OTTAWA - While it may seem obvious to many that something called the Ultimate Fighting Challenge may, in fact, contain violence, that doesn't preclude the broadcaster from airing warning advisories, especially when airing it before 9 p.m., the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council ruled last week.
A viewer complained that the content of the UFC, aired on TSN on May 26, 2003, at 8:00 p.m. was too violent for the time at which it was shown. While the national specialty services panel found no breach of Articles 3 (Scheduling) and 10 (Violence in Sport Programming) of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) Violence Code, it did find, however, that the failure to air viewer advisories breached Article 5 (Viewer Advisories).
The program depicted combatants fighting for the UFC championship in Mixed Martial Arts. Without any protective gear, the fighters beat on each other. Bleeding lips, noses and foreheads were shown and takes of the "hitting strategies" were repeated after each round. In its decision, the panel noted that the nature of the fighting is different from pro wrestling (i.e. no UFC competitor pulls their punches or paints their faces).
While broadcasters generally do not have to air advisories for sports where a fight or two can happen, such as hockey, nor for fistic sports such as boxing, "it does not mean that just any level of violent activity in any such pugilistic sport can be broadcast without the provision of the audience tools which the broadcast industry has put in place to enable viewers to make informed viewing choices," reads the decision.
The panel also explained that, even though the fighting breached no Code provisions, broadcasters were still required to comply with the other provisions of the Code and alert viewers as to possibly inappropriate content. Where, therefore, a certain level of violence is predictable given the nature of the sport, broadcasters will be expected to deal with this level of "predictable" violence in the same way as they would any other type of programming.
So, the panel found the level of violence of this sport is unsuitable for children and because it aired before the 9 p.m. watershed hour, "it follows that TSN's broadcast of Ultimate Fighting Challenge should have been accompanied by the appropriate viewer advisories, alerting audiences to the coming content so that they would be in a position to make informed viewing choices," says the decision.
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