In this public notice, the Commission approves the Equitable Portrayal Code as proposed by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB). This code contains standards for the portrayal of all identifiable groups and replaces the CAB's Sex-Role Portrayal Code for Television and Radio Programming approved by the Commission in Public Notice 1990-99.
1. In Broadcasting Public Notice 2007-89, the Commission called for comments on the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' (CAB's) proposed Equitable Portrayal Code (the Code), which has been designed to replace the CAB's Sex-Role Portrayal Code for Television and Radio Programming (Sex-Role Portrayal Code) approved by the Commission in Public Notice 1990-99.
2. The Code sets out standards for the equitable portrayal of all identifiable groups. It was developed in order to respond to the findings of the private broadcast industry's research concerning the portrayal of ethnocultural minorities, Aboriginal peoples and persons with disabilities.
3. The Commission considered the written comments filed in response to the public notice, along with previous filings by the CAB that accompanied earlier drafts of the Code.
4. In March 2005, the Commission issued Broadcasting Public Notice 2005-24, which set out the Commission's response to the report of the Task Force for Cultural Diversity on Television (the Task Force Report). The Task Force Report was the culmination of an earlier initiative sponsored by the CAB in response to a call by the Commission, set out in Public Notice 2001-88, for industry-sponsored research to identify "best practices," help define the issues and present practical means for ensuring the accurate reflection and portrayal by broadcasters of the diverse groups they serve.
5. In Broadcasting Public Notice 2005-24, the Commission noted that a review by the industry of its existing codes and standards governing acceptable content would be an important step toward ensuring that the self-regulatory system is in tune with, and effective in responding to, the concerns of Canada's visible minority and Aboriginal communities regarding their portrayal on Canadian television, as identified in the Task Force Report. The Commission expected the CAB to report on its findings with respect to its review of industry codes no later than 21 July 2005.
6. In July 2005, the CAB requested an extension to the deadline to file its review of the industry codes in order to complete its research study on issues relating to the presence, portrayal and participation of persons with disabilities in television programming, and to allow it to take into consideration any concerns relating to the reflection and portrayal of persons with disabilities arising from the research in its review of the existing codes. The Commission approved the CAB's request. On 23 December 2005, the CAB filed its report entitled CAB Review of Industry Codes - Broadcasting Public Notice CRTC 2005-24.
7. The CAB submitted that the interests of private broadcasters, the public and the Commission would be best served by the development of an expanded portrayal code that would replace the Sex-Role Portrayal Code. According to the CAB, most of the proscriptive provisions contained in the Sex-Role Portrayal Code are as applicable to the portrayal concerns identified in the Task Force Report and its report entitled The Presence, Portrayal and Participation of Persons with Disabilities in Television Programming (the Persons with Disabilities Report) as they are to gender. The CAB therefore submitted that such provisions can, and should, be revised to include industry standards concerning the depiction and portrayal of ethnocultural and Aboriginal groups and persons with disabilities.
8. The CAB submitted a draft of the proposed Code to the Commission on 20 July 2006. In response to input from Commission staff, the CAB amended its proposal and submitted a second version, dated 12 March 2007. That version was the subject of the Commission's call for comments.
9. The Commission received and considered written comments from six parties in response to the call for comments set out in Broadcasting Public Notice 2007-89. The parties included Evanov Communications Inc. (Evanov), the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA), the Canadian Diversity Producers Association (CDPA), as well as two individuals, Mr. William F. Sheehan and Ms. Magda de la Torre.
10. The Commission also received and considered the written comments of the CAB in reply to the parties' written comments, in accordance with the procedures established in Broadcasting Public Notice 2007-89. The CAB included a finalized version of the Code in its submission, which contains changes made in response to the parties' comments about the accuracy and clarity of the Code's language. The Code appended to this public notice reflects those changes.
11. The public record for this proceeding is available on the Commission's website at www.crtc.gc.ca under "Public Proceedings."
12. After considering all of the written comments made in the course of this proceeding, the Commission has identified three issues to be addressed in its determinations:
13. Some parties raised concerns about the purpose of the Code. Evanov submitted that by prohibiting negative reflection rather than encouraging positive reflection, the Code could unintentionally result in broadcasters avoiding the inclusion in their programming of the groups identified in the Code rather than run the risk of contravening it. In particular, it noted that the Sex-Role Portrayal Code promoted various aspects of positive portrayal, including goals concerning the on-screen presence and behind-the-scenes participation for women in the broadcasting industry. Other parties argued that the Code does not go far enough to deal with other aspects of inclusiveness in Canadian programming.
