Music Video – "Beautiful Day" – offensive behaviour – unsuitable for children
Standard G2 – kissing shown – not offensive – no uphold
Standard G12 – content acceptable – no uphold
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
A music video was broadcast on TV One at about 8.00am on Sunday 8 October 2000 between a religious programme and a children’s programme. The song "Beautiful Day" was sung by U2.
Barry Marshall complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the video contained "licentious behaviour" which he considered offensive. In his view, it was unsuitable for broadcast at any time, but particularly so when placed between two "quality programmes".
TVNZ responded that the song’s lyrics were not unsuitable for child viewers and that the visuals of a couple kissing did not exceed community norms of decency and good taste. It declined to uphold the complaint.
Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s decision, Mr Marshall 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. The Authority determines this complaint without a formal hearing.
The song "Beautiful Day" was sung by U2 on a music video broadcast on 8 October 2000 on TV One at about 8.00am. It was placed between the religious programme In Touch and a children’s programme titled Tiki Tiki. The song had been written for an international campaign aimed at a one-off cancellation of the unpayable debts of the world’s poorest countries.
Barry Marshall complained to TVNZ both about the content and the placement of the video. In his view, it was a "most unsuitable, inappropriate and unnecessary" fill-in item. He objected to footage of a couple kissing, which he described as "licentious behaviour". He suggested that the time-slot for the "offensive material" had been deliberately chosen to give maximum offence because the material was completely out of context with respect to the fact that it was Sunday, and to the type of programmes surrounding it. Indeed, he added, the offensive item was so lurid that it raised the question of when it would ever be acceptable on television.
TVNZ assessed the complaint under standards G2 and G12 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. Those 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 hours.
TVNZ noted that the video was played in G time. That classification is for:
Programmes which exclude material likely to be unsuitable for children under 14 years of age, although they may not necessarily be designed for child viewers.
In TVNZ’s view, the lyrics were not unsuitable for child viewers. The message, it said, was a moral one and called for love and brotherhood among nations. As far as the visuals were concerned, TVNZ did not consider the pictures of a couple kissing exceeded what would be expected in a G programme.
As far as standard G2 was concerned, TVNZ did not consider that the kissing strayed beyond currently accepted norms of decency and taste. It added that there was nothing "lurid or licentious" about it, as contended by Mr Marshall.
Standard G12 was not at risk, TVNZ concluded, as it could identify nothing in the song that could harm children. It declined to uphold the complaint.
As a final observation, TVNZ noted that its presentation directors had concluded that although the video had not breached any standards, it "did not fit comfortably" into the schedule at the time it was broadcast, and had probably gone over the heads of the audience awaiting Tiki Tiki. It said the video was unlikely to be shown at that time again.
When Mr Marshall referred the complaint to the Authority he said that he was dissatisfied with TVNZ’s explanation for showing the video in the time-slot. Commenting on the video’s content, he said that no matter how admirable the song’s words, they could not justify the "quite explicit and lurid" video scenes which he considered were out of context and unnecessary.
He suggested that if his complaint was not upheld, then the broadcaster received confirmation that its actions were correct, and members of the public would feel let down and powerless. In addition, he said, people would feel justified in exploiting the consequent lowering of standards.
TVNZ responded to the Authority by pointing out that it disagreed with Mr Marshall’s description of the video as being "explicit and lurid". Asking what was explicit about it, TVNZ noted that all that viewers saw was a couple kissing. It also said it found nothing in the video which met the description of lurid.
There are two aspects to this complaint. The first relates to the content, and the second is the video’s placement between a religious programme and a programme intended for children on a Sunday morning.
The Authority deals first with the complaint about the song’s content, which Mr Marshall described as "licentious" and "lurid". In particular, Mr Marshall was concerned about a scene where a couple was seen kissing. In the Authority’s view, this brief sequence did not exceed community standards of good taste and decency. It does not consider it was licentious or lurid, as contended, and declines to uphold this aspect.
As for the time of the broadcast, TVNZ has acknowledged that the item’s placement was not entirely appropriate. However, this was not because the content was necessarily unsuitable for children, but because the song’s philanthropic sentiments were unlikely to be easily comprehended by them. The Authority does not consider the content was unsuitable for children who were in the viewing audience and declines to uphold this aspect of the complaint.
For the reasons given, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
20 December 2000
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint: