Is There Still Room for Decency on Daytime TV?

November 8, 2016 Updated: November 9, 2016

Your grandmother would not approve. Your mother probably wouldn’t either. One Quebec mother most definitely did not.

Canada’s broadcast regulator, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC), recently ruled to allow the occasional F-bomb and explicit reference to sex toys on daytime TV.

The incident the CBSC was responding to came in the form of a complaint from a Quebec mother whose 8- and 11-year-old children were exposed to two F-bombs and coverage of a rally where phallic toys were being used as props on daytime television.

The boundary-pushers will claim the regulator’s decision as a victory, welcoming it as an expression of liberty and an extension of an unbridled, free society.

But there are others who will surely despair as the rug of traditional moral decency is pulled one more inch from under their feet. Daytime television was the last bastion of the socially acceptable. Regulations were in place that were supposed to reflect the appetite of all Canadians—grandmothers and children alike. If something was questionable it likely wouldn’t make the cut.

The CBSC’s ruling comes at a time when social acceptance of the once-taboo is at an all-time high. But is erring on the side of vulgarity really the best approach?

Is erring on the side of vulgarity really the best approach?

There must still be certain standards of polite behaviour that we can agree upon as a collective. Condemnation of child abuse is one of the few unifiers in the collective human conscience of moral standards. Explicit profanity was taboo at one time, as was graphic sexual expression. People once embraced self restraint and proper etiquette to varying degrees as the norm, and vulgarity was something not to be shrugged off so easily.

Some things were better left unsaid, at least on daytime TV. No longer. It’s a slippery slope—one that seems to have no bottom.

I think it’s safe to say that decency in itself is a concept most Canadians would embrace, at least in the public sphere.

Webster’s dictionary offers two useful definitions for decency:

1.Polite, moral, and honest behavior and attitudes that show respect for other people.

2. The behaviors that people in a society consider to be proper or acceptable.

The first is prescriptive, the second entirely variable according to the flavour of the day. It seems Canada’s broadcast regulators have chosen to abide by the second.

The Drift From Moral Norms

The first definition is especially useful when considering how far we have drifted from moral norms, once commonplace. Politeness, a long-held virtue among the masses, guaranteed a certain standard of overt behaviour that was considerate of our potential audience. You didn’t dare swear at the dinner table but you might in the comfort of casual friends. There was a time and place for things.

Daytime television used to be a relatively benign place. There were filters in place and the CBSC made sure that programs were held to a certain standard and that we were at least somewhat safe from those who felt every cultural norm should be trampled.

Now, if I choose to watch a midday show with my three-year-old son, I’m taking the chance that he will see and hear things that used to be reserved for the latest of the late night programming. That’s worrisome.

So why is our broadcast regulator’s ruling significant? Why should the CBSC be held to higher standards? Well, they set the tone for nationally sanctioned content accessible to all who have a television. They are the standard-bearers and it is their job to deem what is socially responsible content.

My son dropped his first F-bomb the other day, not in any context but it was there all the same. I’m not sure where he picked it up, but to hear it pop out of his mouth was still a cringer. I’m not ignorant or utopian. I know it’s only a matter of time before his little mind becomes bombarded with undesirable stuff. I just hope that it won’t be forced upon him by the CBSC.

I’m not advocating for mass censorship here, just a pause for thought about what we are feeding our collective consciousness and that of our children. And as for the content of daytime TV programming, is “anything goes” really the way to go?

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.