14. While the CAB did not comment on these concerns in its reply, it did explain in its original filing to the Commission (20 July 2006) that the Code is intended to focus squarely on matters of portrayal, whereas the Sex-Role Portrayal Code included a combination of portrayal, on-screen presence and participation goals for women. The CAB further explained that many of those Sex-Role Portrayal Code clauses that encouraged positive portrayal are not only out of date (e.g., Clause 1 was concerned with portraying women in a variety of roles in and outside the home) but were also rarely, if ever, determinative in any complaints addressed by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) in adjudicating the Sex-Role Portrayal Code.
15. On the other end of the spectrum, other parties, such as CRARR and Mr. Sheehan, were of the view that the Code is not restrictive enough, due to either the use of the word "unduly" in many instances throughout the Code and/or the inclusion of Clause 10: Contextual Considerations.
16. The Commission considers that the Code clearly establishes that its goal is equitable portrayal and that its focus in order to meet that goal is to "overcome unduly negative portrayal." This goal responds specifically to the very real concerns about problematic portrayals that were identified by the industry's research into portrayals of visible minorities, Aboriginal peoples, and persons with disabilities, namely stereotyping, negative/inaccurate portrayal, unbalanced portrayal in newscasts and the use of inappropriate language, especially in news.
17. With respect to matters concerning various groups' participation in the industry, both on- and off-screen, the Commission reiterates that these matters are being addressed through other venues, such as the Commission's cultural diversity requirements of television and radio broadcasters, various initiatives being undertaken by the CAB and employment equity legislation. These latter approaches have been designed precisely in recognition that the changes required to improve participation of marginalized groups in the broadcasting system require longer-term, corporate and system-wide efforts rather than measures that concern specific instances in specific broadcasts, which is what codes governing programming standards address.
18. With respect to concerns raised regarding the use of the word "unduly" (such as "unduly discriminatory" or "unduly negative portrayals") and the inclusion of Clause 10, the Commission considers that both elements of the Code have a clear function: to recognize that not all stereotypes are automatically harmful and that there are likely to be circumstances in which the use of such stereotypes is permissible or even necessary. As both the Commission and the CBSC have ruled on numerous occasions in evaluating complaints concerning allegations of harmful on-screen portrayals, the context in which a particular portrayal arises is essential in ascertaining whether the portrayal is in fact likely to expose the targeted group to some form of harm. In the Commission's view, the incorporation of Clause 10 specifically and explicitly recognizes the notion of context as a critical element in the examination of any potentially problematic portrayal.
19. Furthermore, the use of the term "unduly" appropriately indicates that not all stereotypes or portrayals are automatically harmful to the point of requiring regulatory intervention; in the words of the CAB, there are "degrees" of discriminatory, negative or otherwise harmful statements. Only those portrayals found to be harmful - not those that offend or otherwise concern matters of taste - can justify regulatory intervention. The Commission finds that both the use of the term "unduly" and the inclusion of Clause 10 help the Code to strike the correct balance between ensuring that programming on Canadian television is respectful, fair and accurate in its portrayals of all Canadians and ensuring that the Code is consistent with the freedom of expression and journalistic, creative and programming independence enjoyed by broadcasting undertakings, as directed by the Broadcasting Act.
20. To ensure that broadcasters, independent producers, affected stakeholder groups and the general public are aware of and educated about the purpose of the Code, the Commission considers that it is critical that the Code be promoted as a tool to advance equitable portrayal. The Commission notes the CAB's intention to encourage the use of public service announcements (PSAs) by broadcasters to promote the Code. The Commission likewise encourages broadcasters to pursue PSAs and any other promotional mechanisms that will raise public awareness of the Code. The Commission expects the CAB to work closely with the CBSC and its member broadcasters to this end, as the CAB committed to in its 12 March 2007 filing with the Commission.
21. Evanov expressed concern about the list of groups to benefit from the protection against harmful portrayals. In its view, this list should not be closed but instead should encourage broadcasters to include an open-ended variety of social groups in their programming. Evanov did not provide any criteria to determine which groups should be added to the Code in order to achieve this.
22. The Commission notes that the list of protected categories identified in the Code's Statement of Intent and appearing in numerous clauses of the Code is consistent with the categories to which the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the Charter) and judicial interpretations thereof apply, that is to say race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability. The Commission's abusive comment regulation reflects these same criteria, as does the human rights clause (Clause 2) of the CAB's Code of Ethics. Individuals included in these categories or groups are in need of particular protection against abuses because these categories are based on immutable characteristics. The Commission considers the Charter and judicial interpretations thereof to be the appropriate authority on this matter and therefore is satisfied with the CAB's choice to incorporate the identifiable groups to which the Charter and judicial interpretations thereof apply.
23. The Commission wishes to emphasize that while the Code broadens the industry's responsibility for portrayal matters from women to all identifiable groups, the concerns identified in the Commission's 1992 Policy on gender portrayal (Public Notice 1992‑58) remain relevant and should not be inadvertently neglected by the industry as a result of the broadened applicability of the Code.
