Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to add my voice to the debate on the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. The report essentially recommends that the House not proceed further with Bill C-327.
Bill C-327 proposes to introduce tougher regulations to regulate violence in television broadcasts. I will read the salient portion of the bill, which happens to be section 10.1(1). It states:
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.
Although this was promoted as a bill that would protect children against TV violence, the actual wording within the legislation was much broader than that. It would give the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission the power to institute regulations that would essentially censor violent programs on television.
Members of committee devoted a great deal of time to hearing from witnesses on the issue of media violence. Almost without exception, they gave the same clear message, and that was while well intentioned, the bill was not the right vehicle to address violence on television. In fact, it just simply was not going to work.
I want to thank my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for bringing the bill forward. I share his underlying motives in addressing this issue. We all want to see violence on television decrease, especially where it relates to children's programming.
When I first heard about the bill, my first response was that I could support it. Why would anyone not support a reduction in violence in children's programming on television, except perhaps those who profit from it? However, as I looked more closely at the legislation, I realized it was deeply flawed.
What would the bill do? As I mentioned, it would give the CRTC broad new regulatory authority to make regulations on violent programming on television.
What did the committee determine after it had listened to the witnesses? The witnesses gave evidence that even though studies showed there was a connection between TV violence and the acting out of violent acts in society, there was a similar body of evidence that seemed to contradict it. In other words, the jury is still out as to whether there is a connection between TV violence and violence in our society. I tend to agree with those who say there is a connection, but the evidence before committee was not clear. It was ambiguous.
Some witnesses also raised the issue of censorship. The proponent of the bill went to great lengths to try to show that this was not about censorship, but virtually every witness who appeared before us, when directly asked by myself and others on the committee, said that it was a form of censorship.
Some of the concerns they raised centred around where would we stop. Are we no longer allowed to see boxing on TV, or programs such as 24, or Prison Break or even ice hockey, because ice hockey sometimes has fights? Is that too violent? We get into that whole discussion.
We already have restrictions on violence in Canada. The Criminal Code outlines what types of violent acts shown in broadcast programs are unacceptable. Beyond that, the CRTC has not interfered in what is shown on TV because TV broadcasters themselves have adopted their own code and standards of broadcasting, which address violence on TV.
We see warnings on TV telling viewers that a violent program is coming up, or the program is going to include adult content. Those warnings are there as a result of the industry agreeing to comply with its own code. There are those who say that is only a voluntary set of standards. In fact, it is not voluntary, even though the word voluntary is used. The conditions of licence require broadcasters to comply with that code.
What is really remarkable is that we did something in committee that we do not do too often. We invited children to address us and to share their views on television violence. They came up with some interesting information. First, they talked about the changing face of media, such things as the Internet, podcasting and personal video recorders. These are technologies that allow children and adults to view broadcast material in many different ways. They also talked about the multichannel universe, the 500 channel universe, where someone in Vancouver could be watching television during family hour, say at 7 o'clock in the evening, and they could be watching a program that is being broadcast in eastern Canada during hours when adult programming would be shown.
They also talked about the V-chip and, remarkably, none of the children at the committee said that their parents had ever invested or installed a V-chip on their televisions. They also talked about how little parental supervision there really was over what they watched on TV or viewed on the Internet.
When we collectively took the information that came from the witnesses, there was a very clear consensus that further regulation and censorship of TV would not work. It was not that there are limitations that might be suitable. The problem is that with a changing technological environment, those limitations are almost useless, because children view their programming in many different ways that are not subject to restrictions.
We also heard that when parents closely supervise what their children watch on TV, those children give more thought about the programs they watch. I can speak from personal experience. I am the father of four daughters. As they were growing up, we were very involved in their lives. We would not allow them to play video games. It was just a choice we made. We invested in music lessons. The same applied to TV.
We made sure that whatever they watched on television or whatever videos they watched were appropriate to their age. We intervened in their lives and I believe their lives today reflect that. I encourage parents to take responsibility for their children because, ultimately, it is not the government, not the nanny state, that is responsible for children. It is not teachers and it is not the media literacy groups. It is parents themselves who have the best opportunity of intervening and protecting their children against violent programming that they should not be watching.
What are the solutions? I have already mentioned media literacy groups. These are groups in our society who actually teach children and parents about some of the strategies that they can employ to ensure the programming their children watch is wholesome.
Parental involvement I have also mentioned and ensuring we engage in the lives of our children. The V-chip is modern technology that we can use to ensure that violent programming is not brought into our homes where our children would be exposed to it.
We also have the role of the broadcasters. They already have a so-called voluntary code of conduct that addresses the whole issue of violence on television. From all accounts, that set of standards is working well.
The chair of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission also suggested a number of other things and the most important of those was the suggestion that our government introduce the right to impose administrative monetary penalties on those broadcasters who actually violate the standards that they have accepted as a condition of licence. We have accepted that as an excellent suggestion and we will be suggesting to the government that it move forward with introducing an intermediate set of administrative monetary penalties that will allow the commission to penalize those who actually do not follow the rules that are set for broadcasting violent programs on television.
That is why I support the committee's recommendation not to proceed with Bill C-327. It was not carefully thought out and it does amount to censorship. From the witness testimony, it was clear that it would not actually achieve the result that it was intended to achieve.