An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts)

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.

This bill was previously introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Bernard Bigras  Bloc

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of April 25, 2007
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Broadcasting Act to grant the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission the power to make regulations respecting the broadcasting of violent scenes.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

April 25, 2007 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

April 19th, 2007 / 9:05 a.m.
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Ronald Cohen National Chair, Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Chair and honourable members of the committee, good morning. Thank you for the invitation to appear before you today.

As the chair said, my name is Ronald Cohen, and I'm the national chair. With me are John MacNab, CBSC's executive director; Teisha Gaylard, our director of policy; and Burhaan Warsame, the manager of the CBSC's ethnocultural outreach project.

While we appreciate the invitation to appear before you, we are acutely aware of the fact that the CBSC's role is in the area of private broadcasting, and of course your investigation focuses on the role of the public broadcaster. Our members are Canada's 609 private broadcasters, covering conventional television, specialty services, AM and FM radio, and satellite radio—effectively about 95% of the commercial private broadcasters who are eligible to join the council.

Although it does not fall within our mandate to comment directly on issues involving public broadcasters, what the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council does is so unique and central to the Canadian broadcasting system that you may find elements of what we accomplish at least indirectly worthy of consideration in your deliberations.

There are two major aspects of our work that are unique—and, you may conclude, worthy of replication in the public broadcasting area. The first is the breadth of public concerns to which we are responsive, and the second is the extent of our outreach into all Canadian communities.

The council's mandate is to oversee the administration of the Canadian private broadcaster codes. These currently include the CAB Sex Role Portrayal Code and the CAB Violence Code (both of which are imposed by the CRTC as conditions of licence for Canadian broadcasters), the CAB Code of Ethics and the Radio and Television News Directors Association of Canada (RTNDA) Code of (Journalistic) Ethics.

I should add that last week the CRTC issued a public notice calling for comment on a new CBSC code, the journalistic independence code. It will also be administered by the CBSC and be a CRTC condition of licence on Canadian broadcasters with ownership interests in both print and broadcast areas.

There is also another code, the equitable portrayal code, in the offing. In due course, it will extend to all communities the benefits hitherto available on the basis of gender alone, under the terms of the sex role portrayal code for television and radio programming. It should be the subject of another CRTC public notice this year.

It is essential to note that the codified standards reflect Canadian values. The enforcement tools are also Canadian—that is to say, effective without being heavy-handed, and industry-driven rather than government-driven.

This is particularly pertinent as we have watched the unravelling of the Don Imus debacle in the United States in the past couple of weeks. The concerns of the American regulatory system are limited to nudity and coarse language—not violence on television, human rights, portrayal issues, nor respect for the dignity of individuals on the basis of their race, ethnic origin, colour, sexual orientation, religion, and so on. Those are Canadian values and central to our standards and enforcement system. Canada does not depend on advertisers to force program change on an ad hoc basis as in the United States. We have rules that broadcasters willingly accept.

In the exercise of our mandate the CBSC has since 1991 received complaints from tens of thousands of Canadians about all forms of programming, whether in the news and public affairs area, drama, comedy, talk radio or television, reality programming, entertainment, news magazine shows, feature films, children's programming, and so on.

The CBSC has quite a comprehensive knowledge about the subjects of complaint. Moreover, it receives the expression of those concerns directly and indirectly. Even those which are initially sent to the CRTC are, with rare exception, forwarded to the CBSC for resolution. We deal with approximately 2,000 complaints every year from Canadians who are unhappy about something they have seen or heard on the airwaves.

I should add parenthetically that a number of these complaints concern the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Ironically, since the CBC does not have an equivalent system of our own, we forward these to the CRTC to deal with.

In fact, having just mentioned the subject of children's programming on the one hand and audience complaints about many subjects on the other, I note that tomorrow you will be debating a private member's bill on the subject of violence in the media, Bill C-327, proposed by the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.

You should be aware, first of all, that as a percentage of complaints, those relating to violence on television have been steadily declining, by a huge margin, namely, 37%, between 2001 and 2006. Moreover, the Bigras bill's proposals would add nothing to the panoply of tools we have to deal with the subject, since issues relating to violence on television are already thoroughly covered by the combination of the CAB Violence Code and the CAB Code of Ethics, and rigorously enforced by the self-regulatory system solidly entrenched in the Canadian broadcasting system.

We already have a watershed hour that is not limited to violence intended for adults. It restricts violence, to be sure, and all forms of adult content to the post-9 p.m. period. We already have provisions for ratings and viewer advisories that apply well beyond the violence-on-television area.

Also, we already have the most detailed provisions to protect children from inappropriate television programming that you can find anywhere in the world. If passed, Bill C-327 would deliver less to the Canadian public than we already have.

Our process encourages the resolution of complaints by meaningful broadcaster dialogue with the complainants. When this does not lead to complainant satisfaction, the CBSC rules on those complaints via adjudicating panels made up of equal numbers of public and industry adjudicators. There are five regional panels, dealing with the Atlantic region, Quebec, Ontario, the Prairies, and British Columbia. There are also two national panels, one of which deals with conventional television and the other with speciality services.

Biographies of every public and industry adjudicator are available on the CBSC website. They include former members of Parliament, cabinet ministers, a lieutenant governor, a provincial premier, CRTC commissioners, and Canadians of many walks of life who have manifested their concern about the public good.

The private broadcasters' self-regulatory process is predicated on full disclosure and the publicity of all formal CBSC decisions, whether rendered for or against broadcasters. Consequently, the press release announcing every decision is forwarded to the print media, broadcasters, and any person in Canada or elsewhere in the world wishing to be on the recipient list. The nearly 400 decisions rendered since 1991 are posted on our website with their full written reasons. They form an extensive and thorough body of jurisprudence, dealing with and defining for the future the widest possible range of content issues.

