Saskatchewan is reviewing its film classification policies and wants your input

The organization that oversees Saskatchewan’s film classifications is looking at modernizing its film policies, including potentially removing age-based ratings.

The Financial and Consumer Affairs Authority of Saskatchewan (FCAA) released a document Thursday asking for Saskatchewan residents’ help on deciding the future of film classification.

In it, the FCAA laid out recent changes in Ontrario, including dropping traditional ratings in favour of more descriptive lists of the content in a film.

The FCAA asked if Saskatchewan residents largely wanted to copy Ontario’s homework, adopt aspects of it or leave it unchanged. The FCAA would then develop recommendations to send off to the province.

“We’re not proposing to make any changes, we’re wanting to learn,” said Denny Huyghebaert, executive director of the FCAA’s consumer protection division.

“Just given some of the changes that are happening in the industry, with streaming, whether or not that it makes sense to continue on with that age-based rating system, or if there’s changes that would better serve Saskatchewan consumers.”

The discussion paper notes that some industry stakeholders argue age-based aren’t strong indicators, because children mature differently and also have more access to media than in the past.

Huyghebaert said it can be burdensome for the film industry to submit classification ratings for each province.

Denny Huyghebaert, executive director of the FCAA’s Consumer Protection Division, said once he hears back from Saskatchewan residents, he and others in the organization would provide a recommendation to the province. (CBC)

The FCAA’s open request asks for suggestions ranging from whether the province should cut age-based film ratings to whether the province should change how it classifies adult films.

It’s the most fulsome review in the province since 1996, according to the document. Huyghebaert said the review wasn’t sparked by anything in particular, aside from the policies needing a review in the evolving media landscape.

Jerry White, an English professor and film studies expert at the University of Saskatchewan, said he is not surprised that the province is looking to simplify regulations and consider streaming services, but that removing age-based ratings would be a step backward.

“The age-based rating systems were concise and attempts to summarize the relevant information in ways that people can understand very quickly,” he said.

It could be revised, he argued, but cutting it completely could lead parents to resort to the American rating system, which he said is not as strong because it’s ranked by a private American organization, rather than accountable to a public entity.

White said he imagines that the succinct ratings could be replaced with convoluted descriptions.

“I think people are going to want a simple summary of what this film is like: they’re going to want it in the form of a number or a letter,” White said.

Huyghebaert said that it’s difficult to predict how people may feel about that change. 

LISTEN | The FCAA’s Denny Huyghebaert talks about why the classification is being reviewed and what it means for the province: 

The Afternoon Edition – Sask7:10Government of Saskatchewan looking for feedback on film regulations

The government of Saskatchewan is looking to the public for feedback regarding its film regulations. Denny Huyghebaert is the Executive Director with the Consumer Protection Division. He joins host Garth Materie to share more.

The discussion paper also considers eliminating a registry of theatre information.

“It will make it easier for people to own a movie theatre in the province. It will probably make it more difficult for people who are upset by what that theatre is showing to appeal to a public body about that,” White said.

Huyghebaert said people would still be able to obtain that information through the theatre to provide complaints, if the considerations laid out are followed.

Comments about the province’s classification have to be submitted by Sept. 29.

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