A Brief History of the CBSC
The CAB first suggested the idea of a self-regulating council for private broadcasters to the CRTC in April 1986.
By mid-1987, after consultation with various boards and broadcasters, the CAB submitted guidelines to the CRTC for developing such a council. The CAB developed further aspects of the council - its objectives, structure, complaints procedure, standards to be administered and annual reporting - during the course of 1987 and 1988. The CRTC endorsed the principles and responsibilities of the council in late September 1988. By then, the CAB had already developed two of the Codes the CBSC would later administer: the Code of Ethics (February 1988; revised in June 2002) and the CAB Violence Code (January 1987) (which was replaced by the new Violence Code which came into effect on January 1, 1994).
The CAB then drafted the CBSC Manual, intended for broadcaster members, the Regional Panels, the Secretariat and the National Executive. The Regional Panels were launched between March and May 1990. The first National Chair was appointed in August 1990. By October 1990, 75 per cent of all CAB members had become members of the CBSC. That figure has long since risen to 96 % of all private broadcasters and, since membership in the CBSC is now open to all sectors of the Canadian broadcasting system, there are a few CBSC members which are not part of the CAB.
The CAB released the third Code to be administered by the CBSC, the Sex-Role Portrayal Code for Radio and Television, in 1990. The CAB originally included a clause regarding sex-role stereotyping in the Code of Ethics (Clause 15), and had even earlier drafted a set of Sex-Role Portrayal Guidelines between 1982 and 1986. The CRTC praised these guidelines as "excellent statements of principles" and, in response to public and broadcaster concerns, requested that the CAB propose amendments to the guidelines.
The Sex-Role Portrayal Code which resulted is therefore the product of ten years of consultations by the CAB with interested groups and experts, including: the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women (disbanded in 1995; some of its services are now rendered by Status of Women Canada), the Children's Broadcast Institute, the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, MediaWatch, la Fédération des femmes du Québec, Canadians Concerned About Violence in Entertainment (C-CAVE), Toronto Women in Film and Video, the Alliance of Canadian Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA), and the Canadian Coalition Against Media Pornography. The CRTC endorsed the Code on October 26, 1990.
After just over a year of operation, the CBSC received the CRTC's formal endorsement in August 1991. The CRTC offered its "wholehearted support" to the Council. The CRTC's Public Notice 1991-90 expressed the Commission's satisfaction with the CBSC complaints process, while indicating that "any interested party" would still be entitled to approach the Commission with broadcasting concerns.
As the CBSC reflected on the dialogue it had always encouraged between broadcasters and the public, it realized that an important link was missing. The complaint process seemed dry and detached, the evaluation of a complaint against a code provision purely objective and, in some ways, unresponsive to the concerns of either the broadcaster or the listener/viewer. The dialogue was the link, the involved and subjective communication between the broadcast and the recipient ears and eyes. And yet there was no emphasis of the link in the process.
Accordingly, in CFOX-FM re the Larry and Willie Show (CBSC Decision 92/93-0141, August 30, 1993), the Council acknowledged the importance of the link by deciding that it should be underscored and evaluated as a part of the complaints process.
The extent to which the CBSC has melded the educational and communication processes can be seen in the following part of its section on Guiding Principles in the Manual, which provides the following (at p. 9):
Direct dialogue between a complainant and a broadcaster is the best means of resolving a concern. The Council will not consider a complaint until it is satisfied that sincere and demonstrable efforts have been made by both parties to deal with the matter to their mutual satisfaction.
Thus, in the course of complaint resolution, the CBSC considers that it is firmly within its mandate to evaluate not only the complaint itself against the standards established by the various Codes which it administers but also the responsiveness of the broadcaster in dealing with the viewer or listener.
It was a way of ensuring that the complainant was dealt with thoughtfully, appropriately, in sum, satisfactorily. It has also provided the CBSC with a method of recording substantial efforts regularly made by broadcasters to be responsive to their public. Even in circumstances where member stations have acknowledged an inadvertent breach of a code or even the station's own standards and practices, they have occasionally gone to extraordinary lengths to correct their error and provide satisfaction to the complainant. It has, as might be expected, resulted in plaudits for a broadcaster despite a Code breach and occasionally a negative decision despite the absence of a Code violation. Overall, the CBSC believes this bifurcated responsibility to respect the Codes and to communicate with the audience meaningfully has become an extremely valuable concept from the perspective of everyone involved in the process.
The requirement of responsiveness extends not only to the broadcasters but also to the CBSC itself. Accordingly, the Council has continually taken steps to revise its systems and structures to make them more user-friendly. Thus, the Council now only requires a straightforward written direction from the complainant, called a Ruling Request, to transfer the file to the appropriate Regional Panel for adjudication. And now, via its presence on the internet, the CBSC allows for the direct accessing of the complaints procedure by via on our Complaints Web page.