We deal with all forms of content in all kinds of radio and television programming, period. We also do this in an independent, arm's-length fashion, with considerable public involvement in our deliberations and decisions.

With the exception of the CBC's ombudsmen, who work in the narrower area of news and public affairs, Canada's public broadcasters have no equivalent process.

The council is also proud that it reaches out into all corners of Canada's great multicultural environment, by informing citizens of Canada's broadcast standards and the self-regulatory system in English, French, and forty other languages, both in print and on this CBSC website.

Two sets of all of these foreign language versions of the brochure have been deposited with the clerk. We would certainly be delighted to provide any of you with a set, and/or any individual language of interest to you or indeed to your constituents.

I should have added earlier that our adjudicating panels reflect that diversity as well. It is also worth noting that 13.9 million Canadians—not out of the last census, the result of which are just available, but from a couple of years ago—speak one or more of the forty languages. There are programs broadcast in all of these languages in Canada.

May I clarify that the forty languages of comfort reflect Canada's Latin American hemispheric communities; Canada's indigenous communities, in Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun, Cree, Ojibwa and Mohawk; Canada's eastern and western European communities; Canada's African communities; Canada's Near and Far Eastern communities; and Canada's South Asian communities, in Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Gujarati, Bengali, Tamil, and Sinhala.

The CBSC works very hard to ensure that the results of its decisions are known to all who are affected by them. Its volunteer adjudicators, on both the public and industry side, are dedicated to the emergence of a set of principles that will fairly circumscribe public expectations. It is a mark of the thoughtfulness and impartiality of the adjudicators, both public and industry, that all but five of 398 decisions have been rendered unanimously, whether for or against broadcasters.

It is a mark of the success of the Canadian private broadcasters' self-regulatory system that it does not require the huge financial penalties of the American regulatory process in order to work.

The system works because the private broadcasters have committed themselves to the process. They created it; they support it financially. More importantly, they support it morally. After all, they live in the communities in which they broadcast. They want us to deal with all substantive public concerns about content, not just some of them. They also want us to tell all Canadians, in their languages of comfort, how to assess the self-regulatory process. It makes good sense, good Canadian sense. It's good for every corner of the Canadian broadcasting system.

Thank you for your attention. We are now available to answer your questions.

Bill C-327—Broadcasting Act—Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

February 23rd, 2007 / 12:05 p.m.
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Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

On January 30, 2007, just prior to debate on Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts), a point of order was raised by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons to the effect that this bill required a royal recommendation.

The sponsor of the bill, the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, and the hon. member for Mississauga South also made interventions arguing that this bill did not infringe on the financial initiative of the Crown.

The Chair thanks the hon. members for having addressed this matter at an early opportunity so that a ruling could be delivered before the question is put at second reading.

In his submission, the Parliamentary Secretary argued that clauses 1 and 2 of the bill were adding a new purpose to the Broadcasting Act.

These provisions would give new powers to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to regulate violence on television, verify broadcasters’ compliance, issue annual reports, and undertake a five-year review including the holding of public consultations. These activities, it was argued, were new responsibilities that would clearly require spending.

Citing rulings delivered on February 8, 2005, May 9, 2005, and September 19, 2006, the parliamentary secretary stated that these precedents express the principle that a royal recommendation is required when a bill proposes significant change in the mandate of a public body that entails spending.

In short, the parliamentary secretary made the point that a royal recommendation is required when legislative action seeks an authorization for new spending for a distinct purpose.

In the case of Bill C-327, the question is whether the power to make regulations respecting the broadcasting of violent scenes constitutes spending by the CRTC for a new and distinct purpose.

First, I would like to point out that, as a rule, a power to make regulations given to the government in an act of Parliament is not an authorization either for new spending or for an appropriation. It is simply a statutory power to make regulations.

On the issue of determining if there is a new and distinct purpose contained in Bill C-327, the Chair notes that section 5 of the Broadcasting Act provides that the CRTC

--shall regulate and supervise all aspects of the Canadian broadcasting system with a view to implementing the broadcasting policy set out in subsection 3(1)....

Subsection 3(1) of the act specifies that

(d) the Canadian broadcasting system should

(i) serve to safeguard, enrich and strengthen the cultural, political, social and economic fabric of Canada, [and]

(ii) encourage the development of Canadian expression by providing a wide range of programming that reflects Canadian attitudes, opinions, ideas, values and artistic creativity....

It seems to the Chair that the provisions being contemplated in C-327 would not authorize spending for a new and distinct purpose. As the Broadcasting Act indicates, the CRTC presently has the authority to regulate programming to safeguard social values, a part of the CRTC mandate into which new regulations to reduce violence in the programming offered to the public would appear to fall. The Chair is of the view that as a whole, Bill C-327 proposes activities which are already being performed by the CRTC within its existing mandate, that is to say: the making of regulations, the conducting of reviews, the holding of public consultations and the reporting to Parliament on the broadcasting industry.

Bill C-327 may or may not result in a greater workload for the CRTC, but the activities being proposed are within its mandate. If additional staff or resources are required to perform these activities then they would be brought forward in a separate appropriation bill for Parliament’s consideration.

In summary, Bill C-327 in its current form can continue through the legislative process without a royal recommendation.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

January 30th, 2007 / 6:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the federal government I would like to thank the member of Parliament for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for his ongoing efforts to reduce violence on television.

The government understands the strong feelings expressed by those opposed to violence on television, especially where children are concerned. The government shares the concerns of parents, teachers and all stakeholders with respect to violence in our society.

Before considering amendments to the current act, I believe it is important to look at the system already in place. The current approach to violence on television protects television viewers, especially children, from the impact of violence. This approach has made it possible to adopt a strategy of cooperation and industry self-regulation, with the support of the CRTC and under its supervision.

