Coca Cola Chart Show – sex club routines – offensive behaviour – unsuitable for children – upheld by broadcaster – uncut version subsequently re-broadcast
Action taken insufficient – uphold
Broadcast of statement
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
A music video entitled "Madonna Music" was broadcast on the Coca Cola Chart Show on TV2 on 29 August 2000 at about 11.30am. It included a night club sequence where women were shown performing night club routines.
Deanna Clarke complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the sexually overt content of the video fell short of accepted norms of decency and good taste. Further, as it was screened on a Sunday morning during children’s accepted viewing times, the broadcaster did not demonstrate that it was mindful of the video’s effect on children.
TVNZ upheld Ms Clarke’s complaint under both standards. It advised that it had devised a shortened version of the song so that it would end before the night club sequence began and comply with PGR guidelines. It apologised for the offence caused.
Dissatisfied with the action taken by TVNZ, after upholding the complaint, Ms Clarke referred it to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
For the reasons given below, the Authority upholds the complaint that the action taken by TVNZ was insufficient.
The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the item complained about (and a shortened version which omits the offending sequence) and have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines this complaint without a formal hearing.
"Madonna Music", a music video, was broadcast on Coca Cola Chart Show on TV2 at about 11.30am on Sunday 29 August 2000. The video included a sequence filmed in a night club and showed scantily clad women performing some night club routines.
Deanna Clarke complained to TVNZ that the video’s content was unsuitable for broadcast on a Sunday morning when children were likely to be in the audience. She said that the content was sexually explicit and wrote that it was:
Bordering on ‘pornographic with clothes on’, we had women, legs spread, thrusting their crotches in our faces (not to mention Madonna’s) and fingering their genital regions on a strip stage.
She expressed concern that this was deemed suitable for broadcast when children were watching television. She expanded on her complaint in a further letter, arguing that the behaviour fell short of accepted norms of decency and good taste. She wrote:
If women flaunting their (albeit covered) genitals and simulating sex on Sunday morning TV is decent and normal then it is a sorry day for our children.
Ms Clarke complained that the sexually overt content of the video was unsuitable for broadcast in children’s normally accepted viewing times, and that the broadcaster had not been mindful of the effect on their impressionable minds.
She suggested that the video should have been classified as AO.
TVNZ advised that it had assessed the complaint under standards G2 and G12 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. They 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.
It observed that the programme was aimed mostly at teenagers and that it featured the top twenty singles in video format. "Madonna Music" had been high in the charts for some weeks, it noted.
TVNZ clarified that the time when the video was shown was in fact PGR viewing time and not G time as Ms Clarke appeared to assume. PGR is defined as:
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.
Nevertheless, TVNZ accepted that the sequence to which Ms Clarke referred was not suitable for broadcast in PGR time and that it exceeded currently accepted norms of decency and taste given the context of its screening on a weekend morning. It also accepted that it had not been sufficiently mindful of the effect the video could have on children viewing at that time. It upheld both aspects of the complaint.
TVNZ reported that the programme’s producer had arranged for the song to be shortened so that it would end before the night club sequence began. It also advised that it had asked the producer to ensure that the song complied with PGR guidelines.
It apologised for the offence caused.
Ms Clarke referred the complaint to the Authority as she was dissatisfied with the action taken by the broadcaster. She reported that she had viewed the video again on 8 October and observed that the nightclub scenes were still being shown, albeit in a shortened and reformatted version. She repeated her concern about children watching.
In its response to the Authority, TVNZ conceded that it owed Ms Clarke both an explanation and an apology. It reported that its investigation showed that the producer had complied with its request to cut the video. However, on 8 October what it described as a "technical glitch" had occurred which resulted in the original uncut tape being inadvertently inserted in the programme. TVNZ said that it accepted this was contrary to the undertaking given to Ms Clarke and sincerely apologised for that failing. As far as it could determine, the uncut version had not been played on any other occasion since the complaint was upheld in late September.
TVNZ indicated that the song’s distributor had produced a "censored version" of the tape but that it considered even that version was too explicit. It reported that it intended to use its own edited version of the tape.
In her final comment Ms Clarke said that she considered that the producers of the programme should have been aware that the video was the subject of an upheld complaint. She added that it appeared that the producers were oblivious to the issue surrounding the video, and concluded:
It seems to me that there needs to be some procedure protocols implemented at TVNZ in cases such as this.
This is a complaint about the action taken by the broadcaster, after upholding a complaint that a broadcast breached broadcasting standards. In its initial response to the complainant, TVNZ had advised that the video had been shortened so that it ended before the nightclub sequence began. However, Ms Clarke reported that a subsequent broadcast of the song contained excerpts from the nightclub sequence and clearly had not been edited as advised by TVNZ.
This complaint raises an issue about the integrity of TVNZ’s systems and procedures. In the Authority’s view, the complaint was appropriately upheld as being in breach of standards G2 and G12 because the content was unsuitable for broadcast at a time when children were likely to be in the viewing audience. The complainant was offered an assurance that the video would be edited before being broadcast again. Apparently TVNZ’s decision to broadcast only the edited version was not conveyed to all staff involved in the production of the programme. When a technical problem occurred and a pre-recorded programme needed to be re-made, the uncut version of the tape was used in place of the edited version.
It is of concern to the Authority that an error of the nature described occurred. In its view, where action is taken as a result of a complaint being upheld, the broadcaster should ensure that robust protocols are in place to avoid rebroadcasting the offending item. Accordingly, it upholds the complaint that the action taken by TVNZ was not sufficient.
For the reasons given, the Authority upholds the complaint that the action taken by Television New Zealand Ltd, in relation to an upheld complaint about a music video on Coca Cola Chart Show broadcast on TV2 on 29 August 2000 at about 11.30am, was insufficient.
Having upheld a complaint, the Authority may make orders under s.13 and s.16 of the Broadcasting Act 1989. It invited the parties to make submissions on penalty.
The Authority has considered those submissions. It acknowledges that the rebroadcast was unintentional and was the result of a technical problem. It considers that the broadcast of a statement summarising this decision is an appropriate penalty. It makes the following order:
Pursuant to s.13(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989, the Authority orders Television New Zealand Ltd to broadcast, within one month of the date of this decision, a statement relating to this complaint. The statement shall be broadcast at a time and on a date to be approved by the Authority.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
18 December 2000
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint: