Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Canadian Broadcasting Policy

Canada’s Broadcasting Act, last amended in 1991, outlines industry guidelines for portrayal of diversity.

According to the Act, Canadian broadcasting should “serve the needs and interests, and reflect the circumstances and aspirations, of Canadian men, women and children, including equal rights, linguistic duality and the multicultural and multiracial nature of Canadian society, and the special place of aboriginal peoples within that society”; as well, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) is specifically directed to “reflect the multicultural and multiracial nature of Canada” and other broadcasters are instructed to “reflect Canada’s regions and multicultural nature.”[1]

Voluntary diversity codes

In 1999, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB), created a voluntary code for portrayal of diversity in the media. The guidelines under the Equitable Portrayal Code require that broadcasters’ commitment to cultural diversity be reflected in hiring and training practices. Nearly all Canadian media outlets are members of the CAB and as such are expected to:

  • Ensure balanced coverage of news and respect the principle of equitable portrayal of all individuals.
  • Refrain from broadcasting stories, news items or imagery that may incite hatred or contempt of others, based on ethnic or national heritage, skin colour or religion.
  • Be sensitive to the use of offensive language or stereotypical portrayals of minorities.[2]

The CAB’s Code of Ethics prohibits the broadcasting of abusive or discriminatory material based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability.[3]

The application of these guidelines is overseen by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC), an industry organization that hears viewer complaints about programming content and tries to resolve them through mediation at the local level, between broadcaster and complainant. Most complaints are resolved this way.

The Canadian newspaper industry is not regulated in the same way as television and radio. Many print and online news outlets are members of the National NewsMedia Council,[4] which also provides links to resources such as the GLAAD media reference guide. While the Council does not have a code of practice regarding diversity issues, it does adjudicate complaints on those issues. Quebec also has its own press council, the Conseil de Presse du Québec.[5] The Canadian music and video game industries currently have no guidelines on diversity portrayal, but consumers can complain directly to the companies that make these products and may influence racially and culturally diverse portrayal in media by choosing to support works that portray diversity in a positive way.

See MediaSmarts’ guide Talk Back! How to Take Action on Media Issues for more information on how to make a complaint with a media or regulatory organization.

Resources for further reading

 2SLGBTQ+ Organizations

Print Media

Comic Books



  • It Gets Better - The “It Gets Better” project channel started by Dan Savage


Media and Culture

  • - General interest, nerd culture
  • Towleroad - General interest, gay culture
  • OUTtv – “Canada’s only National LGBTQ TV Network”
  • Autostraddle - Geek- and pop-culture site for lesbian women



  • After Ellen - Popular culture site geared towards women
  • NewNowNext - Popular culture, celebrity gossip, and music

Film and Television


[1] Broadcasting Act (S.C. 1991, c. 11) Retrieved from

[2] (2008) Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Equitable Portrayal Code. Canadian Association of Broadcasters. Retrieved from

[3] (2002) Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Code of Ethics. Canadian Association of Broadcasters. Retrieved from

[4] (n.d.) Member News Organizations. National NewsMedia Council. Retrieved from

[5] (n.d.) Welcome to the Quebec Press Council. Conseil de presse du Québec. Retrieved from