As we know, the Broadcasting Act states that broadcasting licensees take full responsibility for the programs they broadcast and that this programming must be of a high standard.

The CRTC is an independent agency responsible for regulating and supervising Canada's broadcasting and telecommunications systems. It reports to Parliament on its activities through the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

The Broadcasting Act and the expression of Canadian standards and values guide the work of the CRTC in managing the Canadian broadcasting system and its licensing process and conditions. The CRTC may, in carrying out its mandate, suspend, revoke, amend or refuse to renew a licence if conditions are not met.

Under the CRTC policy, broadcasters must meet licensing conditions and comply with the voluntary code on television violence, the code of ethics, and the sex role portrayal code for television and radio programming developed by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters. Moreover, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, an independent self-regulatory body created by its broadcaster members, is responsible for ensuring compliance with codes and industry standards, including the classification system.

The government continues to be concerned about violence on television and ensuring that all industry partners comply with standards to ensure the well-being of our children. I would like to give some background on current activities among the various participants in the classification system.

In 1992 the CRTC focused its activities by setting the following objectives: implement real codes of conduct at the industry level; better inform viewers through program classification; change the attitudes of public education and media education programs; and strengthen the power of television viewers through the V-chip. Canadians are the forefront of addressing violence on TV.

I would like to add that the V-chip technology was developed by Tim Collings of Simon Fraser University, originally from my riding of Perth—Wellington in Downie Township.

Introduced in 1993, the television violence code states that Canadian broadcasters may not air programming that contains gratuitous violence in any form, or which sanctions, promotes or glamorizes violence. It also states that programming intended for adult audiences shall not be telecast before 9 p.m.

In 1997 the Action Group on Violence on Television, an organization representing all sectors of the Canadian broadcasting industry, launched its program classification system. These codes are still in effect. Broadcasting industry representatives, researchers, educators, child mental health experts, parents and the government agencies that were involved continue to promote ongoing dialogue to help people better understand the problem and to create permanent tools to help parents make informed viewing choices for their children.

Canada is also very involved in children's media literacy and in educating children about the various media to which they are exposed. There are media awareness networks that are excellent sources of information about violence on television and that are still in place today.

As we can see from the many parties involved and the regulatory provisions that have been adopted and implemented, such as the codes of conduct adopted by the industry, the public education, and the public awareness programs, we have good management tools to address violence on television in Canada.

The government acknowledges the achievements of all stakeholders involved in the fight against violence and continues to believe in the effectiveness of the current system of self-regulatory codes administered by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council and imposed on broadcasters as conditions of licence.

We would also like to underline the vital role that parents and guardians have to play and the fact that they have tools available to them and can make choices to help them better control the television programs presented in their homes.

With the monitoring system already in place to limit violence on television, we have looked at two annual reports that include the issue of limiting violence on television and we have found that few official complaints were made by the Canadian public.

The annual report of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council for 2005-06 states that there was a total of 79 complaints relating to the violence code. Six of these complaints related to Quebec television stations. According to the CRTC's broadcast policy monitoring report of 2006, a total of 44 complaints were processed, which represents a significant decrease for 2005 over previous years.

In closing, given these results and the tools that are available as well as the role parents can play, we must question the merits of Bill C-327.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

January 30th, 2007 / 6:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Maka Kotto Bloc Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to participate in this debate on Bill C-327 dealing with the reduction of violence in television broadcasts.

Television violence is a problem of such scope that it has been the subject of various, often controversial but always relevant and thought provoking, studies, reports and analyses. More importantly, this issue reminds the elected representatives that we are that, in our society, television has become an omnipresent media whose impact on the most receptive or vulnerable audiences, and I am thinking of our children, should never be underestimated.

At a time when an overwhelming majority of people in Canada and Quebec own at least one television set and spend an average of four hours a day watching this hypnotic box; when new media are being put on the market and the number of available stations keeps increasing; and when television is more and more and increasingly openly blamed for breeding a scourge of our society—and I am referring to all forms of violence—the Bloc Québécois, through the determination and perseverance of the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, whose eloquent plea we have heard and grasped the scope of, could not pass on a relevant debate and another meaningful piece of legislation on the theme of television images of a violent nature and their impact on our youth. That is the raison d'être of his bill to reduce violence in television broadcasts by granting the CRTC additional regulatory powers in this respect, without developing a censorship mentality.

The bill's summary states, and I quote, “This enactment amends the Broadcasting Act to grant the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission the power to make regulations respecting the broadcasting of violent scenes”.

And here is how the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie introduced his bill at first reading stage:

A recent study by Laval University showed that acts of violence shown on television have tripled since 1994. The purpose of this bill is to amend the Broadcasting Act to create a regulation governing television violence. The CRTC would be responsible for monitoring how large broadcasters apply the regulation that would be created by the bill I am introducing today.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of the bill and salutes the initiative of the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie. The Bloc Québécois reminds the House that, beyond self-regulation, we must provide broadcasting with an adequate framework in order to avoid a drift toward sensationalism that does not necessarily reflect Quebec and Canadian values.

The Bloc Québécois believes that young children should not be confronted with violence at a very early age, because this would tend to trivialize it, with the predictable consequences.

As I was saying at the beginning of my speech, violence in our society is an issue that raises concerns among the general public and, indeed, the legislator that each of us represents here. In this regard, we have the responsibility to introduce legislation.

What are the impacts of television on our children? In 1998, a UNESCO study showed that children under the age of 12 were spending an average of three hours a day watching television, that is 50% more than at any other activity.

Children who watch very violent television or films are more likely to become aggressive. There is no doubt about it.

Many reports agree on this. There is an enormous amount of research into the effects of media violence.

Researchers have long wondered whether television violence has such effect on young people that it can actually make them more aggressive. After some 50 years of research into this question, some investigators such as Professor Howell Huesmann of the University of Michigan are convinced that there is evidence of a direct correlation. I quote him:

—exposure to media violence causes children to behave more aggressively and affects them as adults years later.

