is a term used to describe a time in
television schedules which divides the period when it is
permissible to show television programmes which have 'adult
content' from the period when it is not. Adult
content can be generally defined as having nudity
, explicit sexual
, graphic violence
, strong language
, or drug
references or use.
Watersheds by country
According to COMFER
, the watershed starts at
10:00 p.m., and finishes at 8:00 a.m. the next morning.
On Australian television MA15+
programmes are not allowed to be shown before 9:00 p.m. at night.
the time difference between New South Wales and Queensland during daylight
saving in the former, and the fact that some stations that
broadcast into southern Queensland from northern New South Wales
(specifically the Gold Coast),
effectively pushed the watershed time back to 8:30 p.m.
Complaints from concerned citizens forced these stations to
broadcast as per local time.
AV15+ is a television specific variation of the MA15+ rating
indicating the program contains "Adult Violence" and programs given
this rating are not allowed to be screened before 9:30PM. As such,
most MA15+ programs generally begin after 9:30pm.
With the exception of subscription narrowcast channels, anything
may not been shown on Australian television at anytime, and must be
edited to fit within MA15+
Subscription narrowcast channels may broadcast R18+ materials, but
must insure that the material is restricted to access by those with
appropriate disabling devices.
Since its inception in 1995 Pay TV channel Adults Only
has only broadcast from
10:45 p.m. (9:45 p.m. at times) until 4:45 a.m. Although it is
advertised until 6:00 a.m., it broadcasts only a test signal in the
intervening time. However since the inception of Adults Only Select
service) in 2004, it has all but
eliminated the watershed time.
Austria and Germany
In the main German-speaking countries, the watershed is between
10:00 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. However, programmes marked "Keine
Jugendfreigabe" (not approved for minors) under FSK
be shown after 11:00 p.m.
According to the new rules of DJCTQ
, TV shows
rated for people over 16 years old can only air between 10 p.m. and
6 a.m., while shows rated for those over 18, can only air between
11 p.m. and 6 a.m. The ratings, however, are administered by the
television networks themselves, which are responsible for rating
their shows, which means that DJCTQ acts merely as content
controler, acting after the inappropriate content for children has
already been aired (as it happened with Rede
's Duas Caras
Self-censorship is not uncommon, such as when the head of Rede Record
edited all nude scenes in the
telenovela Poder Paralelo
which could air such scenes, once it is broadcast after 10 p.m.
This generated controversy, since violent scenes remained
The watershed starts at 9:00 p.m., and finishes at 6:00 a.m. the
next morning. Sexually explicit content, some offensive language
and other adult material is not allowed outside the
See also: Censorship in
In Finland, all the major television companies (YLE
Media) have agreed not to show 11 rated
content before 17:00, 15 rated content before 21:00 and 18 rated
content before 23:00. 15 and 18 rated programs are marked on the
schedule with K15 or K18 respectively but 11 rated content is not
marked. In 2008 a K13 rating was introduced. Content with a K13
rating is not shown before 19:00. Television channels use their own
discretion to decide the ratings. However non-sexual nudity itself
is not grounds for a mature rating.
Greek TV uses a triple-tier watershed, along with a five-tier
color-coded decal scheme, displayed in the beginning and in regular
intervals during all broadcasts except for news bulletins. A white
rhombus in green indicates programming that is suitable for all
ages and times of day. A white circle in blue ("Suitable for
children, but parental consent is desired") is used in cases that
may potentially upset children. A white triangle in orange
("Suitable for minors, but parental consent is necessary")
indicates mild violence or language that will upset younger
children, and such programming is only allowed between 7:00 p.m.
and 6:00 a.m. A white square in purple ("Unsuitable for viewers
under the age of 15") indicates foul language, violence, or erotic
-but not explicit- situations and such programming is only allowed
between 9:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. A white X in red ("Adults only")
indicates programming allowed only between midnight and 6:00 a.m.
Foul language before midnight is punishable by fine, except when
used in the context of a suitably labelled movie film, theatrical
play, etc. The color-coded ratings are mandatorily displayed and
verbally announced at the beginning of each broadcast. These
provisions are enforced by the National Radio and Television
Council (ESR), an independent authority, the executive members of
which are appointed by the leaders of all parliamentary parties,
preferably by unanimous consent and in extremis by an 80%
watershed in Ireland starts at 9.00 p.m. and finishes at 5.30 a.m. the
On premium film or pay-per-view services
requiring a subscription, the watershed starts at 8.00 p.m.
