ARCHIVED -  Public Notice CRTC 1988-159

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Public Notice

Ottawa, 22 September 1988
Public Notice CRTC 1988-159
Related Documents: Public Notices CRTC 1986-351 dated 22 December l986, "Policy on Sex-Role Stereotyping in the Broadcast Media"; CRTC l987-8 dated 9 January l987, "Regulations respecting Television Broadcasting"; CRTC l987-205 dated l5 September l987, "An Approach to Industry-Administered Standards: A Broadcast Council"; CRTC l988-l3 dated 29 January l988, "Guidelines for Developing Industry-Administered Standards".
In Public Notice CRTC l987-8 dated 9 January l987, entitled "Regulations Respecting Television Broadcasting", the Commission issued revised television regulations following a fundamental review of all of its existing television, cable television and radio regulations. The primary objective in undertaking this review was to provide a regulatory framework free of outdated regulations and more suited to the rapidly changing and increasingly competitive broadcasting environment. The new television regulations were designed to encourage the diverse elements of the Canadian broadcasting system to place increased emphasis on the use of Canadian creative resources and to reflect the standards and tastes of Canadian television viewers. The Commission's new regulations also reflected its commitments to a more streamlined and supervisory regulatory framework.
At the same time, in Public Notice CRTC l987-9, entitled "Guidelines for Developing Industry Standards", the Commission proposed a set of guide-lines for public comment that were intended to assist in the development of a consistent approach for establishing industry-administered codes and standards on specific issues of concern to the Commission and to the public. In response to this notice, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB), the voluntary trade association representing the majority of private sector radio and television broadcasters, submitted a document entitled "Guidelines for Developing Industry Standards" (April l987) which included a proposal for a National Broadcast Standards Council as well as Regional Broadcast Standards Councils. These councils would have responsibility for enforcing compliance with specified broadcasting codes and standards. The CAB's proposal set out mechanisms whereby voluntary industry standards could be developed, modified and administered.
The concept underlying this proposal had first been suggested by the CAB at the Commission's public hearings in April l986 and the CAB was subsequently encouraged to develop the concept in the Commission's "Policy on Sex-role Stereotyping in the Broadcast Media" (Public Notice CRTC l986-351 dated 22 December 1986). The Commission issued for public comment the CAB's April l987 proposal in a notice entitled "An Approach to Industry-Administered Standards: A Broadcast Council" (Public Notice CRTC l987-205 dated 15 September l987). The Commission then forwarded to the CAB the comments received in response to Public Notices CRTC l987-9 and 1987-205, and invited the CAB to re-evaluate its proposal.
The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council
A revised proposal is contained in a document entitled "A Proposal from the Canadian Association of Broadcasters for a Canadian Broadcast Standards Council" dated 9 May l988 (the French-language version is dated 11 May 1988).
This document sets out the guiding principles, standards to be administered, and means for the development of new standards, as well as the proposed nature and scope of a Canadian Broadcast Standards Council. The proposal includes the objective of the Council, its structure, means to ensure the dissemination of information to the public, and procedures relating to a proposed complaints process, non-compliance and annual reporting. In correspondence addressed to the Commission dated 26 May, 4 July, 2l July, 3 August, 26 August, 2 September and 13 September 1988, the CAB further clarified various elements of the proposal.
The objective of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council is "to promote voluntary action by its members to achieve the highest possible standard of radio and television broadcasting". The Council would accomplish its objective by:
l. promoting compliance with those voluntary standards adopted by members of the CAB;
2. assisting its members to comply with the standards;
3. informing Canadians of the existence of those standards and of their right to recourse if those standards are not met;
4. responding to the complaints of those Canadians who consider that the standards are not being met;
5. assisting the CAB to develop new voluntary standards and to amend existing standards, as required;
6. monitoring and reporting on progress towards achieving the objectives of the Council.
According to the proposal, the standards and codes to be administered by the Council include the following:
(i) the CAB's Voluntary Code Regarding Violence in Television Programming;
(ii) the CAB's Code of Ethics;
(iii) the CAB's Code Regarding Sex-role Portrayal in Radio Programming (as approved by the CRTC);
(iv) the CAB's Code Regarding Sex-role Portrayal in Television Programming (as approved by the CRTC)
(v) such other codes as are referred to it by the CAB.
In its letter of 26 August 1988 to the Commission, the CAB indicated that the latter category would include the CAB's Industry Code for Brokerage, once the inclusion of this code within the authority of the Broadcast Council is formally approved by the CAB's Board of Directors.
The proposed Council would consist of a National Executive, five Regional Councils (Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario, the West and British Columbia) and the radio or television stations that are members of the Council. The National Executive would perform the following functions:
a) initiate and oversee educational activities to promote compliance of members with the agreed standards and assist members in complying with them;
b) develop and provide public service announcements and promotional materials to members for their use in informing their communities about the Council and its standards, member adherence, and the avenues of recourse open to those who wish to complain;
c) assist and advise Regional Councils in their dealings with complainants;
d) ensure that there is reasonable consistency in the application of the standards across Canada, taking into account the varying social concerns and community values that may exist in different regions;
e) assist the CAB in the development of new standards and the amendment of existing standards by proposing new standards and amendments and contributing and coordinating public input into the CAB's processes for developing them;
f) maintain an overview of adherence to the standards, disposition of complaints, and progress in achieving the objectives of the Council;