Professor Huesmann demonstrated that when children imitate the actions of their “media heroes”, they develop “cognitive scripts” that ultimately guide their own behaviour. For example, when their heroes are violent, children internalize scripts in which violence is presented as an appropriate or legitimate method of settling disputes, solving problems or dealing with frustrations.

According to other researchers, the psychological effects are not as important as the physiological effects in the internalization of aggressive behaviour seen on television. These researchers observed that exposure to violent imagery is linked to increased heart rate, faster respiration and higher blood pressure. They think that this simulated "fight-or-flight" response predisposes people to act aggressively in the real world.

Similarly, an American study looked at the effects over 20 years. It showed a modest correlation between shows watched by eight-year-old boys and an aggressiveness indicator 11 years later. Boys who watched a lot of violent shows when they were young had much more serious police records at 30 years of age than other boys. These effects could not be ascribed to other social factors. To quantify this “modest” effect, the researchers said that it was comparable to the effect of tobacco consumption on lung cancer. All the experts in large research associations agree on these proven facts.

I want to emphasize once again that the consumption of televisions shows has certain effects, both direct and indirect. No one will be able to say later that they did not know. I encourage the House, therefore, to show good sense and support Bill C-327.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

January 30th, 2007 / 6:05 p.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today and speak to Bill C-327.

I have to make an admission to the people of Canada that I am a huge fan of action films. In fact, my whole family are fans. On Friday nights, we like nothing better for the world to be hanging in balance while the good guy has to run out and save the planet with two minutes to spare while the planes are flying. I think one of the reasons these films are successful is that they are entertaining and people can tell the difference between the reality of violence and the action film genre, so I have to put that on the record.

However, I am interested in this bill because I believe that there is a difference between seeing the fantasy world of cops and robbers and action hero stuff that we are used to, the sort of comic book entertainment, and the good guy always wins in the end element of film and television. There is a fundamental shift that I am starting to see in terms of three areas.

First, is the increasing level of abusive, degrading and humiliating television that has become a standard staple.

Second, is the relentlessness of the imagery. As we know, our young people are not just watching it on television, they are on the Internet, and there is a relentlessness that is hammered home time and time again.

I think of the third issue, and I find this from my role formerly as a school board trustee. When we talk about empowerment and choice, we are assuming that we are talking about 1950s-style families. I can tell members, as a school board trustee, many of the kids in my community are at home alone when they come home from school because their mom, a single mother, is working or their father is out working. Who are they home with? They are home with the electronic child molester. That is who they are home with.

If we watch the programming that was put in the afternoon slot in the last number of years, we have Maury Povich and Springer. This is absolutely abusive and degrading television. I am concerned that when young people come into class, they do not have the faculties to separate this.

So, what we do have? We have a policy of zero tolerance in our schools. I have seen many kids act out stuff in the schoolyard without even having a sense of what they are doing, and then of course we have to bring in the police to deal with it. I am not talking so much about physical violence being acted out, but some of the abusive stuff that they see on television. So, there is an element there that we can talk about empowering our young people, but if they are home alone, they do not have that choice.

I think this debate today is actually very appropriate, given the very disturbing national conversation that is going on. All around us, Canadians are talking about the Pickton trial.

There is a really interesting debate if we listen to the talk shows. What people are saying is, “I don't want to hear it. I don't want these greasy fingerprints left on my imagination. Have the trial, please, but spare us the grizzly gore”.

What strikes me about this conversation, because I have been listening to the people phoning in, is that people do not want to be desensitized. They do not want to accept a point where they no longer even shrug when they hear these kinds of details. It is a very horrific conversation that we have to have. I was thinking in terms of the Bernardo trial and how I still feel such rage over what I heard about that. We are being asked as a society to cross a terrible Rubicon of the imagination whereby something that once was just a realm of Hollywood is something we have to accept as a reality. As I was thinking of this conversation, I was watching television with my daughter. It was interesting that I saw within a space of one hour two ads for serial killer torture shows that had very gruesome, very graphic and very stylized forms of the torture.

Can our children tell the difference between the allegations at the Pickton farm and these things on television? Of course they can. Just as they can tell the difference when they are playing video games that seem to me to be so much similar to the Dawson shooting. But at a certain point, there is a level of desensitization, and that desensitization has a very profound impact for cultural development.

Ronald Cohen, the chair of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, says very clearly, “In addition, there is no gratuitous or glamorized violence on television at any time of the day or night. Period”.

I was watching 24 with my daughters the other night. They are big fans of Jack Bauer. I am a big fan of Jack Bauer, the actor playing him being the grandson of Tommy Douglas, the great Canadian socialist. Jack Bauer is always there to save the world.

However, there is an interesting debate that has come up about 24 because of the way that people are now beginning to accept the notion that torture is perfectly okay. Jack Bauer can never save the planet unless he tortures somebody. He is very effective in torturing people and because Jack tortures people things work.

I was speaking to an educator who had been talking to a young person about notions of right and wrong and limits of right and wrong. The issue of torture came up. The student said, “Torture is perfectly okay. That's what you do if you're a police officer. That is perfectly acceptable behaviour.” The educator asked, “Why would you think that torture was normal?” The child said, “Jack Bauer has to do it.”

Think of the profound shift that has taken place in the last 10 years. Ten years ago, what was torture? In our imagination that was what thugs did in a Latin American prison. That is what petty gang lords did. However, a conversation now where we have stylized violence, and it is very over the top, it becomes acceptable. Therefore, we become desensitized to it.

Another point Mr. Cohen makes in terms of the reason we do not need standards, that we do not need to impose them here, and he is talking about protecting children. He says, “There can be no themes that threaten a child's sense of security.”

