Showcase aired film with foul language too early - CBSC

Ottawa, The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the broadcast of the Canadian film Destiny to Order on February 20, 2001 at 2:00 pm EST on the specialty service Showcase Television.

The feature film follows the life of a fictional crime novelist who is writing a work about a motorcycle gang. As the film evolves, the novelist's characters come to life and attempt to gain control of the plot. The movie contains numerous utterances of very coarse language throughout. It also features violent scenes, such as that in which the villain is supposedly killed by strangulation with a coat hanger and the final "showdown" scene in which the two main characters are shot. Because of the fantasy nature of the film structure, characters are not restricted by their own mortality and thus reappear later in the film unscathed.

The Panel determined that such extreme coarse language (the specific examples can be found in the decision text) was inappropriate for a pre-Watershed (i.e. 9:00 pm) time-slot. With respect to the violence, the Panel concluded that the scenes were relevant to the film's plot, but were too graphic and explicit to be shown at 2:00 pm. The Panel also made the following comments regarding the fantasy elements of the story:

[I]n light of the fact that the movie was broadcast in a pre-Watershed time slot, the Panel was concerned about the fantasy aspect of the film, namely, the revitalization of apparently murdered characters, who reappear alive and unscathed. The viewer is offered no real explanation for these resurrections. Thus, in addition to the nature of the violent depictions, the Panel considered that, while adult viewers could reasonably be expected to understand the irony of the fantasy, the depiction of violence without consequences was problematic for broadcast at a time which was not merely pre-Watershed but at an early enough hour that children could be expected to be watching.

The result was that the National Specialty Services Panel concluded that the coarse language and violent scenes constituted material intended for adult audiences, with the consequence that the film should not have aired before 9:00 pm and that Showcase Television was in breach of Article 3 of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' (CAB) Voluntary Code Regarding Violence in Television Programming which outlines this scheduling requirement.

Canada's private broadcasters established 9:00 pm as the "Watershed" hour before which no programming containing scenes intended for adult audiences may be telecast.

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 500 radio and television stations and specialty services from across Canada are members of the Council.

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