VIOLENCE ON TELEVISION
Effective: November 16, 2007
1.0 POLICY STATEMENT
1.1 TFO recognizes the influence of television on viewers’ attitudes and behaviours. Aware of its responsibilities as a broadcaster of educational programming, TFO shares the public’s concerns about the impact of violence depictions on viewers, particularly children and youth.
1.2 For this reason, TFO is committed to ensuring that the depiction of violence remains an exception on its network and to doing everything possible to keep it to a minimum. The depiction of real or fictional violence is justified only when it is necessary to provide a complete and realistic account of certain events.
1.3 With respect to children, TFO is committed to producing and acquiring quality, non-violent programming that promotes social values and socially acceptable behaviour among children of all ages, for both educational and entertainment purposes.
1.4 In addition, TFO is committed to continuing to devote significant blocks of programming to the broadcasting of non-violent programs aimed at children, at times of the day when they constitute the majority of the audience and at times best suited to their age and needs.
1.5 TFO recognizes the cultural and social diversity of Ontario's population and agrees that responses to the portrayal of violence may vary according to cultural background, social environment, age, gender and sexual orientation. TFO accepts the results of research studies that consistently demonstrate that groups such as women, youth and seniors, and certain racial minorities are represented in television programming as being the groups most affected by violence.
1.6 For this reason, TFO will limit programming in which violence against these and other groups is portrayed. Where the depiction of violence against these groups is shown or is the subject of a program, TFO will ensure that such depiction is limited or is an essential component of the program.
1.7 TFO recognizes that violence can take many forms, including subtle forms of verbal or mental abuse. Children are particularly sensitive to any form of abuse, neglect, rejection and threats made to children in television programming. For this reason, TFO has adopted a definition of abuse that takes into account both physical and psychological aspects:
“Abuse is a violation of the physical, psychological or social well-being of a person or group. It can be obvious or subtle.” (Royal Commission on Violence in the Communications Industry, 1977).
1.8 In all matters relating to its programming, TFO complies with the 1991 Broadcasting Act and the 1987 Television Broadcasting Regulations.
i. Under the 1991 Broadcasting Act:
- the programming offered by broadcasting undertakings should be of high quality; (section 3(1)(g)).
- licensees of broadcasting undertakings assume responsibility for their programming; (section 3(1)(h)).
ii. According to the 1987 Television Broadcasting Regulations, Section 5 (1)
It is forbidden for the holder to broadcast:
a. anything that is contrary to law;
b. abusive comment or abusive pictorial representation that, when taken in context, tends to expose an individual or a group or class of individuals to hatred or contempt on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability;
c. any obscene or blasphemous language or image.
1.9 Like the CRTC and other broadcasters, TFO recognizes that violence on television is only a small part of a much larger problem of violence in society. TFO further recognizes that violence on television is a complex problem, compounded by issues of freedom of speech and censorship, as set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
2.0 PROGRAM STANDARDS AND GUIDELINES
Tolerance of violence differs according to moral and political views, personal experience and social behaviour, which itself varies over time and as society evolves. The emotional response to the portrayal of violence and its impact on viewers also varies and is difficult to assess. Given this sensitivity, TFO will ensure the following:
2.1 Any depiction of violence is justified by the context of the program.
2.2 Under no circumstances is the depiction of violence gratuitous or enhanced, and under no circumstances are violent events presented for sensationalism or without reason.
2.3 A reasonable balance shall be struck between the decision to air programming which may contain violence and the decision to take into consideration the sensitivity of viewers to the depiction of violence on television.
2.4 The portrayal of any violent scenes shall be an accurate reflection of reality and shall be within the context of the program, particularly in public affairs programming and documentaries.
2.5 The depiction of any real or fictional violence shall be treated with compassion and caution in selecting appropriate mediation guidelines, including program commentary.
Program Commentaries are products specifically designed to rebalance a point of view or add relevant content or information to a given program. TFO will continue to use this method to address sensitive issues surrounding violence that require public discussion and debate.