g) prepare and publish an Annual Report for the CAB and for the public.
As set out in the CAB's 9 May 1988 proposal, the National Executive of the Council would consist of twelve members. In correspondence dated 2 September and 13 September 1988, the CAB indicated that it would be willing to name someone with no vested interest in the broadcsting industry as Chair of the Council.
According to the CAB's proposal, the Regional Councils would perform the following functions:
a) deal with complaints from the public that are not resolved by the local member station;
b) advise and assist local members in dealing with complaints;
c) carry out educational activities in the region, with the assistance and direction of the National Executive, aimed at improving compliance with the standards;
d) help provide regional input into the development of new standards and the amendment of existing standards.
Individual member stations of the proposed Council would have the following responsibilities:
a) to comply with the agreed standards;
b) to inform their audiences of the existence of the standards, of their adherence to them, and of the public's right to recourse;
c) to encourage, educate and assist managers, programmers and performers to understand and comply with the agreed standards.
In the remainder of the document, and in subsequent correspondence with the Commission referred to above, the CAB set out the proposed Council's responsibilities with respect to information to the public, the complaints process, non-compliance by member stations, the annual report, standards to be administered, sex-role portrayal standards, the development of new standards, and other industry standards such as those currently administered by the Canadian Advertising Foundation and the Radio Television News Directors' Association. All of this documentation is on public file at the Commission's central office and at its four regional offices.
The Commission's Response
The Commission is generally pleased with the CAB's revised proposal for a Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) and considers that it constitutes the basis for a valuable new approach to the improvement of industry standards for television and radio. The Commission endorses the objective of the Council and is satisfied that it will indeed promote significantly higher standards for radio and television broadcasting. In many ways, this voluntary action on the part of the CAB and its members reflects the sense of responsibility and maturity of the broadcasting industry in regard to social issues of public concern.
From the Commission's perspective, this initiative also reflects a new stage in the fulfillment of one of the CRTC's primary objectives: the streamlining of the regulatory process and increased reliance on a supervisory approach and self-regulation. Increased reliance on self-regulation, however, does not imply that the Commission is relinquishing its responsibilities. Any interested party may, at any time, choose to approach the Commission directly. The Commission remains in a position to respond to such an approach.
In this context, the Commission endorses the principles and responsibilities of the Council contained in the CAB's 9 May l988 proposal and in the CAB's subsequent clarifications of 26 May, 4 and 21 July, 3 and 26 August, 2 and 13 September l988, subject to the comments and amendments below.
In the Introduction to its proposal, the CAB says the following:
To be fully effective, it [the Council] must administer all of the various voluntary standards and codes developed by the CAB, other than those respecting advertising already ably administered by the Canadian Advertising Foundation. If any are excluded, the force of the Council will be dissipated and the CAB would consider that this particular Council should not proceed and that a more modest mechanism should be contemplated.
In the section of the same document relating to "Sex-role Portrayal Standards", the CAB makes the following proposal:
Compliance with the CAB's industry codes on sex-role portrayal is currently being imposed by the CRTC as a condition of licence for radio and television licensees. The CAB has developed the CBSC to actively promote and administer adherence to these standards and CAB therefore requests that the CRTC remove this condition of licence, upon application of a licensee, when the following conditions are met:
a) the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council is legally established by the CAB;
b) all of the members of the National Executive and Regional Councils have been appointed;
c) the Secretary has been appointed;
d) three-quarters of the members of the CAB have voluntarily agreed to adhere to the Council;
e) all relevant codes have been printed and distributed;
f) PSAs, scripts, and publicity material have been distributed to all Member Stations and PSAs have been running on all stations for at least sixty days;
g) the initial sessions of each of the Regional Councils and the National Executive have been held;
h) the applicant agrees to adhere to the Council and voluntarily comply with its codes.
A majority of the Commission is prepared to accept this proposal subject to the following: if the proposed Canadian Broadcast Standards Council is established and operates effectively for a period of six months, then for licensees who have been members of the Council for at least six months and have been running public service announcements for that period of time, subject to the two paragraphs which follow, the Commission will be disposed to consider favourably applications to delete any condition of their licence in respect of the CAB's Code Regarding Sex-role Portrayal in Television Programming or that in respect of radio programming (as approved by the Commission).
To ensure that the Council itself has been operating efectively for at least six months, the Commission expects to receive a report from the Council in a format similar to the Council's proposed annual report in respect of the eight conditions identified in the preceeding paragraphs, after six months of operation.
Furthermore, an application to delete the condition of licence in question is likely to receive favourable consideration only if the broadcaster has submitted satisfactory reports to the Commission as required by Public Notice CRTC 1986-351.
Once the Council is established, the Commission considers that it would be desirable for the Council to admit as members, stations that are not members of the CAB. With respect to the development of new standards in the future, the Commission expects the CAB to adhere to the CRTC's Guide-lines for Developing Industry-Administered Standards in those circumstances in which the guidelines are intended to apply, as set out in Public Notice CRTC l988-l3.
Fernand Bélisle Secretary General

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