24. Three parties questioned the enforceability of the Code. ACTRA expressed concern regarding the Code's voluntary nature. Mr. Sheehan submitted his concern that the Code includes no penalties and punishments for being violated. For its part, the CDPA stated that the Commission must conduct content analyses of the status of on-screen reflection to ensure that the Code delivers results.
25. The CAB explained in its reply that the Code is not voluntary but is a condition of licence for all broadcasters. It also argued that the CBSC has found its enforcement regime - through a combination of detailed public decisions outlining its findings on the investigations of complaints, combined with on-air announcements of any violations of a code - to be an effective approach for all of the other codes it adjudicates.
26. The Commission emphasizes that the Code, like its predecessor, the Sex-Role Portrayal Code, is intended to be a condition of licence for all radio and television licensees. As a result, adherence is not voluntary in nature, as the CAB explained in its reply. While the Commission will suspend this condition of licence for those licensees who are members in good standing of the CBSC, these licensees are not relieved of the requirement to adhere to this or any other code that is suspensive in nature. Licensees can only remain members in good standing with the CBSC if they respect the decisions rendered by the CBSC pertaining to breaches of each code or other standard administered by the CBSC. Furthermore, the Commission remains the final arbiter: any party may ask the Commission to adjudicate its complaint, particularly if it is not satisfied with the outcome of a CBSC investigation.
27. With respect to the CDPA proposal that content analyses be conducted to ensure that the Code is effective, the Commission wishes to clarify that, in general, the various codes in place (nine in total)1 that govern content standards in broadcasting are complaints-driven. Canadian broadcasters have a long history of creating these codes as a means of setting minimum standards for all private broadcasters in terms of their responsibilities for addressing broad matters of public concern that arise in mass media. Complaints-driven codes allow the viewing and listening public to act as an important barometer for how well licensees are upholding their responsibilities in the areas these various codes aim to address.
28. In the case of cultural diversity, the Commission stated in Broadcasting Public Notice 2005-24 that it would assess the need for any future replication of such content analysis when it evaluates the success of broadcasters' efforts in implementing the recommendations coming out of that process, through its review of their performance in implementing their corporate plans on cultural diversity, at the time of their licence renewals. The Commission most recently reiterated the importance of such work in Broadcasting Public Notice 2008-4 (Diversity of voices) when it stated that it is essential that all licensees continue to make progress in improving the inclusion of people representing Canada's cultural diversity in all programming.
29. The Commission is satisfied that the industry has adhered to the CRTC guidelines in the development of the Code and that it has adequately addressed the concerns raised on the public record. The Commission considers that the Code contains the necessary elements to be an effective self-regulatory tool that ensures equitable portrayal of Canada's cultural diversity by Canadian broadcasters. The Code thoroughly addresses the concerns identified in the research noted above conducted by the industry with respect to the portrayal of ethnocultural minorities, Aboriginal peoples and persons with disabilities in news and non-news programming.
30. Furthermore, the fact that the Code applies to all radio and television programming, including fictional and non-fictional programming, and commercial messages, ensures that all licensees are accountable for equitable portrayal at all times. To assist licensees in implementing these obligations, the Code contains significant guidance throughout and in its appendix of resources.
31. Finally, the Commission finds that the Code accurately reflects the key elements of the Sex-Role Portrayal Code pertaining to portrayal matters, which the Code intends to replace.
32. In light of the above, the Commission approves the Equitable Portrayal Code, as set out in the appendix to this notice. The Commission amends the Sex-Role Portrayal Code for Television and Radio Programming by replacing it with the Code, effective immediately. All licensees that, by condition of licence, have until now been governed by the Sex-Role Portrayal Code are now governed by the Equitable Portrayal Code, appended to this public notice.
This document is available in alternative format upon request, and may also be examined in PDF format or in HTML at the following Internet site: www.crtc.gc.ca.
This Code, which replaces the Canadian Association of Broadcasters ("CAB") Sex-Role Portrayal Code, has been created to ensure the equitable portrayal of all persons in television and radio programming. Canada's private broadcasters recognize the cumulative societal effect of negative portrayal and, by creating this Equitable Portrayal Code ("Code"), establish common standards to prevent such portrayal.
The CAB solicited input on the Code from 36 public stakeholder organizations representing ethnocultural, Aboriginal, and disability groups in the English- and French-language markets.
The CAB Equitable Portrayal Code reflects the responsibilities of licensees, under the Broadcasting Act,to ensure that their programming and broadcast services achieve the highest standards, and demonstrates the private broadcasters' commitment to the equitable portrayal of all persons in their programming.