2.6 Clear viewer advisories are broadcast to alert viewers when a program contains violence. These advisories are broadcast at the beginning of the program (and, if necessary, at appropriate intervals during the program). They inform viewers that the program contains violence and call for discretion.
2.7 Programming containing violence is broadcast during adult viewing hours, generally after 9:00 pm (Eastern Time).
2.8 Family programming, suitable for the general public and which may include children, shall be scheduled immediately following blocks of children's programming.
2.9 The promotion of programs aired by TFO is consistent with the nature of the preceding and subsequent programs. TFO will avoid airing inappropriate promotional material intended for adults during children's programming blocks.
3.0 INTERNAL PROCEDURES
These procedures apply to all television programs broadcast by TFO, including in-house productions, co-productions, and acquisitions.
3.1 Treatment of Violent Content
3.1.1 Producers and purchasing managers:
a. are familiar with TFO and CRTC policies and guidelines and other relevant policies and directives regarding violence in television programming;
b. Notify their superiors as soon as possible of any violent content in programs and program excerpts, and propose appropriate strategies to deal with it;
c. ensure that any violent content in a given program is properly described in the offer and project description forms;
d. provide the Network, in a timely manner, with all appropriate information to ensure the proper allocation of violent programming, including the nature of the likely audience, relevant advisories and other factors to be taken into account in assigning a program.
3.1.2 Network Management and the Executive Producer:
a. keep abreast of TFO, CRTC and other relevant policies and directives regarding violence in television programming and ensure that producers and purchasing officials are informed;
b. Ensure that Legal Services is consulted if the depiction of violence may result in legal difficulties;
c. communicate operational decisions concerning the contextualization and broadcast of programming containing violence to the Executive Team;
d. ensure that Communications and Audience Relations are notified in a timely manner of any program containing violence that is scheduled for broadcast.
3.1.3 Final general decisions regarding the broadcast of programming containing violence, or regarding the context in which such programming will be aired, shall be made by Network Management.
3.1.4 The final interpretation of policy decisions rests with the Executive Director, acting on behalf of TFO's Board of Directors.
3.2 How to Respond to Viewer Complaints
TFO is responsible for all programming broadcast on its network and must be prepared to deal properly with complaints about all aspects of its programming decisions. All complaints receive a prompt response, but it is impossible to treat complaints made by telephone in the same way as complaints made in writing.
3.2.1 Procedure for responding to complaints by telephone
a. Audience Relations is generally the first department to take calls addressed to TFO. Based on the information they receive from Communications, the Network, producers and purchasing officials, Audience Relations agents strive to respond to complaints by telephone in a satisfactory manner. If this is not sufficient to satisfy the caller, steps are taken to transfer the call to the appropriate department.
b. If the complainant is not satisfied with the oral explanation provided by TFO staff, he or she is asked to address the complaint in writing. If the person has real difficulties in writing (language, illiteracy, disability), other arrangements are made to receive the complaint.
3.2.2 Procedure for written complaints
a. Written complaints from the public addressed to the programming department or forwarded to the department by the Audience Relations Officers receive a direct response from the same department. Network Management, the Executive Producer or the Producer (as the case may be) will respond in writing, within a reasonable period of time.
b. The following types of complaints are forwarded immediately to Network Management for follow-up. The Executive Team office is notified for:
- complaints made by or about a member of the provincial government, the federal parliament or the CRTC;
- complaints from or about a leader or group related to a community, religious or business community;
- complaints involving serious charges that require investigation;
- complaints concerning the interpretation of this policy.
It should be noted that all responses to the CRTC must be filed within 10 working days of receipt of the complaint and signed by the Executive Team.
c. The Executive Team and Network Management are notified of letters threatening TFO with legal action and work together to resolve these complaints.
d. When it is deemed necessary to take corrective action on air, the decision rests with Network Management, which also decides on the form of the response.
e. The Executive Team receives copies of all complaints and responses, and keeps these copies on file.