In Search of Reasonable Solutions: The Canadian Experience with Television Ratings and the V-Chip
... television may be the perfect scapegoat for a host of well-intentioned organizations wishing to criticize society.1
On June 18, 1997, with little fanfare, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission ( CRTC), handed down its decision on a television program classification system developed and tested by the Canadian broadcast industry.
The federal broadcast regulatory agency quietly approved a six-level classification system (plus an exempt category) for violence in television programming aired by English -- language programming services. The CRTC said it was satisfied that the system -- with its levels of C, C8+, FAM, PA, 14+, 18+, which went beyond the commission's requirement for violence to include coarse language, nudity and depictions of sexuality -- met the criteria set out in its Policy on TV Violence.
It also agreed that Canadian broadcasters could, as an interim measure, display the ratings on-screen in the fall of 1997 while they worked out the technical bugs holding up the actual encoding of the programs to work with V-chips. The CRTC ruling drew only modest media attention -- and no political outcry.
The contrast on that day could not have been more remarkable, for at precisely the same time in Washington, American broadcast industry executives were engaged in a pitched battle with senators, members of Congress, and activist lobby organizations. They were trying to work out a deal that would salvage their TV Parental Guidelines System, and get rid of a raft of antibroadcasting legislation, which was hanging over their heads in Damoclean fashion.