However, 12, 15 and 18 rated films can be shown on PIN protected
channels (such as Sky Movies
) at any time
of the day. Viewers are required to enter their PIN to view.
See also: Media in
According to Codice Tv e minori (Code for Children and Television,
2002), all the channels must broadcast "general audience"
programmes from 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., and programmes "directed to
children and adolescents" only from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.. After 10:30
p.m. +14 programmes can be aired. +18 programmes cannot be
broadcasted on television anytime.
On free-to-air channels (but not SKY
) programming rated Adults
is only allowed between 8:30 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. Adults
Only programming is also allowed to air between midday and 3:00
p.m. on school days (this situation is probably unique to New
Zealand). Sports programming and news bulletins are exempt from the
system altogether, but do still carry warnings before certain
channel terrestrial TV stations (RTP, SIC and
TVI) can only broadcast
programs and movies rated 16 or 18 between 11pm and 6am.
cable TV however there are no restrictions of broadcasting, except
pornography which can't be broadcasted at all without encrypted
signal, requiring an IRD
to be seen.
Switzerland has no watershed. However, broadcasters are required by
law to avoid any confrontation of minors with unsuitable
programming through the choice of transmission time.
to Ofcom, the
watershed on standard television in the UK starts at 9:00 p.m., and
finishes at 5:30 a.m. the next morning.
Programmes that are
15+ are shown during this period. However, some 12+ shows can be
shown before 9:00 p.m., such as The
, Malcolm in
. On premium film or pay-per-view services requiring a
subscription, the watershed starts at 8:00 p.m. However, 12, 15 and
18 rated films can be shown on PIN protected channels (such as
) at any time of the day.
Viewers are required to enter their PIN to view.There should be a
gentle transition to adult material, and 18-rated
not allowed to be shown before 9:00 p.m.
See also for the UK: The Ofcom Broadcasting Code - Section 1
"watershed" is not used in this context in the United States.
In the US, the "safe harbor
" for "indecent"
programming begins at 10:00 p.m. and ends at 6:00 a.m. the next
morning (all time zones). However, content that is considered
"obscene" (including explicit human sexual intercourse) is never
allowed by the FCC
rules for broadcast stations.
Those content rules only apply to channels broadcast terrestrially
and not those only
available on cable. Consequently, restricted-access networks (like
the premium channels HBO
and adult channels Playboy TV
) have taken advantage of considerably
more leeway in their programming.
Some American television scenes famous for "pushing the envelope"
(such as limited nudity on NYPD
) were aired in the 10:00 p.m.–11:00 p.m. hour;
however, these broadcasts were before the Safe Harbor in the
time zones, where
programming scheduled for 10:00 p.m. EST
would typically be broadcast
starting at 9:00 p.m. (using a one-hour delay in Mountain
Because the FCC interprets safe harbor times as local time, some
network affiliates can be fined for airing an "indecent" program
simultaneously with another station whose broadcast is officially
at a later time and wouldn't be fined. Such was the case with
, whose affiliates were fined US$3.63 million
for a repeat of the episode "Our Sons and Daughters
Without a Trace
2004. The program was flagged for depicting an orgy
It was televised at 10:00 p.m. in the Eastern and Pacific time
zones (within the watershed), but at 9:00 p.m. in Central and
Mountain times (outside the watershed). The FCC split its fine
among the 111 CBS affiliates covering these time zones. It is still
being appealed by those stations.
In the 1970s
, the ill-fated Family Viewing Hour
tried to make the
8:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. hour (7-8:00 p.m. Central/Mountain) safe for
family consumption, but was overturned in court due to the way it
- Questions Concerning Broadcast Standards, Canadian
Broadcast Standards Council, September 2008
- Valtion elokuvatarkastamo "Ikärajaluokituksen perusteet (Finnish)",
2007. Retrieved on 2009-04-12.
- Broadcasting Complaints Commission response to a
complaint; Retrieved on 2008-04-20
- Ministero delle Comunicazioni > Tutela dei minori 
- Bundesgesetz vom 24. März 2006 über Radio und Fernsehen
(Federal Act of 24 March 2006 on Radio and Television)
- The Ofcom Broadcasting Code - Section 1 Ofcom
- Eggerton, John (2007-07-05). FCC Gives CBS More Time To Respond
to Without a Trace Question. Retrieved from