Most Wanted – music video – Eminem – "The Real Slim Shady" – offensive behaviour – unsuitable for children
(1) Standard G2 – acceptable in context – no uphold
(2) Standard G12 – PGR classification and screening in PGR time appropriate and sufficient – no uphold
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
The music video for the song "The Real Slim Shady" by Eminem was broadcast on Most Wanted on TV4 at 7.00pm on 26 May 2000.
J M Shepherd complained to TV3 Network Services Ltd, the broadcaster, that the video contained "images of a bare male/female backside being lowered onto the face of an individual lying on the ground". The complainant considered that this material was unsuitable for children to watch.
TV3 responded that the material to which the complainant had objected was intentionally satirical, rated PGR, and intended for a teenage audience. In addition, it observed that the video contained no nudity or swearing. In this context, it did not accept that the video was objectionable. Nor did it accept that it had not been mindful of the effect of the video on children, commenting that the programme had been rated PGR because it was intended that adults would monitor child viewers. TV3 declined to uphold the complaint.
Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s decision, J M Shepherd 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.
The programme Most Wanted was broadcast on TV4 at 7.00pm on 26 May 2000. It featured music videos selected by audience request. During the programme, the video "The Real Slim Shady" by Eminem was broadcast.
J M Shepherd complained to TV3 that the video contained "images of a bare male/female backside being lowered onto the face of an individual lying on the ground". The complainant considered that this material was unsuitable for children to watch, and that the video should have been broadcast at a later time in the evening.
TV3 considered the complaint under standards G2 and G12 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. These standards 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 times.
TV3 observed first that Most Wanted was rated PGR. It then explained that the video in question was a satire of the American music industry and American social mores. Next, TV3 wrote that the scene described by the complainant:
involved the singer, Slim Shady, dressed in some kind of super-hero outfit with pretend plastic buttocks capturing a fan who has made a derogatory statement about him. He lowers these plastic buttocks onto the fan’s face.
As to standard G2, TV3 noted that the video did not contain swearing or nudity, and contained several sub-texts including a satire of the music business and perceived double standards in American culture. It then commented that music videos "can often seem downright immoral to viewers who are not in the age group for which the music is made", accepting that the video could seem "silly and somewhat juvenile". However, in context, TV3 did not consider standard G2 was breached.
Turning to standard G12, TV3 observed that the video was part of a PGR programme. It referred to the definition of a PGR programme, as set out in the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which reads:
Programmes containing material more suited to adult audiences but not necessarily unsuitable for child viewers when subject to the guidance of a parent or adult.
TV3 explained that:
when a programme such as Most Wanted is given a PGR rating the broadcaster intends that the child viewer will be monitored by a caregiver.
For the same reasons it gave in relation to standard G2, TV3 found that the video was acceptable "for the teenage viewer or child viewer subject to the guidance of a parent/caregiver".
TV3 declined to uphold either aspect of the complaint.
In the referral of the complaint to the Authority, J M Shepherd repeated that the material was unsuitable for children, commenting that:
the references in TV3’s response to different generations and older viewers were "red herrings", as the complaint referred to the effect of the item on young viewers
young children would not understand the subtleties of the subtexts of the video as explained by TV3
a young child would find it difficult to distinguish between fake plastic buttocks and the real thing.
The complainant suggested that if the programme Most Wanted continued to be screened at 7.00pm, then swearing and objectionable material ought to be removed.
In its response to the referral, TV3 advised that it had nothing to add to the comments which it had already made.
In a final comment, the complainant wrote:
TV4 has tried to fudge the age issue by inferring my complaint related to teenage viewers. This is most certainly not the case – my objection is against the station broadcasting material below the standard generally considered to be acceptable for watching by a young child at the relatively early evening time slot of 7–7.30pm.
When it deals with complaints alleging a breach of standard G2, the Authority takes into consideration the context in which the language or behaviour complained about occurred and the wider context of the broadcast. On this occasion, the relevant contextual factors include the programme’s PGR rating, its time of screening (during PGR time) and its target teenage audience. The Authority considers it relevant that, as submitted by the broadcaster, there was no swearing or nudity in the video, and that it was intentionally satirical. It also takes into account that viewing music videos is generally accepted as mainstream contemporary entertainment for a youth audience.
As to the sequence complained about, the Authority notes that the complainant apparently did not appreciate that the buttocks in the scene were fake. This, it considers, was made apparent in an earlier sequence in which the character’s full costume was displayed, and the distortion of his physique by the over-sized plastic buttocks was established. Furthermore, the Authority considers that the sequence was fleeting and innocuous. It considers there was an element of burlesque in the sequence complained about which would be unlikely to offend or distress a child, but which was nevertheless classified as being unsuitable for viewing by unattended children. Taking into account the contextual matters listed above and the brevity of the sequence complained about, the Authority finds no breach of standard G2.
The Authority turns next to the application of standard G12. It considers that TV3 demonstrated that it was mindful of the effect of the programme on children by appropriately classifying Most Wanted as a PGR programme and screening it during PGR time. Accordingly, it concludes that no breach of standard G12 occurred.
For the reasons set forth above, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
P J Cartwright
31 August 2000
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1. J M Shepherd’s Formal Complaint to TV3 Network Services Ltd – 29 May 2000
2. TV3’s Response to Formal Complaint – 30 June 2000
3. J M Shepherd’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 2 July 2000
4. TV3’s Response to the Referral – 10 July 2000
5. J M Shepherd’s Final Comment – 14 July 2000