All About The Canadian Ratings System

The following is a document from the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (the Canadian version of the FCC), explaining the rules and procedures about the new ratings system. This document is being presented as displayed on the CRTC's web site.

News Release

June 18, 1997


OTTAWA-HULL - In September, Canadian viewers will have the benefit of on-screen ratings to help identify the content of their television programs. An icon will appear during children's programming, drama, "reality shows" and feature films that will help parents make informed choices as to what they consider appropriate viewing for their children.

This announcement was made today by the CRTC in approving the classification system submitted on April 30th by the Action Group on Violence on Television (AGVOT) (Public Notice CRTC 1997-80).

In its Policy on Violence in Television Programming announced in March 1996, the Commission required broadcasters to implement a V-chip compatible classification system to protect children from excessive television violence; the cable industry was to be responsible for making V-chip devices available to subscribers at an affordable price.

AGVOT, which represents all sectors of the Canadian broadcasting industry, was designated to consult with the public, programmers and distributors to develop an acceptable rating system for violence, and to submit it to the CRTC for approval.

A meaningful, parent-friendly classification system

The new classification system will have six levels as well as an exempt category that uses descriptive guidelines to evaluate the content of television programs. The content evaluation results in the assignment of a rating for the intended age of the audience based on the nature and the degree of violence present in a program. Programs will be classified in the following categories:

In order to measure its effectiveness, the classification system was evaluated through a national public opinion survey, by 340 families who participated in field trials, and through consultations with community groups and professional associations concerned with television violence. AGVOT states that the results of all the research confirm that the system is informative and readily understandable by families.

The Commission is satisfied that AGVOT's proposal meets the criteria set out in its Policy on TV Violence, and is confident that the new classification system represents an important addition to the anti-violence code already adhered to by Canadian broadcasters.

The Canadian Association of Broadcasters' Voluntary Code Regarding Violence in Television Programming places a strong emphasis on the protection of the viewing public, especially children, from the harmful effects of television violence.

The Code prohibits the broadcast of programming containing gratuitous violence in any form, or which sanctions, promotes or glamorizes violence. In addition, a number of sections specifically address what is acceptable in programming for children. The Code also sets a watershed hour of 9:00 p.m. before which no programming containing scenes of violence intended for adult audiences may be broadcast. Finally, the Code also requires broadcasters to air viewer advisories for programs containing violence intended for adults and for programs aired before 9:00 p.m. that contain violence not suitable for children.

The Commission notes AGVOT's intention to incorporate the violence classification system into a comprehensive rating system that will also include information about such other content elements as coarse language, nudity and sex.

Encoding and the V-chip

Although the results of the field trials indicate a positive response to the V-chip technology, AGVOT states that a number of issues need to be addressed before signal encoding and implementation of the V-chip is possible. Therefore, the broadcasting industry has proposed, as an interim measure, to display program ratings on-screen by this fall. The CRTC is satisfied that this initiative will provide a valuable service by assisting parents in making informed program choices for their families, and accepts the broadcasters' commitment to air the on-screen classification for the launch of the fall television season.

The Commission notes that French-language broadcasters in Quebec will continue to use the rating system of the Régie du cinéma.

However, the Commission expects encoding and the V-chip to be implemented as soon as an effective, affordable, user-friendly system can be made available to consumers. To that effect, the Commission will closely monitor the progress of the industry and ensure that all necessary efforts have been made to achieve this goal.

The Commission commends AGVOT for its considerable efforts in the development of this classification system, and acknowledges its wish to continue the positive, cooperative approach that will best meet the public's needs.

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Contact: CRTC Public Affairs, Ottawa, K1A 0N2
              Tel: (819) 997-5427, TDD: (819) 994-0423, Fax: (819) 994-0218

Copies of today's notice are available through our Internet site ( or by contacting the public examination room of any CRTC office. These documents are available in alternative format upon request.

City               Telephone             TDD                Fax

Halifax         (902) 426-7997     (902) 426-6997     (902) 426-2721

Montreal        (514) 283-6607     (514) 283-8316     (514) 283-3689

Ottawa-Hull     (819) 997-2429     (819) 994-0423     (819) 994-0218

Winnipeg        (204) 983-6306     (204) 983-8274     (204) 983-6317

Vancouver       (604) 666-2111     (604) 666-0778     (604) 666-8322 

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