Volume 91, Issue 19

Tuesday, September 30, 1997

legal matters


Television gets screened

By Mark Brown
Gazette Staff

Canadian television broadcasters will begin rating the content of the programs they air – providing parents with another tool to help control shows their children are watching.

Over the next few weeks, viewers will notice a small box appearing in the corner of their television screen, rating the program they are watching with one of six classifications ranging from "children" (under eight years old) to "adult" (18 years and over).

The ratings will appear at the beginning of a program and again at the start of the second hour if necessary, said Linda Leslie, programming manager for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Some stations such as City-TV began implementing the rating system yesterday. However, due to some technical difficulties, viewers can expect the system to be phased in by other stations in the next few weeks.

Leslie explained the interpretation of the rating system will be different between broadcasters, however, it will reflect the individual stations' target audience.

City-TV programming director Ellen Baine said every broadcaster should be familiar with their viewing audience. "City-TV's programming targets adults – we purposely do not have programming for children," she added.

This rating system is designed to protect children form the harmful effects of TV, said Diane Nault, communications officer for the Canadian Radio and Television Commission. The system will later be used in conjuction with V-chip technology, a device allowing parents to screen out violent programming. "[Parents] can program the V-chip so violent programming does not enter the house," she said.

"The rating system is an external tool to help peoples' viewing habits," Baine said, adding it is up to the parent to use this tool as they see fit.

David Spencer, acting dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Western, believes the rating system has some problems. "Flagging shows on television will just help kids find it," he said. "There is the human curiosity factor." What the V-chip and rating system does is remove the social responsibility from the film and television makers, he said.

Baine however, said programming will be unaffected by the rating system or the V-chip.

"I think parents will have to take that responsibility even with the V-chip," Leslie added.

Nevertheless, Spencer does not have much faith in the rating system or the V-chip since it is unclear who will define violence referring to the subjective nature of the rating system.

"The whole question of media consumption needs to be addressed – if you don't like it, don't consume it," Spencer said, adding the question will not be solved by the implementation of the V-chip.

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Copyright The Gazette 1997