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Mayall and SKY Network Television Ltd - 2008-092

Members

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Paul France
  • Tapu Misa
  • Diane Musgrave

Complainant

  • Kevin Mayall of Hamilton

Dated

21st October 2008

Number

2008-092

Channel/Station

MTV

Broadcaster

SKY Network Television Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
A Shot at Love II with Tila Tequila – reality dating show where a bisexual woman dated 15 men and 15 women – allegedly in breach of children’s standard and classification and warning standard

Findings
Standard P1 (Content classification, warning and filtering) – programme borderline 16 but appropriately classified M – did not require S warning label – not upheld

Standard P3 (Children) – not targeted at children or screened adjacent to content aimed at children – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]  A Shot at Love II with Tila Tequila was the second series of a reality television dating game show starring bisexual American internet celebrity Tila Tequila. In the first episode of the series, broadcast on MTV on Sunday 20 July 2008 at 8pm, 15 heterosexual men and 15 women, some lesbian and some bisexual, met Tila Tequila. The two groups were placed in separate cages and asked to dance for Tila – many of the men and women removed clothing and were seen in their underwear. One woman removed her bra and one of the men removed all his clothing, however any nudity was pixelated.

[2]   During the episode, Tila kissed several of the men and women. She eliminated two of the women because they had kissed each other, which Tila felt was disrespectful to her. One of the men became extremely intoxicated and was eliminated as a result.

[3]   The second episode of the series was broadcast at 4.30pm on MTV on Tuesday 22 July. The groups of men and women went to a casino with Tila and then on to a party where they drank alcohol and one of the women performed on a stripper pole.

[4]   Tila again kissed various men and women, and passionately kissed one of the women as they lay on a couch.

Complaint

[5]   Kevin Mayall made a formal complaint about the episodes to SKY Network Television Ltd, the broadcaster. He contended that it had breached Standards P1 and P3 of the Pay Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[6]   Mr Mayall argued that the programme contained “sexually explicit” content which was unsuitable for people under the age of 16. He noted that there had been no warning for sexual content or adult themes.

[7]   In the complainant’s view, A Shot at Love was broadcast in a timeslot targeted at children.

Standards

[8]   Standards P1 and P3 and the following guidelines in the Pay Television Code of Broadcasting Practice are relevant to this complaint:

Standard P1

Content classification, warning and filtering

Viewers should be informed by regular and consistent advice about programme content (including classifications and warnings) and, where available, filtering technology.

Guidelines

Classifications and warnings

(a)   These classifications should be broadcast on all content except for news and current affairs and live content:

             G     Approved for General viewing

             PG     Parental Guidance recommended for young viewers

             M     Suitable for Mature audiences 16 years and over         

             16     People under 16 years should not view

             18     People under 18 years should not view

(e)   Visual warning labels will include:

            C     Content may offend

            L     Language may offend

            V     Contains violence

            VL     Violence and language may offend

            S     Sexual content may offend

Standard P3

Children

Broadcasters should ensure that child viewers are protected from unsuitable content.

Guidelines

(b)    Content not intended for children’s viewing should not be specifically promoted to children and will be screened in accordance with standard P1.

(c)    Content classified M or above, especially that containing sexual or violent material, should not screen adjacent to content aimed at children.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[9]   SKY noted that A Shot at Love was classified “M”, indicating that it was suitable for mature audiences 16 years of age and over, and a “C” warning label advised that “content may offend”. It said that this classification and warning information had been included in the electronic programme guide (EPG), and was shown at the start of each episode.

[10]   The broadcaster stated that MTV was a music and entertainment channel aimed at the 16 to 29-year-old demographic. It did not believe that Standard P3 was breached.

[11]   SKY noted that parents could block programmes that they considered to be unacceptable for younger viewers.

Referral to the Authority

[12]   Dissatisfied with SKY’s response, Mr Mayall referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He attached several emails between him and SKY which were written after he received SKY’s decision.

[13]   Mr Mayall argued that A Shot at Love should have received a rating of “16”, stating that he had an R16 block on his television and assumed his family was “safe from this type of material”.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[14]   SKY contended that “R16” was a film classification, not a pay television classification. Nonetheless, it considered that “M” remained the most appropriate classification for the programme subject to complaint, as it recommended that mature audiences over the age of 16 were suitable viewers of the programme. SKY noted that a child, for the purposes of broadcasting standards, was a person under the age of 14.

[15]   With respect to Mr Mayall’s argument that the programme should have screened later in the day, SKY noted that MTV was not a children’s channel but was targeted at the 16 to 29-year-old age group. The programme was not promoted to or targeted at children, it wrote.

[16]   The broadcaster observed that the Sunday 20 July episode of A Shot at Love was broadcast at 8pm. With respect to the 22 July episode, it said that “the fact that the programme was screened at 4.30pm does not in itself mean it is aimed at children”. SKY noted that the programmes adjacent to A Shot at Love were not targeted at children. It wrote:

Under the Pay Television Code, the suitability of programming is not considered in isolation but in the context of the overall channel. Due to the nature of MTV, its target audience and their expectations in this regard, MTV does not believe that its audience would find the programme and its inherent themes to be offensive in the broader context...