I was watching Fear Factor in my hotel room the other night. Since you might not believe, Mr. Speaker, how outrageous it is I will read the plot description that I picked up off the Internet. This was a plot with families, so it was mothers, fathers and their children on this show. This is a quote from the show. The children will be locked in a box of Madagascar hissing cockroaches that would be poured all over the children. Then the parents would have to use their mouths to transfer roaches from the box to a counterbalance. The pair would then have to get the keys so that the child could find a way to escape from this box where the child was screaming and covered with cockroaches.

The message I infer from this is that child abuse is okay if it is done on prime time, if it is done for entertainment purposes, and it is very clear that it is done for greed because do you know what happens, Mr. Speaker, if the mother manages to pick enough of these Madagascar hissing cockroaches off her screaming child and frees them from this locked box? She will win a 2004 Mazda6 Sport Wagon. I find this absolutely abominable.

I would like to think that industry would self-regulate, but I think what we are seeing now in terms of abuse on television is that it is self-regulating itself down to the bottom and we should not go along with this. I think at a certain point we have to say as a society that this degradation has to stop. The idea of abusing and humiliating people as a form of cheap entertainment is not acceptable. We do not accept it when our children act it out in the schoolyard. We should not have to accept it as a regular form of entertainment.

Again, I would like to point out that people can say, “Turn it off”, but I know of so many children who are at home alone. They are not reading, they are watching and this is what they are watching.

This leads me to another point that I think has to be made. It is a more subtle point. It is the notion of the breakdown of the self, the self-identity and the self-awareness from watching abusive television again and again by young people. I read a book earlier last year entitled A Is for Ox: the Collapse of Literacy and the Rise of Violence in An Electronic Age by Barry Sanders. He made some amazing correlations that what we are seeing in terms of a culture where children are raised strictly on television is the breakdown of literacy, not simply that they cannot read but literate conversation, the sense of self, has disappeared in so many young children. They do not have that construct.

He said that there are profound implications for society when we have children who are raised like this because as they have no sense of self they have no sense of the other. He is definitely making a very clear equation in his work between this rise of cultural illiteracy and a culture of violence, and a casual acceptance of violence.

Therefore, I am very pleased that Parliament has taken the measure to debate this issue. In terms of the New Democrats we believe that this is not an issue of censorship. This is an issue of restoring some fairness to the airwaves and saying to families that they do not have to worry that their children are being preyed upon by the electronic child molester if they have to go out to work.

There have to be some standards. If industry is not willing to meet those standards, then we have to have a national conversation and that conversation, I believe, has to include educators and a broad cross-section of our society. Clearly, it is our purview here within the House of Commons to begin that conversation.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

January 30th, 2007 / 5:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Tina Keeper Liberal Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am confident that all members in the House join me in genuine concern about ensuring that our children have safeguards against violence on television in this country. To this end, on behalf of the residents in the Churchill riding, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts) introduced by the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.

Upon introduction of the bill on June 19, 2006, the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie said:

Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to introduce a bill to reduce television violence, particularly during peak viewing hours for children.

This quote encapsulates the objective the member hopes to achieve with this bill. Before continuing this debate, I would like to acknowledge the integrity of my hon. colleague's aim. As many parliamentarians would know, the bill was initially introduced in the House of Commons during the first session of the 37th Parliament as Bill C-420 and prior to reintroduction, the bill received only slight modifications.

The issue of violence on television has been at the forefront of the public mind over the past couple of decades. In fact, the issue did become a priority for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the regulatory body of Canada's Broadcasting Act and in 1990 it commissioned two studies, “Scientific Knowledge about Television Violence” and “Summary and Analysis of Various Studies on Violence and Television”. The findings and recommendations of these studies led to action by the CRTC toward the development of guidelines in Canada by working with the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, provincial ministers and the cable industry.

In 1992 a significant event occurred when a very young woman, Virginie Larivière, submitted a petition to Parliament with 1.5 million signatures seeking a ban on television violence. It was a clear message from Canadians on the issue.

In February 1993 the Action Group on Violence on Television was formed. It was comprised of the Association of Canadian Advertisers, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Canadian Cable Television Association, Canadian Film and Television Production Association, the Association des producteurs de films et de télévision du Québec, and the licensees of pay television, pay per view services and specialty services.

In September of that year they released a general statement of principles concerning violence on television programming with the aim of a classification system for television programming. Numerous critical actions followed. The CRTC accepted the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' revised voluntary code regarding violence in television programming and announced that compliance would be a condition of a broadcast licence. The code designated the watershed in which broadcasters could not air programs which included violence intended for an adult audience between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Since that time, Canada has been a leader throughout the world in setting regulatory mechanisms and strong industry codes to ensure that viewing choices for children remain responsive to the concerns of the public. These currently include program ratings systems; on-screen icons; violence guidelines and other content guidelines referring to language and content of a sexual nature; required frequent viewer advisories, both on-screen and audible; and program embedded ratings for use with V-chip technology.

These are a mandatory system of codes and adherence to them is not voluntary. The system was approved by the CRTC in June 1997. Private broadcasters must agree to them and licences are reviewed regularly by the CRTC.

This proposed legislation seeks to amend the Broadcasting Act to grant the CRTC the power to make regulations respecting the broadcasting of violent scenes. However, a great deal has changed in broadcasting standards and practices over the past 15 years on the issue of violence on television and a child or youth audience.

It effectively established a broad set of policies, technologies and rules affecting broadcasters that I would argue address the concerns and even the purpose of this bill. This is largely confirmed by the member's proposed amendment to section 10 with the addition of:

The Commission shall make regulations respecting the broadcasting of violent scenes, including those contained in programs intended for persons under the age of 12 years.

In an effort to safeguard children against violent television programming, various stringent measures were put in place. These policies are complemented by a series of technologies that have steadily increased in television broadcasting since their initial introduction.

