ARCHIVED -  Public Notice CRTC 1993-149

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Public Notice

  Ottawa, 28 October 1993
  Public Notice CRTC 1993-149

Voluntary Code Regarding Violence in Television Programming

  In October 1993, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) submitted revisions to its Voluntary Code Regarding Violence in Television Programming (the Code). The revisions follow more than a year of intense discussions generated by growing concern about the phenomenon of violence in society. While television is not the only medium that presents graphic representations of violence (video games, movies, magazines and newspapers all contribute), concerns regarding the portrayal of violence on television have led to an examination, both in Canada and abroad, of the various options for dealing with this difficult problem.
  In September 1993, the Action Group on Violence on Television (the Action Group), an organization representing all components of the Canadian broadcasting industry, set out a six-point statement of principles, establishing the basic standards for the depiction of violence in television programming. These standards include a prohibition against the depiction of gratuitous violence; the responsibility that broadcasters have, in scheduling programs, to be sensitive to the concerns for children; and a commitment to provide viewers with adequate information about the subject matter of programs offered. These principles, as adopted by the CAB, are contained in Section III of the Association's Code, which is attached as Appendix A to this notice.
  The Action Group also announced that it has established a number of sub-committees to develop a classification system, as well as to initiate educational programs and maintain liaison with parent and teacher groups.

The Commission's Response

  The Commission acknowledges the valuable initiatives of the Action Group. It also recognizes the considerable efforts of the CAB, on behalf of private television licensees, to develop responsible guidelines in consultation with representatives of public interest groups. The list of the groups consulted during this process is attached as appendix B to this notice.
  The Commission is generally satisfied that the CAB's revised Code achieves the appropriate balance between preserving freedom of expression and protecting the viewing public, especially children, from the harmful effects of television violence.
  The Commission notes in particular the CAB's commitment that Canadian private broadcasters will not air programming that contains gratuitous violence in any form; or sanctions, promotes or glamorizes violence.
  Other improvements made by the CAB to its Code include:
  * the use of clear, concise and directive language;
  * the establishment of specific guidelines for children's programming;
  * the identification of specific hours during which programming containing scenes of violence intended for adult audiences may be broadcast.
  The Commission's acceptance of the Code, however, is conditional upon the inclusion of a satisfactory system of program classification. Once the Action Group has developed a classification system that is acceptable to the Commission, the Commission will expect the CAB to incorporate the system into the Code and to make any revisions that may be necessary. In this regard, the Commission draws the CAB's attention to the possibility that revisions may be required to Section 3 of the Code, where reference is made to a 9:00 p.m. watershed hour before which programming portraying scenes of violence intended for adult audiences must not be aired.
  In light of growing societal concerns about destructive adolescent behaviour (including, among other things, drug abuse and street crime), the Commission also expects the classification system developed by the Action Group to address the classification and scheduling of programming aired at times when this group (those 12 to 17 years of age) is likely to be viewing television.
  Once a satisfactory classification system has been approved by the Action Group, the Commission will publish it for comment by all interested parties.
  The Commission is pleased that the Code establishes clear guidelines for the depiction of violence in children's programming that take into account the particular vulnerability of young viewers. These guidelines include the following stipulations:
  * animated programming targeted to children shall not invite dangerous imitation;
  * violence will not be shown as a preferred way of solving problems;
  * the consequences of violence will be portrayed;
  * violence will not be the central theme in animated programs.
  The Commission notes the references in the Code to "realistic scenes of violence", and recognizes that, while most animated fairy tales, fables, and cartoons of slapstick humour do not contain realistic scenes of violence, a number of action cartoons do portray such scenes. Studies indicate that such scenes may alter the emotional reactions of some children to violence, and could result in such effects as desensitization and increased tendencies towards agressive behaviour. Consequently, the Commission expects broadcasters to be guided by Section 2 of the Code, and to bear these concerns in mind when acquiring or producing animated programs for children.

