the CAB Violence Code by broadcasting the classification icon for only nine seconds.
MusiquePlus also broadcast the classification icon for a few seconds after each commercial break, which is not required by the code. What is required is the broadcast of viewer advisories if necessary. The Panel wishes to remind broadcasters not to confuse classification icons with viewer advisories. Viewer advisories are texts read aloud on air and displayed visually on screen, which describe the type of content in the program and its possibly offensive nature. The classification icon, for its part, indicates the appropriate audience and allows for the use of television program blocking technology.
With respect to the cable television service provider’s erroneous 8+ classification, the Panel cannot comment on this aspect of the complaint, as cable companies do not fall under CBSC jurisdiction. The classification appearing on the broadcaster’s logger files was in fact 13+ and this was the appropriate classification.
In all CBSC decisions, the Panels assess the broadcaster’s response to the complainant. The broadcaster need not agree with the complainant’s position, but it must respond in a courteous, thoughtful and thorough manner. In this case, MusiquePlus provided a reply to the complainant, outlining its view of the broadcast. According to the complainant, MusiquePlus began putting an advisory on the program, thus making more of an effort to respect the requirements of the codes. The broadcaster fulfilled its obligations of responsiveness and, subject to the announcement of this decision, nothing further is required in this regard in this instance.
Announcement of the Decision
MusiquePlus is required to: 1) announce the decision, in the following terms, once during prime time within three days following the release of this decision and once more within seven days following the release of this decision during the time period in which CTRL was broadcast, but not on the same day as the first mandated announcement; 2) within the fourteen days following the broadcasts of the announcements, to provide written confirmation of the airing of the statement to the complainant who filed the Ruling Request; and 3) at that time, to provide the CBSC with a copy of that written confirmation and with air check copies of the broadcasts of the two announcements which must be made by MusiquePlus.
The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has found that MusiquePlus breached the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Code of Ethics and Violence Code in its broadcast of CTRL on November 11, 2022. The program contained coarse language and sexual references. MusiquePlus did not broadcast viewer advisories during the program, as required by Clause 11 of the Code of Ethics. It did not display the classification icon for 15 seconds as required by the Violence Code.