Honourable Mélanie Joly,
Minister of Canadian Heritage
Government of Canada
Hounourable Jane Philpott,
Minister of Health
Government of Canada
April 26, 2016
It's Time to Reduce Violent Content of Canadian TV and Radio News, to Better Protect Children
Dear Honourable Ministers,
I wish to draw your attention to a national, public health issue that I believe merits your attention and action.
Each day in Canada, the mental and emotional health of young children < 7 years of age is put at some risk through their exposure to the violent content habitually broadcast via mainstream TV and radio news.
Perhaps this occurs inadvertently while a child is playing in a room while a parent cooks nearby, or in a vehicle while a child is being transported and the parent has switched on an hourly newscast. Whatever the circumstances of exposure, newscasts frequently provide graphic details of murders, accidents, kidnappings, terrorist events, calamities and mayhem, and young children 'consume' and attempt to process this information.
However, research confirms that young children <7 years of age do not have the cognitive ability to accurately discern the news and distinguish a real threat from a perceived threat; with repeated exposure, even young children exposed to such newscasts are likely to experienced elevated stress and symptoms of anxiety. These can lead to prolonged experiences of anxiety and the beginnings of chronic mental and emotional illness. Eventually, as we know in the case of other mental illness, this becomes a huge burden to an individual and our society.
Honourable Minister Jolie, the CRTC and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters came together in 1993 and jointly drafted a 'Violence Code' governing newscasts, principle 1.2.2. of which states, "young children should not be exposed to programming that is unsuitable for them."
I believe this principle is being ignored in present broadcasting practices; and further, that this code is greatly in need of updating with respect to scientific evidence from paediatric health specialists confirming the harmful aspects of such newscasting. A condition of the code was that the parties would convene every 5 years to review it, however I am told by the CRTC that such a meeting has never occurred.
Honourable Minister Philpott, I hope you see the need to address this issue, and I request that you urge Minister Jolie to address this issue, and to take this matter seriously on behalf of Canada's most vulnerable population - our young children.
One year ago, I created 'Choose News', an advocacy project to draw attention to this issue and urge the CRTC and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters to act to reduce the violent content of TV and radio news, to better protect Canadian children. Since then I have garnered more than 160 signatures on a petition supporting this action from Canadian citizens including health practitioners.
To date, all my entreaties to the CRTC and CAB on this issue - dating back several years - have been ignored or bounced between responsible parties to no effect. I'm sure you agree this is irresponsible and unacceptable.
Across Canada, May is Mental Health Awareness month and I urge you to commit to addressing this issue, post haste. Canadian society - with the help of government - has taken important steps in recent years to better protect our young children, including mandating protective headgear for various recreational activities (hockey, skateboarding, etc.), reducing exposure to toxic and noxious substances, and establishing a ratings code on entertainment products concerning viewing suitability. It is time to act accordingly on this issue.
Thank you for your attention to this matter,
Choose News advocacy project
Gibsons, BC, Canada
cc: Elizabeth May
Leader, Green Party of Canada