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Harang and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2002-189

Members

  • P Cartwright (Chair)
  • R Bryant
  • J H McGregor

Complainant

  • Kristian Harang of Auckland

Dated

28th November 2002

Number

2002-189

Programme

Strippers

Channel/Station

TV2

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint
Strippers – sensationalist – voyeuristic – offensive – unsuitable for children and young teenagers

Findings
Standard 1, Guideline 1a – context – no uphold

Standard 9, Guideline 9a – not children’s normal viewing time – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

[1] Strippers is a British documentary series which followed a small group of women for three months and examined female striptease. One episode was broadcast at 9.30pm on TV2 on 10 September 2002.

[2] Kristian Harang complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the programme contained many strip scenes and breached the standard relating to the observance of good taste and decency. The warning which preceded the broadcast, he said, would not stop children and young teenagers watching the programme.

[3] In response, TVNZ maintained that the documentary series did not make the industry appear glamorous and the strip scenes were shown to explain the routine nature of the work. TVNZ also pointed to the warning at the start of the programme and to the time of broadcast. It declined to uphold the complaint.

[4] Dissatisfied with TVNZ’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 below, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Decision

[5] The members of the Authority have viewed a video of the programme complained about and have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

The Programme

[6] Strippers is a British documentary series which followed a small group of women for three months and examined female striptease. One episode was broadcast at 9.30pm on TV2 on 10 September 2002.

The Complaint

[7] Kristian Harang complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the programme contained many strip scenes and breached the standard relating to the observance of good taste and decency. The warning which preceded the broadcast, he said, would not stop children and young teenagers watching the programme.

The Standards

[8] TVNZ assessed the complaint under the Standards 1 and 9 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. The Standards, and relevant Guidelines, read:

Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.

Guidelines

1a  Broadcasters must take into consideration current norms of decency and taste in language and behaviour bearing in mind the context in which any language or behaviour occurs. Examples of context are the time of the broadcast, the type of programme, the target audience, the use of warnings and the programme’s classification (see Appendix 1). The examples are not exhaustive.

Standard 9 Children’s Interests

During children’s normally accepted viewing times(see Appendix 1), broadcasters are required, in the preparation and presentation of programmes, to consider the interests of child viewers.

Guidelines

9a  Broadcasters should be mindful of the effect any programme or promo may have on children during their normally accepted viewing times – usually up to 8.30pm – and avoid screening material which would disturb or alarm them.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[9] TVNZ acknowledged that the programme showed women performing striptease routines, but stressed that the industry was not made to look "glamorous and exciting". It noted that interviews made up the greater part of the programme, and the interviews explored the reasons why women became strippers. Some parts of the programme, it wrote, were "very sad".

[10] TVNZ accepted that strip scenes could well be interpreted as "voyeuristic and gratuitous" but, given the focus on the reasons for the women stripping, it considered that the scenes were neither unnecessarily lengthy nor voyeuristic.

[11] Taking into account the programme’s approach to the issue, and pointing to the time of screening and the verbal and visual warning which preceded the item, TVNZ declined to uphold the Standard 1 aspect of the complaint.

[12] As the broadcast began at 9.30pm, an hour after the 8.30pm watershed, TVNZ declined to uphold the standard 9 aspect of the complaint.

The Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority

[13] Mr Harang made two points when he referred the complaint to the Authority. First, he described the content as "sensationalist and voyeuristic" rather than educational. Second, he contended that TVNZ ignored questionable quality and broadcast the programme because it was "purely interested in ratings".

The Authority’s Determination

[14] When it determines a complaint that a broadcast contravenes Standard 1 of the Television Code, the Authority is required to determine whether the language complained about breaches currently accepted standards of good taste and decency, taking into account the context of the broadcast. The context is relevant, but does not determine whether the programme breached the standard. Accordingly, the Authority has considered the context in which the behaviour complained about was broadcast.

[15] The relevant contextual matters on this occasion include the time of the broadcast (9.30pm), the inclusion of a written and verbal warning, and the theme of the broadcast. Although it dealt with strippers and included a number of strip sequences, the focus was on the strippers as people and stripping as a lifestyle.

[16] The Authority agrees with TVNZ that the industry was not shown to be "glamorous and exciting", or that the programme could be described as "voyeuristic". Thus, while it examined an occupation which, by definition, is supposed to be titillating, and while it could have emphasised sexuality, the Authority concludes that the relatively low-key approach adopted did not emphasise sexuality, and therefore did not breach current norms of good taste and decency. It declines to uphold the Standard 1 aspect.

[17] Mr Harang also complained that the broadcaster had not given sufficient focus to the interests of children. In view of the time of screening (one hour after the watershed on a week night) and the warnings, the Authority disagrees and declines to uphold the Standard 9 aspect.

[18] The Authority observes that to find a breach of broadcasting standards on this occasion would be to interpret the Broadcasting Act 1989 in such a way as to limit freedom of expression in a manner which is not reasonable or demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society (s.5 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990). As required by s.6 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, the Authority adopts an interpretation of the relevant standards which it considers is consistent with and gives full weight to the provisions of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
28 November 2002

Appendix

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

  1. Kristian Harang’s Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – 11 September 2002
  2. TVNZ’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 19 September 2002
  3. Mr Harang’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 22 September 2002
  4. TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 3 October 2002
  5. Mr Harang’s Final Comment – 11 October 2002