In July 2004, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters endorsed the recommendations included in Reflecting Canadians - Best Practices for Cultural Diversity in Private Television, the report of the Task Force for Cultural Diversity on Television ("Task Force Report"). A key recommendation was that the CAB review its industry codes for the purpose of determining whether they addressed concerns identified in the Task Force's research findings regarding the reflection and portrayal of ethnocultural and Aboriginal groups. The Task Force Report was followed by a report commissioned by the CAB, The Presence, Portrayal and Participation of Persons with Disabilities in Television Programming ("CAB Persons with Disabilities Report"), which was released in September 2005. The CAB Persons with Disabilities Report also noted a lack of industry reference points or standards concerning the depiction and portrayal of persons with disabilities and called for a review of existing codes to address this concern.
The CAB was guided by the research findings in both the Task Force Report and in the CAB Persons with Disabilities Report relating to reflection and portrayal in developing this Code.
Specifically, the Task Force Report, and in particular the Phase IV Focus Group research, identified the following areas of concern with respect to achieving the fair and accurate portrayal of ethnocultural and Aboriginal groups:
The CAB Persons with Disabilities Report, and in particular Part III of the Research Report, identified similar concerns regarding the reflection and portrayal of persons with disabilities focusing primarily on inaccurate or stereotypical portrayals in dramatic and news and information programming and concerns regarding the victimization of persons with disabilities in programming.
This Code is designed to complement the research conducted and the initiatives undertaken by Canada's private broadcasters and other industry stakeholders in the area of diversity, and the general principles contained in the other CAB and industry codes referenced in Appendix to the Equitable Portrayal Code, namely, the Radio Television News Directors Association ("RTNDA") Code of (Journalistic) Ethics, the Advertising Standards Canada Gender Portrayal Guidelines for Advertising and the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards.
This CAB Equitable Portrayal Code is the response of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters to concerns identified in the Task Force Report and the CAB Persons with Disabilities Report regarding depiction and portrayal. It will be administered by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.
It is the intent of this Code that broadcasters shall strive to present equitable portrayal. This Code is intended to overcome unduly negative portrayal and stereotyping in broadcast programming, including commercial messages, based on matters of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability.
Application of this Code is the responsibility of the individual licensee. Complaints and inquiries should be addressed to and dealt with by the broadcaster involved.
Complaints not resolved between the complainant and the broadcaster will be referred to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC), which is charged with the administration of this Code and the process which that entails.
To create awareness of this Code, the CAB will work with the CBSC, which will distribute copies to interested parties, post the Code on its website in the CBSC's wide range of Aboriginal and ethnocultural languages, and encourage broadcasters to broadcast relevant public service announcements.
Television and radio programming shall respect the principle of equitable portrayal of all individuals.
Recognizing that every person has the right to the full enjoyment of certain fundamental rights and freedoms, broadcasters shall ensure that their programming contains no abusive or unduly discriminatory material or comment which is based on matters of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability.
In an effort to ensure appropriate depictions of all individuals and groups, broadcasters shall refrain from airing unduly negative portrayals of persons with respect to race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability. Negative portrayal can take many different forms, including (but not limited to) stereotyping, stigmatization and victimization, derision of myths, traditions or practices, degrading material, and exploitation.
Recognizing that stereotyping is a form of generalization that is frequently simplistic, belittling, hurtful or prejudicial, while being unreflective of the complexity of the group being stereotyped, broadcasters shall ensure that their programming contains no unduly negative stereotypical material or comment which is based on matters of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability.
Recognizing that members of certain of the following identifiable groups face particular portrayal issues, broadcasters shall ensure that their programming does not stigmatize or victimize individuals or groups on the basis of their race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability.
Broadcasters shall avoid the airing of content that has the effect of unduly deriding the myths, traditions or practices of groups on the basis of their race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability.
Broadcasters shall avoid the airing of degrading material, whether reflected in words, sounds, images or by other means, which is based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability.
Broadcasters shall be sensitive to, and avoid, the usage of derogatory or inappropriate language or terminology in references to individuals or groups based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability.
Broadcasts may fairly include material that would otherwise appear to breach one of the foregoing provisions in the following contextual circumstances:
The following is intended to provide readers with a non-exhaustive list of research undertaken, as well as reference material and tools private broadcasters and related industry stakeholders have developed or applied, in the area of diversity that may provide additional guidance in achieving the equitable portrayal of all groups in television and radio programming:
 These nine codes are the CAB's Voluntary Code Regarding Violence in Television Programming; the CAB's Sex-Role Portrayal Code; the CAB's Code of Ethics; the RTNDA Code of (Journalistic) Ethics; the Journalistic Independence Code; the Industry code of programming standards and practices governing pay, pay-per-view and video-on-demand services; the Pay television and pay-per-view programming code regarding violence; the CAB's Broadcast Code for Advertising to Children; and the Code for Broadcast Advertising of Alcoholic Beverages. The CBSC administers the first five codes listed here.