For example, the CRTC launched a variety of new technologies set to increase viewer awareness of suitability of a given program. This is done through both voice and print immediately prior to programs as well as during commercial breaks.

Parent friendly rating systems have also been carefully integrated into the suitability warnings. Moreover, the introduction of an advanced parental control technology known as V-chip was created and put into action. It allows concerned parents to filter inappropriate content based on a rating system.

Comparing the existing practices of the CRTC with the member's proposed amendment to the Broadcasting Act, I think it is fair to say that the commissioner has ensured regulations are in place addressing television violence during peak hours and is effectively monitored. In fact, in 1994 the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, an independent organization comprised of public and industry representatives, announced that the children's television program, Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, violated children's programming provisions of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' violence code. The producers were forced to comply with the code or the broadcasters were to remove it from their schedule.

In fact, to emphasize the results of the positive actions taken by broadcasters, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has actually reported a decline in the percentage of complaints concerning violence on television. Between 2001 and 2006, public complaints involving violence have dropped by 37% and it ranks sixth as the subject of television complaints to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.

After taking into account the current policies and practices of the CRTC governing violence on television and now returning to the member's stated objective, and more important, the contents of his bill, I do not believe the proposed amendments will have an impact in reducing violence during peak hours.

Given the standards and practices that are already in place and enforced by the commission, Bill C-327 is redundant in terms of the Broadcasting Act. It is my assertion that the various mediums in today's market have a significant role to play in terms of the amount of violent content which is available to children and youth. Today's new medium means rapid access to materials through the Internet, video games and DVDs.

While I applaud the spirit of the member's bill, I do believe it is adequately covered through the current Broadcasting Act and regulatory body, the CRTC, to safeguard Canadians and to protect our values, and I cannot lend it my support.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

January 30th, 2007 / 5:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to address this very significant concern in Canada.

The bill before us today is a further attempt to address the issue of TV violence in Canada. The bill would amend the Broadcasting Act by imposing a new, regulatory framework on the broadcast industry. I want to thank the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for his efforts in bringing this legislation before Parliament.

From the outset, I want to state that reducing violence in our society is a priority for our Conservative government. Indeed, addressing violent crime in Canada is one of the five key priorities which we set during the last federal election, and we have made significant progress in changing our criminal laws to ensure that Canada's streets and communities are safe.

The tabling of the bill gives us an opportunity to consider again Canada's success in addressing violence on television and how Canadians, especially young Canadians, are exposed to it.

The bill would amend the Broadcasting Act by requiring the CRTC to make specific regulations to reduce the number of violent scenes on television. While I believe the motives behind the bill are laudable, the bill itself is flawed for a number of reasons.

It represents a veiled attempt to impose additional censorship on broadcasters, very likely violating the protections of freedom of expression under the charter. It would also impose a new regulatory burden on government which would cost taxpayers more money. It implies that Canadians are not smart enough to read the required warnings and make viewing decisions for themselves. It shifts responsibility for supervising and educating children from parents to the federal government.

The good news is that much of the authority which the mover of the bill is seeking is already contained in the current Broadcasting Act.

I would like to look at Bill C-327 in the context of current broadcasting policy and at the tools already available under the Broadcasting Act that encourage Canadians to become media literate and to then make safe viewing choices for themselves.

Our current broadcasting policy focuses on empowering Canadians to make educated choices for themselves about what they and their families will watch on TV. Our federal government consults and cooperates with law enforcement agencies, broadcasters, parents and schools, and in doing so, we focus on five common objectives.

First, we want to educate TV viewers. We want to strengthen the enforcement of the existing laws. We want to implement complaint reporting systems. We want to ensure that public and private sectors consult with each other and with their counterparts in other countries. Finally, and perhaps more important, we want to promote industry self-regulation.

That last objective, industry self-regulation, is key. The broadcast industry has, in consultation with the federal government, adopted a voluntary set of broadcast standards and a code of conduct which it applies to all of its programming.

Canadians will be very familiar with the frequent warnings which accompany programs containing violence or questionable or sexual content. These warnings equip parents to make decisions for themselves and their families as to the kind of programming which is suitable for them.

An added benefit of industry self-regulation is the fact that the financial burden of regulation and monitoring is borne primarily by industry, not by the taxpayers of this country.

Even if we wanted to regulate and control everything shown on television, it would be a futile endeavour. Canadians must understand that much of what we see on TV comes from foreign television signals. Canada has limited jurisdiction over these signals. We also have little jurisdiction, if any, over material that Canadians may view over the Internet.

Both foreign broadcasters and Internet service providers are not subject to Canada's licensing requirement. They are not subject to the Canadian broadcasting code of conduct and ethics, and as technology continues to develop, our ability to control content will continue to decline.

The current media environment is indeed the global village that Canadian professor Marshall McLuhan so prophetically pointed to. Government control over content is no longer a long term option in broadcasting. More than ever, Canadians need to be well informed. They need to be exposed to new technologies while understanding the potential harmful aspects of these innovations.

We live in a world without walls. We cannot be with our children at all times to keep them safe from harm. In the same way, recent experience has taught us that we cannot always protect our children and other Canadian audiences from controversial or objectionable content, especially when it originates from outside of Canada. It is even more difficult to do so if in fact we are to respect the charter right of freedom of expression.

What we can do is educate Canadians and give them the tools necessary to discern good content from harmful content. That is what the current Broadcasting Act does. The TV industry provides viewers with helpful information about programming content to enable each one of us to act positively, to become critical thinkers and to learn to discern. I also note that technology nowadays gives parents things such as the V-chip to allow them to control what their children watch on TV.

There is something troubling about this bill and it is in the preamble. The preamble categorically states that “censorship is not a solution”, yet the bill then proceeds to do exactly that, namely impose censorship by requiring the CRTC to impose regulations reducing violence in TV programming. These conflicting objectives are clearly fatal to the bill.

