Media Regulation

Principles

Biblical principles that guide our approach to media regulation are care of the vulnerable and respect for human dignity and religious freedom. Violent and explicitly sexual portrayals reduce people to objects to be manipulated for one's own advantage or pleasure, thus debasing the personhood of the victim. This objectification of the victim violates the dignity we all share by virtue of our being created in the image of God.

The Issue

What we see shapes our attitudes and actions. Evidence of this is found in the billions of dollars spent annually on advertising. The National Foundation for Family Research and Education (NFFRE) examined 74 studies on the impact of pornography, and found a clear and consistent link between viewing pornography and sexually deviant behaviours and attitudes.[1

Exposure to portrayals of violence can desensitize a person and, in particular, a child to the effects of violence, and can foster a sense of hopelessness and fear. Sexually explicit programing may focus only on the sexual dimension of human nature to the exclusion of all else, distorting the viewers' perspective of people, their worth and their proper place in society.

While parents are primarily responsible for their children, the broadcasting industry and  government regulators bear responsibility for regulating offensive programing. Some parents groups and media monitoring agencies have questioned whether voluntary codes are effectively protecting children from violent content on television. The V-chip was introduced in 2001 as one way parents can protect their children from violence on television.

After holding a public consultation in 1998, the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) decided that it was not within its mandate to regulate the Internet. While the Criminal Code provisions apply to the Internet, the international and technological nature of the Internet makes detection and enforcement difficult. 

The CRTC regulates religious broadcasting through its religious broadcasting policy. Single-faith broadcasters are required to include "balance" in their programing by providing broadcasting time for other faiths, as a condition of getting a broadcast licence.

Footnote

[1] E. Oddone Paolucci, M. Genuis and C. Violato, The Effects of Pornography on Attitudes and Behaviours in Sexual and Intimate Relationships, National Foundation for Family Research and Education, Calgary, Alberta, 1999, p. 18.

Current Status

Canada's radio and television industries are regulated by the CRTC, which reports to the federal government. Studies commissioned by the CRTC have found that there is a link between viewing violent programs and aggressive behaviour by children. The CRTC has worked with the television industry to set up voluntary codes of conduct to restrict violent programing. V-chip technology was introduced in 2001 to help parents screen out violent and inappropriate content from children.

In 2007 the EFC submitted a brief to the CRTC's Diversity of Voices hearings.

The broadcasting industry is largely self-regulating when it comes to content of programs. The Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) has voluntary codes of conduct. Individuals may make complaints to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, which will hold a hearing and may publicly condemn the actions.

The CRTC established a new policy on religious broadcasting in 1993, which allowed for single-faith religious broadcasting with certain restrictions, such as the balance requirement. Only a few Christian television and radio stations have been licensed since that time. Most of the radio stations are low wattage and have a limited range.

The Internet is subject to Criminal Code provisions, but Canada does not have other forms of specific regulation of the Internet.

Statistics

Religious Broadcasting

Until 1993, single faith broadcasting stations (radio or television) were not permitted in Canada. When the CRTC opened the door to single-faith broadcasting in 1993, it retained restrictions that require Christian broadcasters to have "balance" in their programming, meaning that they must devote a certain percentage of their broadcasting hours to multi-faith programming.

Initially, few single-faith stations were licensed. This number has been growing each year. Many communities now have access to Christian radio. In addition, many Christian radio stations can be accessed through the Internet.

Violence on Television

In 2002, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada conducted a survey of our constituents on the subject of television violence. We received 9,513 responses. An overwhelming 96% responded that they had been offended by scenes of violence shown on TV. The average child watches 8,000 telvised murders and 100,000 acts of violence before he or she finishes elementary school. These numbers double by the time he or she reaches age 18. And violence on TV increases every year.

 

What you can do

The media is part of everyday life in Canada, yet it shapes our values. As Christians, we must be discerning in what we watch. We must also be vigilant about what our children watch. The V-chip technology allows parents to monitor, and screen out, certain objectionable television. But there are many messages in ordinary programming, and advertising, that we should be cautious about.

In addition to monitoring our own, and our children's, viewing habits, we can encourage government regulation of the broadcasting industry that will reduce violence on television, or require it to be after a certain threshold hour.