November 2, 2004

Quebec Regulations Concerning Advertising Directed to Children

In the past, frequent references have been made to legislation developed in Quebec for the protection of children from advertising, based on research showing harmful effects. So far, it is the only province in Canada to do so. But worldwide momentum, in addressing what has become a global problem, is growing. One example involves the collaboration that grew out of the Video Conference held at Ryerson University in Toronto last month between C-CAVE and World Future Schools in Berlin, Germany. Participant, Eric Schneider and his colleagues, have expressed an interest in reviewing emerging legislation on this issue in various jurisdictions around the world. So exactly what kind of legislation do we now have in Quebec that could be used as a precedent for further development in other Canadian provinces, as well?

The following is a Summary of the Regulations Under the Quebec CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT Concerning Advertising Directed to Children. The full text is available to anyone upon request from the Quebec Government.

Sections 248 and 249 of the CPA prohibit television advertising in Quebec directed to children under the age of 13, as follows:

248. Subject to what is provided in the regulations, no person may make use of commercial advertising directed at persons under thirteen years of age.

249. To determine whether or not an advertisement is directed at persons under thirteen years of age, account must be taken of the context of its presentation, and in particular of
a) the nature and intended purpose of the goods advertised;
b) the manner of presenting such advertisement;
c) the time and place it is shown.

The Regulation respecting the application of the Consumer Protection Act provides some exceptions. For example, a television advertisement to announce a show directed to children may be broadcast, provided this advertisement is in conformity with certain requirements listed in the regulation.

Under the CPA, the advertising of certain products (toys, candies and foods) and certain services in children's programs is prohibited unless the TV advertisement is of no interest to children. Restrictions also apply to certain characteristics of advertisements such as: 1. the use of themes pertaining to fantasy, magic, mystery, suspense and adventure; 2. the inappropriate use of children, the use of childish voices, heroes, fantastic or eccentric creatures, and the use of animals; 3. the use of music that is particularly attractive to children.

NOTE: The Office de la protection du consommateur (Consumer Protection Office - OPC) was formed to oversee the implementation of this legislation and established guidelines addressed to cases in which advertising is {directed} to both children and parents. This type of advertising may only be broadcast during programs for which children between the ages of 2 and 11 account for less than 15% of the audience. On June 2, 1995, the OPC closed. Although the law is still in effect, there is no "official" agency to provide opinions as to commercial compliance to the law. Commercials may be submitted for consultation to 4 different agencies: CBC Advertising Standards, the Telecaster Committee, the Broadcast Clearance Advisory, or Les normes Canadiennes de law publicite (ASC Quebec). CBC and Telecaster provide opinions at no charge, whereas the ASC and BCA charge a fee. Neither ASC nor BCA approval is a condition of broadcaster license in Quebec.

None of this is adequate in my view and is an example of how industry pressure in Canada has watered down the original intent of the legislation. It has created a situation in which, essentially, the fox is guarding the henhouse.

In the aforementioned summary we are also told:

It should be noted that this legislation covers only commercial advertising. Educational advertising is allowed, provided it complies with certain conditions. These provisions of Quebec's CPA cannot apply to signals originating from outside Quebec that are retransmitted by cable television companies. Thus advertising from English Canada and the United States is not subject to this regulation.

This is a clear indication of why we need similar legislation throughout the rest of Canada and the United States. Earlier this year, the American Psychological Association issued a call for restrictions on "Children-Oriented Advertising". The APA also issued a statement recommending that all forms of marketing in schools where students under the age of 8 are in attendance, be restricted. They said, "Given that young children inherently lack the cognitive capability to effectively recognize and defend against television commercial persuasion, we recommend that policy makers pursue efforts to constrain advertising specifically targeted directly to this particular age group" (Teinowitz, Ira, 2004, Feb 24, REPORT HITS 'COMMERCIALIZATION OF CHILDHOOD' Washington,

Stay tuned for further developments. In the meantime, bring your local provincial MPPs, educators, psychologists, psychiatrists and other child care givers up to speed on this issue.

Rose Anne Dyson, Ed.D.
Chairperson, C-CAVE
Author of MIND ABUSE: Media Violence In An Information Age
Co-author of MEDIA, SEX, VIOLENCE and DRUGS in the GLOBAL VILLAGE and Terrorism, Globalization & Mass Communication