I remind the House of some of the key policy objectives contained in the Broadcasting Act. The act states in section 3(1)(d)(i) that the broadcasting system should:

serve to safeguard, enrich and strengthen the cultural, political, social and economic fabric of Canada,

The very next paragraph states that the system should:

encourage the development of Canadian expression by providing a wide range of programming that reflects Canadian attitudes, opinions, ideas, values and artistic creativity--

To me these words suggest imagination and diversity of opinion, something that our charter of rights guarantees. Any attempt to circumscribe these rights would likely result in a successful challenge under the charter and I for one am not prepared to burden the taxpayers of the country with the cost of needless and ultimately futile litigation.

I would encourage the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie to again review the existing provisions of the Broadcasting Act, most notably subsections 10(c), 10(f) and 10(k) because these subsections already spell out a broad regulatory framework which, at least in my experience, has led to significant cooperation on the part of the broadcast industry. Moreover, the act already states that all broadcasting licensees are responsible for the programs they broadcast and that this programming must be of a high standard.

The Canadian approach to maintaining high standards engages the broadcast industry instead of invoking a unilateral heavy-handed enforcement program.

In conclusion, we have to ask ourselves a number of fundamental questions. Do we believe in more government? Do we believe that government should usurp the rightful role of parents to train and educate children? Should Canadians no longer be responsible for their own decisions for informing themselves? Finally, do we believe that taxpayers should again be burdened with additional regulatory costs that should be borne by industry? I believe the answer is no to all of these questions and that answer must compel us to reject this bill, as well intentioned as it might be.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

January 30th, 2007 / 5:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

moved that Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to speak on Bill C-327 respecting violence in television broadcasts, which I am sponsoring in this House. I would like to start by reviewing the context in which this bill was introduced last spring.

One day during the winter of 2000, I was sitting in my living room in the early evening, watching TV with my daughter, Marie-Noël, who was three years old at the time. That is when I noticed how captivated, almost hypnotized, my daughter was by scenes of violence in a movie broadcast on the public network.

That is what prompted me, a few months later, to introduce a bill to reduce violence in television broadcasts. Sadly, the bill was not deemed votable at that time, but it nonetheless allowed me to mobilize parents, teachers, child care stakeholders and others in civil society who were concerned about our children's future, to send the government a clear message: it had to regulate violence in television broadcasts.

Today, six years later, Marie-Noël is nine years old, not much younger than the 11-year-old boy whose death, according to Coroner Catherine Rudel-Tessier, was directly linked to violent scenes broadcast on public television during prime time which he attempted to recreate. In April, the coroner concluded that the current measures to protect our children from violence in television broadcasts were insufficient. She encouraged broadcasters to move shows rated 13 and over past 9 p.m.

That is what Bill C-327, which I am currently sponsoring and which is being debated in the House today, is proposing. Under this bill to amend the Broadcasting Act, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, or CRTC, would develop regulations limiting violence in television programming, ensure compliance by licence holders and provide for penalties to be imposed on offenders.

Why regulate now?

In spite of the revised adoption in 1993 of the Voluntary Code Regarding Violence in Television Programming, developed by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, the violence aired on television continues to increase. According to an analysis conducted by the Centre des médias at the Université Laval in December 2004, acts of physical violence on television have risen by 286% in ten years; and 81% of violent acts occur in programs beginning before 9 p.m. Furthermore, 29% of the acts of violence in films are psychological in nature.

Sure, some people will say that we can play with the figures, but one piece of evidence is certain: there is enough violence on television to influence the behaviour of our young people. We can only conclude that the voluntary approach by broadcasters does not seem to have produced the results hoped for since, some 15 years after the adoption of the voluntary code, television violence continues to increase, as indicated by the Centre des médias at the Université Laval.

Obviously complete censorship is not an option. I repeat, full censorship is not an option, because it would not be an appropriate response in a democratic society like ours, in which freedom of expression is one of its cornerstones.

To my mind, only a regulatory approach based on the necessary balance between freedom of expression and the protection of our children would offer diversified programming respectful of the various clienteles.

The recent demands, made just last week, by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, for regulations that would prohibit programs with violent content from being aired before 9 p.m., are consistent not only with the spirit of the recommendation made by Coroner Rudel-Tessier, but are also in keeping with Bill C-327, which I am sponsoring today.

The Centrale des syndicats du Québec, the CSQ, which represents 172,000 members, including 100,000 teaching staff—who are in daily contact with our children—was among the first to applaud this bill.

The tragic story of the ten-year-old American and the nine-year-old Pakistani who accidentally hanged themselves by wanting to imitate Saddam Hussein remind us that, even though regulation of television violence is something that must be addressed, it is not a substitute for parental vigilance when it comes to not only the content of television programs, but also video games and Web sites.

The fight I began in 2000 has been fought by activists, daycare stakeholders and teachers.The first name that springs to my mind when I talk about the important fight I am fighting for the protection of our children is that of a young girl, now an adult, and someone you probably knew, Mr. Speaker. Her name is Virginie Larivière. Some years ago, she presented the Conservative government of the day a petition with 1,3 million signatures. The petitioners were Canadian and Quebec citizens who asked for regulations to reduce violence on television.

That young girl, about 10 at the time, introduced that petition it was because we already noticed in the 1990's that there had been an increase in the number of violent scenes on television despite the voluntary code the broadcasters had adopted for themselves in 1987. Despite that code, which was revised in 1993, the figures from the Centre d'études des médias of Laval University were revealing. Between 1995 and 1998, they showed an almost 50% increase in violent acts on television. The scenes of violence children could see—that is during programs broadcast before 9 p.m.—were also clearly on the rise. In 1998, 92% of violent acts were shown before 9 p.m.

