Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Homai Te Pakipaki – singing contest – viewers had the opportunity to vote via text messaging for their favourite contestant – allegedly in breach of fairness, programme information and children’s interests standards
Standard 6 (fairness) – programme clearly based on popularity with voters rather than talent – standard does not apply to viewers as they are not individuals taking part or referred to – not upheld
Standard 8 (programme information) – conditions of voting were made clear – no evidence to suggest that viewers were deceived or disadvantaged – not upheld
Standard 9 (children’s interests) – programme was not targeted at children – broadcaster adequately considered interests of child viewers – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 An episode of Homai Te Pakipaki, a karaoke-style singing contest, was broadcast on Māori TV at 8.30pm on Friday 3 July 2009. Ten contestants each performed a song, and then viewers had an opportunity to vote for their favourite person using text messaging, which cost 99 cents per text. The person with the most votes was awarded $1000 and given entry to the semi-finals.
 Wendy Whitfield made a formal complaint to Māori Television, the broadcaster, alleging that the programme breached standards relating to fairness, programme information and children’s interests.
 Ms Whitfield considered that the programme was unfair to the contestants “by inferring that this is a singing contest. It plainly has nothing to do with singing because the most obviously talented contestant... didn’t get into the first three”.
 The complainant argued that Standard 8 (programme information) had been breached because viewers were disadvantaged. She considered that the voting system took advantage of the loyalty and support of the contestants’ friends and family, in order to make money. Further, it was aimed at children and young people, breaching Standard 9 (children’s interests). Ms Whitfield noted that viewers were able to spend up a maximum of $50 voting, which she considered was “a ridiculously high limit”. She argued that Māori TV had extended the voting time from 10 minutes to 15 minutes, in order to make more money.
 Ms Whitfield nominated Standards 6, 8 and 9 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice in her complaint. These provide:
Standard 6 Fairness
In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are required to deal justly and fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to.
Standard 8 Programme Information
Broadcasters are responsible for ensuring that programme information and structure does not deceive or disadvantage the viewer.
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.
 Māori TV disagreed with the complainant that presenting the programme as a singing contest breached broadcasting standards. It said that Homai Te Pakipaki was “an entertaining karaoke music show which features an array of talent and therefore is a singing contest”. Māori TV concluded that the programme did not breach Standard 6 in that respect.
 With regard to Standard 8, the broadcaster maintained that Māori Television was acting as a socially responsible organisation by implementing a text voting limit of 50 votes per person. It said that votes above that limit were ineligible. Further, the length of time the voting lines were open was not dictated by monetary gain, Māori TV said, but by the length of the songs contestants chose to sing, and it was usual for the voting period to be about 15 minutes before the end of the programme.
 Māori TV concluded that the programme did not contravene any of the standards raised.
 Dissatisfied with Māori TV’s response, Ms Whitfield referred her complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. She stated that she was not satisfied with the broadcaster’s response to her concerns about fairness to the show’s contestants and viewers.
 Referring to guideline 6c to the fairness standard, Māori TV maintained that each contestant was aware that they would be “subjected to the text voting public”. It noted that the voting rules on Māori TV’s website specifically stated that
The winner is chosen by the most text votes received within the identified voting period as declared on the night. The results of this process are final and no further correspondence will be entered into. Texts cost 99 cents each, check with the bill payer first. We advise contestants against mass texting which can be a very costly business.
 Māori TV said that it did not control the outcome or results of the voting as that would be a breach of guideline 8d to the programme information standard, which prohibits collusion between broadcasters and contestants resulting in the favouring of any contestant. The only control it did have was in limiting the number of votes cast, in the form of the 50 text maximum per person. Māori TV said it was not aware of any other broadcaster that capped its text voting.
 The broadcaster stated that the voting period varied from show to show, as it was a live show and “due to the contestants singing songs of varying length it cannot be predetermined precisely how long any actual show will take”. It noted that the voting rules on its website stated that “text votes can only be sent when the vote lines are opened on screen”.
 Māori TV contended that Standard 9 (children’s interests) did not apply in the circumstances because Homai Te Pakipaki was aimed at a wide audience and was not specifically targeted at children.
 The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.
 Standard 6 requires that broadcasters deal justly and fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to in a programme. Ms Whitfield argued that the programme was unfair to contestants because it was clearly not about singing, and unfair to viewers because the programme took advantage of their loyalty to contestants and made money from their votes.
 In the Authority’s view, the fact that the winner of the contest was determined based on popularity with the voting public rather than singing talent was made clear in the programme. It considers that the contestants were not treated unfairly for this reason, as they would have been aware that the outcome of the competition was determined by viewers’ votes.
 With regard to Ms Whitfield’s argument that viewers were treated unfairly, the Authority notes that Standard 6 only applies to individuals who take part or are referred to in a programme. Accordingly, it finds that the fairness standard does not apply in relation to viewers generally.
 Accordingly, the Authority declines to uphold the Standard 6 complaint.
 Standard 8 states that broadcasters are responsible for ensuring that programme information and structure does not deceive or disadvantage the viewer. As stated above, the Authority considers that the conditions of the competition and of the voting – including the cost – were made clear in the programme. It has not been provided with any evidence to suggest that viewers would have been deceived or disadvantaged in any way. Accordingly, the Authority does not uphold the complaint under Standard 8.
 Standard 9 requires broadcasters to consider the interests of child viewers when broadcasting programmes during their normally accepted viewing times. The Authority considers that, while children may have been watching Homai Te Pakipaki as they tend to stay up later on Friday night, it was not targeted at child viewers. Further, the programme was appropriately classified and did not contain any material that would have alarmed or disturbed children. The Authority therefore finds that the broadcaster adequately considered the interests of child viewers in broadcasting Homai Te Pakipaki at 8.30pm on a Friday evening. It declines to uphold the Standard 9 complaint.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
20 October 2009
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1. Wendy Whitfield’s formal complaint – 6 July 2009
2. Māori TV’s response to the complaint – 3 August 2009
3. Ms Whitfield’s referral to the Authority – 11 August 2009
4. Māori TV’s response to the Authority – 28 August 2009