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Social Policy Issues > Anti-Violence > Letters to Parliament

Canada's Private Broadcasters Deal With Violence On Television

Letter to Members of Parliament


May 25, 2000

Dear MP,

You may be aware that one of your Parliamentary colleagues, Mr. Bernard Bigras (BQ, Rosemont), has recently brought forward a Private Member's Bill which deals with the important issue of violence on television.

Canada's private broadcasters share the concerns of the Honourable Member from Rosemont about violence in our society, and in particular, the exposure of young children to television programming containing portrayals of violence not suitable for them. That is why our industry has made this issue a priority for more than a dozen years.

The local television stations in your riding, national networks and specialty services that are members of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB), have led the way in creating strong industry codes, program ratings systems and on-screen icons, viewer advisories, a self-regulatory mechanism, and several award winning national public service campaigns focussing on violence and the toll it takes on our communities. Above and beyond these collective commitments, individual broadcasters also ensure that their programming meets the standards set by the community through internal advisory committees.

Over a decade ago, private broadcasters created the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC), a unique, independent self-regulatory organization that administers the CAB programming codes, including the Voluntary Code on Violence. The CRTC has recognized the initiative of the CAB and its members in establishing the CBSC and the Code on Violence as a reflection of “the sense of responsibility and maturity of the broadcasting industry in regard to social issues of public concern”.

The industry is currently mobilizing to implement program encoding that will work with the V-chip now being built into television sets which are just beginning to be sold in this country. This parental control technology will give Canadian families increased capability to select the types of programming which they wish to allow into their homes.

The result of all these diverse broadcasters initiatives is that over the past decade, Canada has been and continues to be at the forefront in addressing this important social concern, to the extent that non-broadcast material such as rental videos are also rated.

Canada's private broadcasters already have in place very severe restrictions on the portrayal of violence in children's programming, and the scheduling of programming containing scenes of violence intended for adult viewers. This regime has been in place for some time, works well, has been fully endorsed by the CRTC, and meets the requirements of freedom of speech under the Charter.

We think that our industry, working in cooperation with the CRTC and other industry stakeholders, has achieved the delicate balance of protecting our children, while at the same time maintaining creative freedom, with a system of checks and balances created by our Codes, the rating systems, the Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council and the work of AGVOT, the Action Group on Violence on Television.

Moreover, Canada is also recognized around the world for the superb quality of its non-violent programming for children, which has been produced and telecast with the strong support of private broadcasters, and for its ground-breaking work in the field of media literacy, developed by the Media Awareness Network, a non profit, web-based organization financially supported in part by private broadcasters.

There is no doubt that all elements of society have a role to play in protecting our children. Canada's private broadcasters have consistently demonstrated their commitment to make watching television a safe and enriching experience for our younger, most vulnerable viewers. We think our track record of achievement clearly demonstrates that Canada's broadcasters are world leaders in addressing the complex issue of the depiction of violence on television.

Enclosed you will find a background brief providing a quick overview of the history of our involvement with this issue. We would also be pleased to provide additional documentation, or arrange for personal briefings with our staff and industry experts, should you feel that would be useful. For further information please contact:

    Margot Patterson
    CAB Legal Counsel.
    Tel: 613-233-4035, ext. 314; Fax: 613-233-6961


Michael McCabe
President & CEO


    CAB members developed and launched the industry's first Code on the depiction of violence in television programming.
    Private broadcasters create the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council. The CBSC is a unique, independent self-regulatory organization that administers the CAB programming codes. The CBSC involves both the broadcast industry and public representatives, to deal with viewer concerns about programming standards.
    The CAB is founding member of the Action Group on Violence on Television (AGVOT), a pan-industry organization involving both public and private broadcasters, the cable industry, program producers and advertisers. There is no other organization like it in the world. AGVOT is charged with overseeing the development of a general statement of principle, creating industry codes and program classification systems.
    The CRTC approves the revised CAB's Voluntary Code on Violence in Television Programming. This Code is adopted as the de facto industry standard, and is made a condition of licence for all Canadian programming services by the CRTC. The revised code is recognized worldwide as the leading code on this issue.
    The Broadcast Standards Council finds in October that the telecast of a program The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers violates the children's provision of the CAB violence Code, triggering a CRTC national hearing on how Canada should address the issue of violence on television. The process results in the CRTC's Policy on Violence on Television, which calls for the development of program rating systems which will work with experimental V-chip technology.
    Private broadcasters undertake a national awareness campaign Speak Out Against Violence, donating over $10 million dollars in airtime to run PSAs dealing with violence in society. The campaign, is co-sponsored by Canadian Heritage, the Solicitor General, Health Canada, HRDC, and the Departments of Justice and National Defence.
    The CAB also launches a national “Community Action Program” with a Broadcasters National Idea Swap Handbook as the key tool.
    The CAB launches a second national campaign focussing on the issue of violence called Violence: You can make a difference. This campaign, with both PSAs and companion publications, focuses on violence against women and children, and the importance of media literacy. Again over $10 million dollars in airtime is donated.
    The Media Awareness Network is incorporated as a not-for-profit organization. An outgrowth of the CRTC's process on dealing with television violence, the web-based organization encourages critical thinking about media information, media entertainment and new communications technologies, and stimulates public debate about the power of the media in the lives of children and young people. Private broadcasters play a key role in funding the work of the Media Awareness Network.
    Private local stations and national networks participate in the largest field trial in the world of V-chip technology, and testing of the proposed ratings systems for English and French programs. The trial results in CRTC approval of a six level classification systems for English and French programming in the drama, children's reality-based, and feature film program genres.
    The industry proposes to use on-screen icons to advise viewers of program ratings until the V-chip technology becomes more robust and is incorporated into television sets. These icons began appearing on Canadian television screens that Fall.
    On behalf of the Canadian industry, AGVOT lobbies the US Federal Communications Commission to include the Canadian program ratings systems, in approving the technical specifications for the V-chip which are to be built into TV sets manufactured for the North American market.
    In January, AGVOT reports to the CRTC on the smooth roll-out of program classification, and the public acceptance of the on-screen rating icons. In mid-1999, the first television sets equipped with V-chip technology are manufactured.
    In April, AGVOT creates an Implementation Committee, to co-ordinate the introduction of program encoding by Canada's broadcasters, to work with V-chip technology.

For Additional Information:

The Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB)
Margot Patterson, Legal Counsel
Tel: (613) 233-4035 ext: 314; Fax: (613) 233-6961
The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC)
Ron Cohen, National Chair
Tel: (613) 233-4607; Fax: (613) 238-1734

The Action Group on Violence on Television
Al MacKay, Chair
Tel: (613) 799-3668; Fax: (613) 728-4265

Media Awareness Network
Jan D'Arcy, Co-Director
Tel: (613) 224-6892
Concerned Children's Advertisers
Cathy Loblaw, Managing Director
Tel: (416) 484-0871