The study also showed that one out of every two acts of violence in the study was either a gratuitous representation or unnecessary to understanding what was going on.

In 2000, these 1998 figures alerted me to this issue. Initially, it was my daughter who brought it to my attention, but after finding out more from media specialists, I concluded that TV violence was indeed on the rise. That made the 2000 bill very relevant.

Quebec's civil society leaders and artists mobilized. Why? Because the bill did not seek to limit freedom of expression. It simply sought to restrict programs with violent content to airing after 9 p.m., when children are not watching. It was not, and it still is not, censorship. It was just about adjusting broadcasters' schedules to ensure they respected all members of the viewing public.

This bill seeks to regulate violence on TV.

I would encourage the members to read this bill. It does not even say that violent programs should air only after 9 p.m. That is what I think should happen, and that is the approach I would recommend. This bill merely proposes creating a regulation within the Broadcasting Act so that the CRTC will be responsible for ensuring compliance among licensees and punishing them accordingly.

To what extent should they be punished?

Often, in various environmental files, big polluters get off with light punishments. We cannot let that happen here. The regulatory regime may specify punishment according to the circumstances of the non-compliance. Section 32 of the Broadcasting Act provides that a corporate broadcaster that contravenes CRTC regulations—in this case, a future regulation—may be liable to a fine as high as $250,000 for a first offence and as high as $500,000 for a subsequent offence.

In essence, with this bill, we are asking broadcasters to be good corporate citizens. It is important to understand that our airwaves are public and that we, the public, therefore bear some responsibility for them. But broadcasters have a responsibility to broadcast information that is accurate and does not convey stereotypes, prejudices, racial slurs or statements designed to undermine our society's fundamental rights. We must ensure that our public airwaves respect everyone's rights.

This bill therefore strikes a balance. I know that some of my colleagues believe that this bill could violate the right to freedom of expression. In an attempt to address this concern, we have proposed that violent scenes be broadcast after 9 p.m.

I am pleased to introduce this bill today. As recently as yesterday, the Centrale des syndicats du Québec, the CSQ, took a clear stand on this bill. The more than 172,000 members of the Centrale des syndicats du Québec decided to support this bill, simply because they work in education.

Anyone who has seen what goes on in our schools and daycare centres will understand why these people are clearly saying that there is a connection between what our children watch and how they behave. It is true of movies and it is sometimes true of cartoons, because cartoon formats changed several years ago.

In order to provide our educators and teachers with tools, we have to create a society that is as non-violent as possible. Of course, this bill will not reduce violence in our society. It is not the answer to violence in our society. There are other areas where we have to take action. I am thinking of the Internet and video games, but this Parliament could certainly take an important step by making sure that our airwaves are less violent and that we can live in a society that is as non-violent as possible.

Bill C-327—Broadcasting ActPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2007 / 5:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is now obvious that the government raises the issue of royal recommendation each and every time members of the opposition parties introduce a private member's bill.

I well recall how the government used the same tactic when Bill C-288 was introduced by my colleague from Honoré-Mercier.

If my bill were to be implemented, there would be no fundamental change in the role the CRTC plays. All we ask is that new regulations be adopted under the Broadcasting Act. We really do not need new public monies to have the CRTC apply the legislative changes I propose in Bill C-327.

Under that bill, we could very well go ahead and evaluate the situation without necessarily requiring supplementary funds.

In fact, the CRTC has already made a study of violence on television and published reports on the issue. Consequently, it would be very possible to fulfill the complete mandate of the CRTC and to adopt the changes I propose without new public funds.

Bill C-327—Broadcasting ActPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2007 / 5:25 p.m.
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Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, my point of order is on Bill C-327.

Without commenting on the merits of this private member's bill, I would appreciate your consideration of whether this bill requires a royal recommendation under Standing Order 79. Clauses 1 and 2 of the bill add a new purpose to the Broadcasting Act to:

—contribute to solving the problem of violence in society by reducing violence in the programming offered to the public, including children.

To meet this purpose, the bill would provide new powers to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, also known as the CRTC, to regulate violence on television, verify broadcasters compliance, issue annual reports and undertake a five year review, including holding consultations. These are new responsibilities for the CRTC which were not previously authorized by the Broadcasting Act. They would clearly require new government expenditures.

Precedence clearly established that a change in purpose requiring new expenditures must be accompanied by a royal recommendation. On May 9, 2005, the Chair ruled:

— bills which involve new or additional spending for a distinct purpose must be recommended by the Crown. The royal recommendation is also required where a bill alters the appropriation of public revenue “under the circumstances, in the manner and for the purposes set out” in the bill.

What this means is that a royal recommendation is not only required in a case where more money is being appropriated, but also in a case where the authorization to spend for a specific purpose is being significantly altered.

On February 8, 2005, the Speaker ruled:

Where it is clear that the legislative objective of a bill cannot be accomplished without the dedication of public funds to that objective, the bill must be seen as the equivalent of a bill effecting an appropriation.

On September 17, 2006, the Speaker noted that the sections of the bill:

—with regard to the process of petitioning and reporting, are also functions which would require the authorization of spending for a new and distinct purpose.

I note that the new purpose for Bill C-327 is established by the operational obligation which clause 3 places on the CRTC for regulating, reporting and reviewing and by clauses 1 and 2, which would amend the overall broadcasting and regulatory policies in the Broadcasting Act.

I therefore submit that the bill in its entirety requires a royal recommendation.

Broadcasting ActRoutine Proceedings

June 19th, 2006 / 3:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts).

Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to introduce a bill to reduce television violence, particularly during peak viewing hours for children.

A recent study by Laval University showed that acts of violence shown on television have tripled since 1994. The purpose of this bill is to amend the Broadcasting Act to create a regulation governing television violence. The CRTC would be responsible for monitoring how large broadcasters apply the regulation that would be created by the bill I am introducing today.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)