[17]   SKY said that it provided parents and caregivers with the option of blocking programmes such as those with an M rating.

[18]   Turning to address Mr Mayall’s allegation that the programme contained offensive sexual content, SKY said that MTV had given the programme a “C” visual warning label to ensure that its audience was informed that its content may offend. It contended that the content of the programme was not salacious, noting that any nudity had been pixelated. In the broadcaster’s view, the “C” warning was appropriate and broad enough to encompass sexual themes and any other themes that were potentially offensive to viewers.

[19]   SKY said that A Shot at Love was “a dating show that is provocative and open about sexuality. The programme’s star, Tila Tequila, is well known to the 16-29 demographic as a colourful and irreverent personality who happens to be openly bisexual.” It maintained that the format of the show was a way to explore human relationships and stimulate open discussion about things such as same-sex relationships.

Authority’s Request for Further Information

[20]   The Authority asked SKY to provide the names, classifications and descriptions of the programmes that screened before and after A Shot at Love. SKY stated that on Sunday 20 July the programme was preceded by a PG-rated reality programme called Kaya, which followed a young rock star and her band. The Real World Sydney (PG), a reality series following seven diverse strangers living together for several months in a different city, was broadcast after A Shot at Love.

[21]   SKY said that at 4pm on 22 July it had broadcast an episode of Next (PG), a dating show. A Shot at Love: The Hangover (M) – the final episode of the series – was broadcast at 5.30pm after the episode of A Shot at Love which Mr Mayall complained about.

Complainant’s Final Comment

[22]   Mr Mayall stated that in addition to the 20 and 22 July episodes of A Shot at Love, he also complained about the advertisement for the programme. He maintained that MC was not the appropriate rating for the programme and that its timeslot deliberately targeted the programme at children under the age of 16.

Broadcaster’s Final Comment

[23]   SKY said that the nature of subscription television was that it provided viewers with variety and choice. This enabled SKY to offer viewing opportunities to a broad audience at all times of the day, including when children might be watching television. It said that “this is why SKY provides warnings and programming information so that parents can make informed choices”. It reiterated that parents could block M programmes using the parental blocking device.

Authority's Determination

[24]   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 P1 (Content classification, warning and filtering)

[25]   Mr Mayall argued that A Shot at Love should have been classified 16, not M, and that it should have carried a warning label for sexual content. The classifications are defined as follows:

M            Suitable for Mature audiences 16 years and over           

16            People under 16 years should not view

[26]   The Authority acknowledges that some viewers would consider the show’s premise – where a bisexual woman “dated” multiple partners of both genders at the same time – to be morally questionable and unsuitable for viewers under the age of 16. Taking this into account, and noting the excessive alcohol consumption in the programme, the Authority finds that an M classification was borderline for both episodes of A Shot at Love.

[27]   However, despite the show’s premise involving the possibility of sexual encounters with multiple partners, any behaviour of a sexual nature in the episodes was limited to kissing. The Authority considers that an M classification was acceptable in the circumstances.

[28]   For the same reason, the Authority considers that it was not necessary for the programme to carry an “S” warning label for sexual content. The actual sexual content in the programme, which consisted only of kissing, was not explicit and did not require a specific warning label.

[29]   Accordingly, the Authority declines to uphold this part of the complaint.

Standard P3 (Children)

[30]   In the complainant’s view, A Shot at Love was broadcast in a timeslot targeted at children. The Authority notes that on free-to-air television, PGR and AO programmes can only be broadcast after 7pm and 8.30pm respectively. However, there are no “timebands” on pay television. Where filtering technology is automatically available, as with SKY Television, pay television broadcasters are able to broadcast programmes of any classification at any time of day.

[31]   The Authority considers that guidelines (b) and (c) to Standard P3 are potentially relevant on this occasion. They state:

(b)    Content not intended for children’s viewing should not be specifically promoted to children and will be screened in accordance with standard P1.

(c)    Content classified M or above, especially that containing sexual or violent material, should not screen adjacent to content aimed at children.

[32]   Looking first at guideline (b), the Authority considers that A Shot at Love was not specifically promoted to children. It was not on a children’s channel (such as Nickelodeon), but screened on MTV which is targeted at 16 to 29-year-olds. Further, the Authority has found that the programme was appropriately classified M, and therefore it was screened in accordance with Standard P1.

[33]   Turning to guideline (c), the Authority has had regard to the programmes which were broadcast adjacent to A Shot at Love (see paragraphs [20] and [21]). It concludes that none of this content was aimed at children, and therefore finds that the guideline was adhered to.

[34]   In these circumstances, the Authority is of the view that Standard P3 was not breached.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
21 October 2008

Appendix

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

1.          Kevin Mayall’s formal complaint – 22 July 2008
2.          SKY’s decision on the formal complaint – 19 August 2008
3.          Mr Mayall’s referral to the Authority – 22 August 2008
4.          SKY’s response to the Authority – 9 September 2008
5.          SKY’s response to the Authority’s request for information – 10 September 2008
6.          Mr Mayall’s final comment – 12 September 2008
7.          SKY’s final comment – 15 September 2008