Prairie TV stations aired violent promos too early - CBSC

Ottawa - The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) on Friday released two decisions (one decision concerning CKCK-TV and the other decision concerning CKY-TV) concerning the broadcast of promotional spots by CTV owned and operated station CKCK-TV (Regina) and affiliate station CKY-TV (Winnipeg).

The promo broadcast by both CKCK-TV and CKY-TV was for the CTV television series The Sopranos. The other broadcast by CKY-TV was for the feature film City Hall, a CTV movie-of-the-week and the other aired by CKCK-TV was an advertisement for the theatrical feature film The Watcher. All the promos were aired prior to the Watershed hour, 9 p.m. local time.

In the Sopranos promo, the audience saw Tony Soprano, the principal character, repeatedly punching a man already on the ground and then another unidentified person was seen being executed by gunshot. The Prairie Regional Panel considered the promo under the Voluntary Code regarding Violence in Television Programming. In the CKY-TV decision, the Panel concluded that the content of the promo (which was considered entirely separately from the content of the series) was suitable for adult audiences.

While, due to constraints of time, it is not as graphic or lengthy as in the actual program, the violence is unequivocally present and aggressive. The Panel has no hesitation in concluding that it is of the variety of violence that ought to play in a post-Watershed time frame.

Reaffirming this conclusion in CKCK-TV's broadcast of the same promo, the Panel also noted that "the rule is that, pre-Watershed, the promos must not be intended for adults; however, it is not required that they be so refined that they fall into the same more precise rating category as the show within which they are shown. That would constitute an impossibly difficult situation for the broadcaster traffic departments and is unnecessary, as long as the broader Watershed provisions are respected." Consequently, the Panel found that, by scheduling a program promo containing scenes of violence intended for adult audiences before 9 pm, both CKY-TV and CKCK-TV breached Article 3.2 of the Violence Code.

The advertisement for the film The Watcher included brief scenes invoking fear more than violence such as a close-up of a woman screaming for her life, another frightened woman hiding under a car and the same woman being yanked from under the car apparently about to be murdered. The promo for City Hall included a scene of a man about to be shot, a gun wrapped in a newspaper and an obscured dead body floating in a lake.

The Prairie Regional Panel also considered these promos/advertisements under the Violence Code. The Panel concluded that "the trailer [for The Watcher] contained no actual violence and very little material that could remotely be described as frightening" and that the promo for City Hall did not "contain any elements of violence which would relegate it exclusively to a post-Watershed viewing period. There are, in fact, no acts of violence in the promo although there are suggestions of violence". Consequently, the Panel concluded that neither station was in breach of the Violence Code with respect to the broadcast of these promotional/advertising spots.

Canada's private broadcasters have themselves created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, gender portrayal and television violence by which they expect the members of their profession will abide. In 1990, they also created the CBSC, which is the self-regulatory body with the responsibility of administering those professional broadcast Codes, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic practices first created by the Radio Television News Directors Association of Canada (RTNDA) in 1970. More than 430 radio and television stations and specialty services from across Canada are members of the Council.

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