Keeping Secrets – documentary – strip club - nudity – warning insufficient – offensive behaviour – not mindful of children
(1) Standard G2 – warning – 9.30pm – AO – nudity not focus – no full frontal nudity – no uphold
(2) Standard G12 – 9.30pm not "normally accepted" children’s viewing time – no uphold
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
The documentary Keeping Secrets was broadcast on TV3 on 12 January 2000 at 9.30pm. The documentary was about the opening of a second "Secrets" table dancing club in London.
Kristian Harang complained to TV3 Network Services Ltd, the broadcaster, that the broadcast showed "strip club" scenes and nudity. He contended that the content transgressed broadcasting standards relating to good taste and decency and the protection of children.
TV3 responded that the programme was rated AO, was preceded by a warning, and screened an hour after the AO watershed. In addition, the documentary’s focus was on the club’s business, not stripping. In this context it did not consider that the good taste standard was transgressed. Neither did it consider that the standard requiring broadcasters to be mindful of the effects of programmes on children was breached, as the programme did not screen during "normally accepted" children’s viewing time.
Dissatisfied with TV3’s decision, Mr Harang referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
For the reasons given below, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the item complained about and have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. On this occasion, the Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.
Keeping Secrets, a documentary about the "Secrets" club in London, was broadcast by TV3 on 12 January 2000 at 9.30pm. The documentary focussed on the opening of a second "Secrets" table dancing club and the club’s subsequent struggle to remain economically viable.
Kristian Harang complained that the programme had breached the good taste standard and the requirement to be mindful of children. He objected to the "many strip club scenes and naked ladies" and expressed his concern that, despite the warning which preceded the programme, children and teenagers could not be stopped from watching the programme.
TV3 assessed the complaint under the nominated standards. Standards G2 and G12 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice require broadcasters:
G2 To take into consideration currently accepted norms of decency and taste in language and behaviour, bearing in mind the context in which any language or behaviour occurs.
G12 To be mindful of the effect any programme may have on children during their normally accepted viewing hours.
TV3 noted that the programme was rated for Adults Only and was preceded by a written and verbal warning about nudity. It added that the programme was screened at 9.30pm, and TV3’s censor had edited it to ensure compliance with broadcasting standards.
In TV3’s view, the documentary handled "the rather sensitive issue of stripping" in a positive way, so that the filming did not demean the women involved. The focus, it said, was on the business of the club, rather than the strip routines performed there. Furthermore, it said that no full frontal nudity was shown and that it was the club’s policy not to allow full frontal nudity in routines.
TV3 considered that the focus of the documentary and the partial nudity which was shown was appropriate in the context of an AO programme screened at 9.30pm and it declined to uphold the complaint that standard G2 had been breached.
As to standard G12, TV3 referred to a previous decision of the Authority in which it was held that 8.30pm is not normally accepted children’s viewing time. As Keeping Secrets screened an hour after the 8.30pm AO watershed, had been preceded by a warning and edited prior to broadcast by a TV3 appraiser, TV3 considered that it had been mindful of the effect that the programme might have on children.
When he referred the matter to the Authority, Mr Harang said that despite TV3’s editing of the programme, he had found a scene of a "woman rubbing her naked breasts" offensive, as was footage of what he called "half naked women" in the vicinity of the stage. Mr Harang also disagreed that the warning which preceded Keeping Secrets was sufficient to "let people know about the programme".
In a postscript to Mr Harang’s referral, he said that "TV3 says there was no nudity" in the programme and then disagreed that this was the case.
TV3 disputed that it had said there was no nudity in the programme in its response to the Authority, pointing out that the programme’s warning had specifically referred to nudity and reiterating that it had in fact said that the programme contained no full frontal nudity.
In Mr Harang’s final comment, he wrote that there was at least some nudity in the programme. He then said that he considered it a "joke" that TV3 had pointed out that a warning notice preceded the programme, and repeated his contention that this "does not stop any teenager or young person watching the programme, and being influenced by the nudity".
As it is required, the Authority considers alleged breaches of standard G2 in the context in which the language or behaviour occurs. In this case, the relevant contextual factors include the written and verbal warning which preceded the programme, its AO warning and the time of broadcast. The Authority also considers it relevant that the programme was a documentary which focused on the business of the "Secrets" club, and that no full frontal nudity was shown. Taking into account these contextual matters, the Authority is not persuaded that the programme offends community standards as Mr Harang contends. Accordingly, it declines to uphold this aspect of the complaint.
The Authority then turns to the complaint that TV3 failed to demonstrate it was mindful of children and thus breached standard G12. The Authority concurs with TV3’s observation that 9.30pm is not deemed "normally accepted" viewing time for children. The Television Code of Broadcasting Practice provides that programmes shown after 8.30pm may contain adult themes or themes which would be unsuitable for children under 18 years old. Accordingly, the Authority finds that standard G12 is not relevant on this occasion, and it declines to uphold the complaint on this basis.
For the reasons set forth above, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
30 March 2000
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1. Kristian Harang’s Complaint to TV3 Network Services Ltd – 17 January 2000
2. TV3’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 11 February 2000
3. Mr Harang’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 12 February 2000
4. TV3’s Response to the Authority – 24 February 2000
5. Mr Harang’s Final Comment – 6 March 2000