Information on Private Member's Bill C-327
Reduction in Television Violence, introduced by Bloc MP, Bernard Bigras
Bill to reduce TV violence missing its target
April 2, 2008
By John Ivison
OTTAWA -Patrick Sekula is a typical 13-year-old Canadian boy: He likes watching television, surfing the Internet and playing video games -- the more violent the better.
He and six other local youngsters were invited to Parliament Hill yesterday to help MPs debating a new private members' bill that seeks to amend the Broadcasting Act to reduce the amount of violence shown on television before a 9 p.m. watershed.
Patrick's message was simple: Go ahead and make my day, no regulation of traditional television will make any difference to my viewing habits.
He said he watches such shows as Trailer Park Boys by going to the Showcase Web site, downloading them and watching whenever he feels like it. "There are no limits?" asked Liberal member of the Heritage committee, Mauril Belanger. "No," Patrick said.
Few things worry parents more than what their kids watch on television. In their youth, they may have cheered on Tom as he shoved Jerry's tail in the light socket, but they are concerned that the level of violence is out of control.
The problem is, what to do about it? The latest attempt is a private members' bill proposed by Bloc Quebecois MP Bernard Bigras, who recounted the horrific story of an 11-year-old Quebec boy who accidentally hanged himself while trying to play out a scene from the movie The Patriot, which he was watching at home at 8 in the evening.
Mr. Bigras said the movie rated for 13 and older should not have been shown before 9 p.m. and used the case as an example of a failure in the voluntary code regarding violence on television. He cited a Universite Laval study that suggested the number of acts of physical violence on television has increased 286% in the past 10 years -- most of it occurring before 9 p.m.
The bill has been the subject of exhaustive debate at the Heritage committee. While everyone who has spoken has been sympathetic to the goal, no one seems to believe Mr. Bigras' solution is workable.
Civil libertarians argue it would be a potential violation of free speech, while broadcasters say the problem doesn't exist, noting complaints filed by the public fell by nearly a quarter in the past eight years.
The intervention most damaging to the bill's progress came from Konrad Von Finkenstein, chairman of the CRTC, who said the bill is laudable but there is an existing code that prohibits gratuitous violence, requires advisories on content and demands that depictions of violence intended for an adult audience be broadcast after 9 p.m. He suggested the bill be reworked to give the CRTC powers to fine transgressors, powers it does not currently have. As it stands, he said, the legislation would turn the CRTC into a censor, responsible for dictating content to broadcasters.
For Jim Abbott, the parliamentary secretary of Canadian Heritage, this effectively kills the chances of the bill becoming law. "We have yet to hear one person testify who thinks this bill would do the job," he said. This government has shown itself to be in favour of using its muscle to reduce the volume of material it deems "offensive," notably in the form of Bill C-10, part of which involves the denial of Canadian tax credits to productions of which the government disapproves. It is also understood that the Heritage Minister, Josee Verner, is keen to give the CRTC the missing tools it needs, in the form of financial penalties for broadcasters that contravene codes on violence, bigotry and slander. But the Conservatives don't appear to believe Mr. Bigras' bill is the vehicle for that legislation since it is specific in targeting violence.
Mr. Belanger said the opposition is unlikely to support the measure either, which would halt it in its tracks. Nevertheless, its passage through committee has raised some interesting points, foremost of which is that trying to regulate what kids watch on television might be missing the point entirely.
The young people before the committee yesterday don't even see the bill as relevant. Of the seven who spoke -- four girls and three boys, ranging in age from 10 to 15 -- almost all played video games. Maxime Bernard, 10, said he enjoyed Desert Storm war game, but his parents were OK with that because there is no blood. All had hi-speed Internet, with three having computers in their bedrooms. As young Patrick Sekula said, this gives him carte blanche to watch what he wants. "My parents rarely come into my room," he said with a grin.
This is not to suggest the situation is hopeless. The seven youngsters all seemed smart kids who were able to distinguish between violence on the news and in works of fiction. Victoria Hurrell, 13, said she recognized the danger of too much violence on television might be to make people immune to its effects.
But the bottom line is, while industry codes and classification can play their part, if you want to protect your kids, it's up to you to make them media literate. The government's writ does not run in cyber-space.
As Canute said, sitting on his throne as the waves roared in, the power of kings is empty and worthless. Mr. Von Finkenstein probably knows how he felt.
Canada Bill eyes TV violence
November 18, 2006
By Etan Vlessing
TORONTO -- U.S. dramas and films airing on Canadian television could be subject to new regulations after the House of Commons in Ottawa debates next week a bill to curb kids TV violence.
The draft for Bill C-327, introduced by Bloc Quebecois member of parliament Bernard Bigras, draws a direct link between TV violence and violence in society.
Accordingly, the parliamentary bill calls for amendments to the federal Broadcasting Act that would introduce first-time regulations on domestic broadcasters to curb TV violence, especially for TV shows aimed at children under 12 years of age.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission last held public hearings on TV violence in 1995 and followed that up with a self-policing voluntary code on violence to shield young kids from undue or excessive violence.
As a result, Canadian broadcaster Global Television was forced in 1995 to edit "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" to comply with the new industry code.
The code also was combined with a new Canadian ratings system similar to one launched by U.S. broadcasters to classify TV programs.
But Bill C-327 contends that, despite industry codes and classification systems, instances of TV violence before 9 p.m. have "nevertheless increased," prompting the need for regulations enforceable by legal sanctions.
The TV violence debate in Canada has long focused on U.S. dramas and feature films dominating primetime schedules here.
According to Media Awareness Network, an advocacy group for Canadian teachers and parents, more than 80% of TV violence monitored on Canadian TV originated in the U.S.
Instances of homegrown TV violence comes mostly from private broadcasters, which air three times as many TV portrayals of violent acts as domestic public networks, including the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
The advocacy group also estimated that 87.9% of all violent acts air before 9 p.m., and 39% air before 8 p.m., when young kids are more likely to be watching TV.