ARCHIVED -  Public Notice CRTC 1996-134

This page has been archived on the Web

Information identified as archived on the Web is for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. Archived Decisions, Notices and Orders (DNOs) remain in effect except to the extent they are amended or reversed by the Commission, a court, or the government. The text of archived information has not been altered or updated after the date of archiving. Changes to DNOs are published as “dashes” to the original DNO number. Web pages that are archived on the Web are not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards. As per the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, you can request alternate formats by contacting us.

Public Notice

Ottawa, 4 October 1996
Public Notice CRTC 1996-134
Revised Timetable for the Implementation of the Television Program Classification System and V-chip Technology
On 14 March 1996, the Commission released Public Notice CRTC 1996-36 (the Public Notice) which outlined its policy on violence in television programming. This policy was based on a co-operative approach which brought together industry players and other interested parties to develop and implement strategies to protect children from the harmful effects of television violence.
In the Public Notice, the Commission set out the following timetable respecting the provision of program classification and V-chip technology to viewers.
As of September 1996:
·  licensees of programming undertakings would be responsible for encoding a rating for violence in the programs they broadcast, using a system that is compatible with V-chip technology,
·  distribution undertakings would be responsible for making V-chip devices available to subscribers at an affordable cost.
As of September 1996, and no later than January 1997, licensees of distribution undertakings would also be responsible for ensuring that the programming of non-Canadian services distributed on their systems is encoded with a violence rating that may be read by V-chip technology.
The Commission also designated the Action Group on Violence on Television (AGVOT) to develop an acceptable classification system for television programming and to submit it to the Commission for approval, prior to the September 1996 implementation date. AGVOT was further directed to include input from the public, programmers and distributors in the development of such a system.
On 31 July 1996, the Commission received a letter from AGVOT outlining its progress towards developing the program classification system and the V-chip technology. In its letter, AGVOT requested an extension to the implementation dates set out in the Public Notice.
On 6 September 1996, at the Commission's direction, AGVOT submitted a detailed report containing further information on the work it had done and the work still to be completed in order for a classification system and the V-chip to be successfully introduced. In this regard, AGVOT stated:
 The introduction of a classification system and the V-chip, without resolving the issues detailed in this report, will irreparably damage consumer acceptance of the technology. It would be a signal failure for the industry and the Commission.
AGVOT's letters have been placed on the public file in the Commission's offices.
AGVOT's report cited four major issues that must be dealt with before the parental-control system, as announced in the Public Notice, can be implemented:
1)  Technical Issues
AGVOT  identified a number of technical issues, including the following:
·  While the Commission encouraged the development of a single classification system for all television broadcasters, the Public Notice noted the recommendations of AGVOT and pay television licensees that French-language broadcasters be permitted to continue to use the classification system of the Régie du cinéma. Some parties recommended that pay television and pay-per-view licensees also be permitted to continue using the provincial rating systems used for feature films. AGVOT stated that, since the development of a single classification system has not occurred, the V-chip must be capable of handling multiple rating systems in both official languages. AGVOT noted that this requirement has caused delays in the design of the V-chip.
·  The Electronic Industries Association (EIA), which develops technical standards in the United States, has been working on a standard for television and has decided that the V-chip encoding information must be inserted in field 2 of line 21 of the Vertical Blanking Interval (VBI). AGVOT submitted that this change from the standard that had been used in past V-chip tests requires that new encoding and decoding equipment be designed and manufactured. Since most television sets sold in Canada in the future will use the EIA standard, AGVOT considers it appropriate that the system developed in Canada be compatible with this standard.
2)  Field Trials
 AGVOT stated that V-chip field trials conducted in the past have used only one rating system, and have inserted the rating codes in field 1 of the VBI, instead of field 2. AGVOT, therefore, intends to conduct an additional V-chip trial so that the new changes to the V-chip can be tested. This new trial will involve a much larger number of households than in the past and will enable AGVOT to assess consumer response to its proposed classification system.
3)  Consultations
 AGVOT stated in its report that it will consult with various organizations, including public interest groups, concerning its proposed classification system. It also intends to conduct a national public opinion survey to test the acceptability of the chosen levels and symbols of the proposed classification system.
4)  U.S. Classification System
 AGVOT stated that its goal is compatibility between the Canadian and U.S. classification systems. In this regard, AGVOT reported that it is in regular contact with the American Implementation Committee, which is working on the design of a U.S. classification system. AGVOT also advised that the two organizations are keeping each other informed of their mutual progress.
AGVOT stated that the American Implementation Committee is expected to release its classification system in February 1997.
In view of the steps that must be taken to ensure the successful implementation of a system providing tools for parents, AGVOT outlined the following timetable of commitments on behalf of the broadcasting and cable industries:
·  An extensive trial of the proposed classification system and improved V-chip technology will begin by January 1997;
·  AGVOT will submit its proposed classification system to the Commission by no later than 30 April 1997; and
 Canadian programming services will begin classifying and encoding their programming by the September 1997 fall program launch.
The Commission acknowledges the commitments made by AGVOT in its report. The Commission requires AGVOT to submit a proposed classification system, by 30 April 1997, for its approval. The Commission also requests AGVOT to file a copy of its preliminary classification system for the Commission's information by 31 December 1996.
AGVOT's report states that, once its proposed classification system has been approved by the Commission, it would take between 12 and 16 weeks for the design, construction and distribution of the V-chip set-top boxes to consumers. The Commission would, therefore, strongly expect distribution undertakings to deploy the V-chip devices by 30 September 1997.
With regard to the encoding of ratings on programming aired by non-Canadian services, it is clear that distribution undertakings will not be able to meet the original target date of January 1997, due to the matters discussed above. However, because February 1997 is the statutory deadline for any voluntary classification system to be developed in the U.S., distributors will soon have the opportunity to determine how they will ensure that programming on non-Canadian signals is encoded with violence ratings. Accordingly, the Commission expects classification of programming aired on non-Canadian signals distributed in Canada to be implemented by no later than 30 September 1997, also in time for the fall launch.
The Commission is committed to the implementation of a system that will provide parents with the tools they need to make appropriate programming choices for themselves and their families. It is vital, however, that the system put in place is one that is user-friendly and accepted by consumers. In allowing a reasonable time for resolving those issues discussed above, and by continuing with a productive and co-operative approach, the Commission is confident that the resulting system will be one that works successfully and will be readily accepted by television viewers. This system, once implemented, will serve as another important step towards the protection of children from the harmful effects of television violence.
Allan J. Darling
Secretary General

Date modified: