Lowry and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2012-118

Members

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga

Complainant

  • Wayne Lowry of Tauranga

Dated

29th January 2013

Number

2012-118

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Promo for Coronation Street – broadcast during Breakfast – contained brief image of a woman slapping a man’s face – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency, and children’s interests standards

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – shot of woman slapping a man’s face was very brief – Breakfast was unclassified and targeted at adults – promo unobjectionable in this context – not upheld

Standard 9 (children’s interests) – Breakfast was aimed at adults and any children viewing were unlikely to be doing so unsupervised – promo would not have disturbed or alarmed child viewers – broadcaster adequately considered children’s interests – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Introduction

[1]  During a promo for Coronation Street, a voiceover said, “Don’t miss the drama,” which was accompanied by a brief shot of a woman slapping a man’s face. The shot lasted around one second in the 20-second promo. The promo was broadcast on TV One at approximately 6.40am on 5 September 2012, during Breakfast, which was unclassified.

[2]  Wayne Lowry made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the image was offensive and that it had caused his son to question the woman’s behaviour.

Jurisdictional Matters

[3]  It is evident from the correspondence that Mr Lowry is concerned with an alleged advertising “campaign” which promotes violence as acceptable, and a “systemic problem”. Under the Broadcasting Act 1989 (the Act), our jurisdiction is limited to complaints about specific broadcasts – in this case, the promo for Coronation Street specified by Mr Lowry – and we are unable to consider the “cumulative effect” of violence in other broadcasts, as requested by the complainant.

[4]  Mr Lowry also relied on guidelines issued by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in support of his complaint. Promos for programmes are explicitly excluded from the definition of advertising in the Act.1 Promos fall within the jurisdiction of this Authority because they are categorised as programme material rather than advertising. Promos are therefore assessed only against our Act and the standards in our broadcasting codes, and we cannot consider the ASA’s advertising guidelines as part of our decision.

[5]  Mr Lowry did not nominate standards in his original complaint. On receipt of his complaint, TVNZ responded advising that the complaint would be considered in relation to good taste and decency and children’s interests, and invited Mr Lowry to “Please contact us within seven days of receipt of this letter if you wish to nominate other broadcasting standards.” Mr Lowry did not respond or seek to add other standards to his complaint until his referral to this Authority, when he sought to include standards relating to violence and responsible programming. As Mr Lowry did not raise these two standards either explicitly or implicitly in conjunction with his original complaint, we do not have jurisdiction to now consider them at the referral stage.

[6]  The issue therefore is whether the promo breached Standards 1 (good taste and decency) and 9 (children’s interests) of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[7]  The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Did the promo threaten current norms of good taste and decency?

[8]  Standard 1 (good taste and decency) is primarily aimed at broadcasts that contain sexual material, nudity, coarse language or violence.2 The Authority will also consider the standard in relation to any broadcast that portrays or discusses material in a way that is likely to cause offence or distress.3

[9]  When we consider an alleged breach of good taste and decency, we take into account the context of the broadcast, which here includes:

  • the promo was broadcast at 6.40am during children’s viewing times
  • it was broadcast during Breakfast which was unclassified
  • the adult target audience of Breakfast
  • Coronation Street was rated PGR and broadcast at 7.30pm
  • audience expectations of Breakfast and Coronation Street.

[10]  The shot of a woman slapping a man in the face was brief, lasting only one second, and the remainder of the 20-second promo was relatively innocuous. The purpose of the shot was not to promote or condone violence, but was one small part of a montage previewing upcoming storylines on Coronation Street, which regularly contains mature themes.

[11]  Breakfast is an unclassified news and current affairs programme targeted at adults and unlikely to appeal to children. While children may have been watching, they were unlikely to be doing so unsupervised. Guideline 8b to the responsible programming standard states that promos broadcast during unclassified host programmes should be rated G or PGR. We are satisfied that the promo complied with this requirement and did not contain any material which warranted an Adults Only rating, was unobjectionable when considered in context, and did not threaten current norms of good taste and decency.

[12]  Taking into account the importance of the right to freedom of expression, we decline to uphold this part of the complaint.

Did the broadcaster adequately consider children’s interests?

[13]  Standard 9 requires broadcasters to consider the interests of child viewers during their normally accepted viewing times.

[14]  While the promo was broadcast at around 6.40am when children could have been watching, the host programme Breakfast was aimed at adults rather than children, and was not the sort of programme that children would typically be interested in. Children who were watching were not likely to be doing so unsupervised. Further, as we have said, the shot complained about was fleeting, and the promo was unlikely to disturb or alarm child viewers.

[15]  For these reasons, we find that the broadcaster adequately considered children’s interests and we decline to uphold the complaint that the promo breached Standard 9.

For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
29 January 2013

Appendix

The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:

1           Wayne Lowry’s formal complaint – 5 September 2012

2          TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 28 September 2012

3          Mr Lowry’s referral to the Authority – 28 October 2012

4          TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 28 November 2012

5          Mr Lowry’s final comment – 20 December 2012


1See (d)(i) under the definition of “advertising programme” in section 2 of the Act

2Turner and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2008-112

3Practice Note: Good Taste and Decency (Broadcasting Standards Authority, November, 2006)