ARCHIVED -  Public Notice CRTC 1990-99

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Public Notice

Ottawa, 26 October 1990
Public Notice CRTC 1990-99

Industry Guidelines for Sex-Role Portrayal

Related documents: "Images of Women: Report of the Task Force on Sex-Role Stereotyping in the Broadcast Media" (l982), and Public Notices CRTC 1986-351 dated 22 December 1986 and 1987-225 dated 13 October 1987.


In 1979, the federal government published "Towards Equality for Women", a national action plan to promote the equality of women in Canadian society and eliminate discrimination. That September, the CRTC announced the formation of a Task Force on Sex-Role Stereotyping composed of members of the Commission and representatives of the public, the broadcasting and advertising industries. The mandate of the task force was to develop guidelines and policy recommendations to ensure a more positive and realistic portrayal of women in the broadcast media.
The report of the task force ("Images of Women", 1982) set out a list of concerns with respect to the representation and portrayal of women in Canadian radio and television programming, including commercial messages, and noted the undertakings made by the CBC, the Advertising Advisory Board (AAB) and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) in response to these concerns. It also made specific recommendations to each of these bodies and to the government, the CRTC and the public. Among the recommendations was a two-year trial period of industry self-regulation.
In 1979, the CBC had adopted a program policy with respect to the portrayal of women and developed language guidelines. Both the CAB and the AAB in 1982 developed guidelines on sex-role stereotyping for the guidance of their members.
In Public Notice CRTC 1986-351, the Commission announced its assessment of the effectiveness of self-regulation. While acknowledging that "considerable work [had] been done to sensitize and educate the industry and the public to the issue", the Commission concluded that self-regulation had been only partially successful. Both the CAB and the CBC were asked to review their sex-role stereotyping guidelines.
Radio and television licensees were put on notice that the Commission would require adherence to the CAB self-regulatory guidelines on sex-role stereotyping, as amended from time to time and approved by the Commission, as a condition of licence in decisions granting or renewing broadcasting licences.


The Commission noted that the public had expressed concern that the CAB's guidelines "did not address all the issues involved" and had commented on the vagueness and imprecision of the wording and terms used. The CAB was asked to submit revised guidelines to the Commission for its approval.
Revised guidelines were submitted to the Commission on 19 June 1987. In Public Notice CRTC 1987-225, the Commission invited public comment on the CAB's proposals for industry guidelines on sex-role portrayal in radio and television programming. The comments received in response were forwarded to the CAB, which was asked to make appropriate modifications. The CAB subsequently submitted several successive draft versions of proposed sex-role stereotyping guidelines for Commission approval. The version of the guidelines submitted in October 1990, within the "Sex-Role Portrayal Code in Radio and Television Programming" (see Appendix A), has been approved by the Commission.
In approving the CAB's revised guidelines, the Commission considers that the language is stronger, clearer and more concrete. Further, the headings provide much-needed clarity and greater ease of reference. The Commission is also satisfied with the use of the imperative "shall" and the elimination of phrases consisting of declarations of intent.
Further, the Commission notes that most of the concerns voiced in "Images of Women" and in response to Public Notice CRTC 1987-225 have been satisfied in the revised Guidelines. It is now clear that broadcasters are to exercise sensitivity to and awareness of sex-role stereotyping both in the production of domestic programs and in the acquisition of foreign material for broadcast. It is explicit that the Guidelines apply both to programs and to advertisements. Among other changes, the Guidelines acknowledge that the exploitation of children, women and men is not acceptable, and the demographic spectrum has been expanded to include civil status, race, sexual orientation, religion, socio-economic condition and recognition of the contributions of the mentally, physically and socially challenged.
The Commission will consider only the Guidelines themselves (including the Definitions) as being the CAB's guidelines on sex-role stereotyping to which adherence is required by condition of licence. Licensees should note that as of today's date, the revised Guidelines set out in "Sex-Role Portrayal Code for Television and Radio Programming" replace the "Private Broadcasting Voluntary Guidelines on Sex-Role Stereotyping" (the 1982 Code).
In assessing compliance, the Commission will wish to be satisfied that the spirit and intent of the Guidelines are being upheld. The Commission intends to consider and evaluate compliance within the dramatic or informational context in which sex-role portrayal is presented. The Commission considers that the sections of the CAB Code entitled Statement of Intent, General Principles, Interpretation, Code Application and Administration, as well as the paragraphs of "guidance" for each of the guidelines, to be information that will assist the public and broadcasters to understand the guidelines.
The Commission welcomes the CAB's suggestion that it intends to review the Code periodically to ensure that the Guidelines respond to public expectations, and expects that the CAB will carry out such periodic reviews and file future revisions with the Commission for its approval.


In 1987, the Canadian Advertising Foundation (CAF), which is responsible for administering the sex-role stereotyping guidelines developed for the advertising industry, developed revised guidelines in consultation with representatives of the public. These guidelines, which are not subject to CRTC approval, are administered through French and English Advisory Panels, with representation from advertisers, advertising agencies, the broadcast and print media and the public. The CAF reports regularly to the CRTC on complaints received with respect to commercials broadcast on radio and television. The guidelines apply both to Canadian-produced and to imported advertisements accepted for broadcast on Canadian radio and television stations. (Appendix B).


Given the scope and mandate of the CBC, the Commission has always considered that it should play a strong leadership role in all matters that relate to the industry, including self-regulation. For this reason, the Commission has imposed conditions of licence on all CBC television and radio networks and stations requiring them to adhere to the CBC's self-regulatory guidelines and, as a minimum, to the CAB's guidelines.
Having announced its approval of revised guidelines for the private sector, the Commission expects the CBC to review its internal policy statement on sex-role stereotyping. In order that amended guidelines may be in place prior to the filing of applications for the renewal of the CBC's network television and radio licences, the Commission expects that any revisions be filed for Commission approval no later than 29 March 1991.
Alain-F. Desfossés
Secretary General
  Appendix A The Canadian Association of Broadcasters, Sex-role Portrayal Code for Television and Radio Programming, September 1990. [Hard Copy Document]
  Appendix B Canadian Advertising Foundation, Sex-role Stereotyping Guidelines. [Hard Copy Document]
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