Implementation of the Code's Requirements

  As proposed by the CAB, the Commission will expect the licensees of all privately-owned conventional television stations and networks to be operating in compliance with the provisions of the Code by no later than 1 January 1994. At the time of licence renewal or upon issuance of new licences, the Commission intends to require such compliance as a condition of licence.
  Upon application, the Commission would be prepared to suspend this condition of licence for broadcasters who are members in good standing of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (the Council) which will be overseeing the application of the Code. For the purposes of assessing compliance, the Commission will have regard to Section III only of the Code found in Appendix A of this notice.
  The Commission wishes to emphasize that, by sanctioning industry self-regulation with respect to the portrayal of violence on television, it is not relinquishing its responsibility or authority in this area. According to its usual practice, the CRTC will monitor closely the resolution of complaints about television violence, and reminds the public that any interested party not satisfied with a Council decision may ask the CRTC to examine its complaint.
  Allan J. Darling
Secretary General

Appendix A - Voluntary Code Regarding Violence in Television Programming

  III - The Code
  1.1 Canadian broadcasters shall not air programming which:
  contains gratuitous violence in any form* sanctions, promotes or glamorizes violence
  (*"Gratuitous" means material which does not play an integral role in developing the plot, character or theme of the material as a whole).
  (Children refers to persons under 12 years of age)
  2.1 As provided below, programming for children requires particular caution in the depiction of violence; very little violence, either physical, verbal or emotional shall be portrayed in children's programming.
  2.2 In children's programming portrayed by real-life characters, violence shall only be portrayed when it is essential to the development of character and plot.
  2.3 Animated programming for children, while accepted as a stylized form of storytelling which can contain non-realistic violence, shall not have violence as its central theme, and shall not invite dangerous imitation.
  2.4 Programming for children shall deal carefully with themes which could threaten their sense of security, when portraying, for example; domestic conflict, the death of parents or close relatives, or the death or injury of their pets, street crime or the use of drugs.
  2.5 Programming for children shall deal carefully with themes which could invite children to imitate acts which they see on screen, such as the use of plastic bags as toys, use of matches, the use of dangerous household products as playthings, or dangerous physical acts such as climbing apartment balconies or rooftops.
  2.6 Programming for children shall not contain realistic scenes of violence which create the impression that violence is the preferred way, or the only method to resolve conflict between individuals.
  2.7 Programming for children shall not contain realistic scenes of violence which minimize or gloss over the effects of violent acts. Any realistic depictions of violence shall portray, in human terms, the consequences of that violence to its victims and its perpetrators.
  2.8 Programming for children shall not contain frightening or otherwise excessive special effects not required by the storyline.
  3.1 Programming
  3.1.1 Programming which contains scenes of violence intended for adult audiences shall not be telecast before the late evening viewing period, defined as 9 pm to 6 am.
  3.1.2 Accepting that there are older children watching television after 9 pm, broadcasters shall adhere to the provisions of article 5.1 below (viewer advisories), enabling parents to make an informed decision as to the suitability of the programming for their family members.
  3.1.3 In order to provide viewers with the benefit of Canadian program classification and viewer advisories not available on foreign distant signals, broadcasters who have CRTC-permitted substitution rights over programming which is imported into their markets before the late evening viewing period, may employ substitution, notwithstanding article 3.1.1.
  3.1.4 Broadcasters shall exercise discretion in employing substitution in accordance with article 3.1.3 and shall at no time avail themselves of substitution rights over programming which contains gratuitous violence in any form or which sanctions, promotes or glamourizes violence.
  3.1.5 Broadcasters shall take special precautions to advise viewers of the content of programming intended for adult audiences which is telecast before 9 pm in accordance with article 3.1.3.
  (Note: To accommodate the reality of time zone differences, and Canadian distant signal importation, these guidelines shall be applied to the time zone in which the signal originates.)
  3.2 Promotional material which contains scenes of violence intended for adult audiences shall not be telecast before 9 pm.
  3.3 Advertisements which contain scenes of violence intended for adult audiences, such as those for theatrically presented feature films, shall not be telecast before 9 pm.
  4.1 Canadian broadcasters are in the process of co-operatively developing with other segments of the industry, a viewer-friendly classification system, which will provide guidelines on content and the intended audience for programming.
  Once complete, the classification system shall complement this Voluntary Code. As it is recognized that a classification system will have a bearing on program scheduling, the provisions of article 3.0 above shall be reviewed at that time.
  5.1 To assist consumers in making their viewing choices, broadcasters shall provide a viewer advisory, at the beginning of, and during the first hour of programming telecast in late evening hours which contains scenes of violence intended for adult audiences.
  5.2 Broadcasters shall provide a viewer advisory at the beginning of, and during programming telecast outside of late evening hours, which contains scenes of violence not suitable for children.
  5.3 Suggested language for suitable viewer advisories is outlined in Appendix A
  6.1 Broadcasters shall use appropriate editorial judgment in the reporting of, and the pictorial representation of violence, aggression or destruction within their news and public affairs programming.
  6.2 Caution shall be used in the selection of, and repetition of, video which depicts violence.
  6.3 Broadcasters shall advise viewers in advance of showing scenes of extra-ordinary violence, or graphic reporting on delicate subject matter such as sexual assault or court action related to sexual crimes, particularly during afternoon or early evening newscasts and updates when children could be viewing.
  6.4 Broadcasters shall employ discretion in the use of explicit or graphic language related to stories of destruction, accidents or sexual violence, which could disturb children and their families.
  6.5 Broadcasters shall exercise particular judgment during live coverage of domestic terrorist events or civil disorders, to ensure news coverage does not become a factor in inciting additional violence.
  6.6 While broadcasters shall not exaggerate or exploit situations of aggression, conflict or confrontation, equal care shall be taken not to sanitize the reality of the human condition.
  6.7 Broadcasters shall refer to The Code of Ethics of the Radio-Television News Directors Association of Canada (RTNDA) for guidance regarding broadcast journalism in general.
  7.1 Broadcasters shall not telecast programming which sanctions, promotes or glamorizes any aspect of violence against women.
  7.2 Broadcasters shall ensure that women are not depicted as victims of violence unless the violence is integral to the story being told. Broadcasters shall be particularly sensitive not to perpetuate the link between women in a sexual context and women as victims of violence.
  7.3 Broadcasters shall refer to the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' code on Sex Role Portrayal for guidance regarding the portrayal of women in general.
  8.1 Broadcasters shall not telecast programming which sanctions, promotes or glamorizes violence based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, or mental or physical disability
  9.1 Broadcasters shall not telecast programming which sanctions, promotes or glamorizes violence against animals.
  9.2 Broadcasters shall not be restricted in the telecast of legally sanctioned activities associated with animals. In such telecasts, judgment shall be used in the selection of video and associated audio, particularly if the telecast is broadcast outside of late evening hours.
  10.1 Broadcasters shall not promote or exploit violent action which is outside the sanctioned activity of the sport in question.
  10.2 In sports programming which involves animals, broadcasters shall refer to Section 9.0 of this Voluntary Code.
  Appendix B - Groups consulted in Code creation
  During the development of this code, the CAB consulted broadly with its member networks and stations and invited comments from the following groups:
  The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council
The Canadian Film and Television Production Association
JLL Broadcast Group
Department of Communications
Owl Centre for Children's Film and Television Radio and Television News Directors Association CBC
The Alliance for Children and Television (formerly the Children's Broadcast Institute) Toronto Women in Film and Television
Canadian Women in Radio and Television
Canadians Concerned About Violence in Entertainment Animal Alliance of Canada
CBC Newsworld
YTV Canada Inc.
The Family Channel Inc.
First Choice Canadian Communications Corporation SUPER CHANNEL (Allarcom PAY Television Limited) Canadian Cable Television Association
Météomédia Inc./The Weather Network
Association nationale des téléspectateurs
Groupe de recherche sur les jeunes et les médias
Pour la coalition contre la violence dans les émissions pour enfants
Conseil du statut de la femme
Canal Famille
Premier Choix: TVEC Inc. (Super Écran et le Canal Famille)
Télé-Métropole Inc.
  In addition, a number of meetings took place with senior staff and Commissioners of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.
  Date modified: 1993-10-28
Date modified: