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Boreham and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2008-118

Members

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

Complainant

  • Andy Boreham of Wellington

Dated

30th October 2008

Number

2008-118

Programme

Election programme

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Election programme – advertisement for the New Zealand National Party – John Key pictured in moving vehicle – complaint that Mr Key was not wearing a seatbelt – allegedly in breach of law and order and children’s interests standards

Findings
Election Programmes Code Standard E1 – standards in the Free-to-Air Television Code apply to election programmes

Standard 2 (law and order) – advertisement showed Mr Key removing seatbelt – reasonably attentive viewer would have concluded that he was wearing a seatbelt – even if he was not shown wearing a seatbelt, would not have breached Standard 2 – not upheld

Standard 9 (children’s interests) – advertisement did not contain any material likely to disturb or alarm children – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1] An advertisement for the New Zealand National Party was broadcast on TV One on 28 October 2008 at 1.25pm and again at 3.30pm. The advertisement showed John Key, the Leader of the National Party, travelling in the front passenger seat of a car. Mr Key was turning around in his seat to speak directly to the camera, which was situated in the back of the car.

[2] Later in the advertisement, the vehicle was shown arriving at a venue. Mr Key removed his seatbelt and exited the vehicle.

Referral to the Authority

[3] Andy Boreham directly referred a complaint about the advertisement to the Authority under section 8(1) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He contended that there were two possibilities: either John Key was not wearing a seatbelt in the advertisement, or he was wearing one in such a way that the belt was not clearly visible over his left shoulder, and therefore it was not safe. In the complainant’s view, the advertisement was sending a “dangerous message to the public” that it was not necessary to wear a seatbelt, or that those in a perceived position of power did not need to wear a seatbelt.

[4] Referring to Standard 2 (law and order) of the Free-to-Air Television Code, Mr Boreham argued that the election programme blatantly illustrated a law-breaking activity (guideline 2a). He also contended that the depiction of Mr Key travelling in a car without a seatbelt could entice members of the public to drive without a seatbelt, or without wearing one correctly.

[5] Looking at Standard 9 (children’s interests), the complainant noted that guideline 9a required broadcasters to be mindful of the effect any programme would have on children, and avoid screening material which would disturb or alarm them. He said that the National Party advertisement could easily discredit all of the time and money put into advertising the message that wearing a seatbelt was vital to saving lives. This could cause some confusion or distress to impressionable young people, Mr Boreham wrote.

Standards

[6] Standard E1 of the Election Programmes Code of Broadcasting Practice is relevant to this complaint. It states:

An election programme is subject to all relevant provisions of the Codes of Broadcasting Practice for television and radio except for the requirement to present a range of significant viewpoints on issues of public importance.

Robust debate, advocacy and expression of political opinion are a desirable and essential part of a democratic society and broadcasting standards will be applied in a manner which respects this context.

[7] The complainant nominated Standards 2 and 9 of the Free-to-Air Television Code in his complaint. These provide:

Standard 2 Law and Order

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards which are consistent with the maintenance of law and order.

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.

Response from the New Zealand National Party

[8] The National Party’s representative confirmed that Mr Key was wearing a seatbelt at all times during the filming of the advertisement.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[9] TVNZ stated that the Television Commercials Approval Bureau (TVCAB) had confirmed with the production company that Mr Key was wearing a seatbelt at all times when the car was in motion. TVCAB had assured TVNZ that the advertisement would not have received the Bureau’s approval if Mr Key had not been wearing a seatbelt.

[10] The broadcaster said that the seatbelt had been tucked under the lapel of Mr Key’s suit to give a cleaner shot to the camera. It also noted that Mr Key was clearly seen removing his seatbelt in the shot where his vehicle arrived at a venue. In these circumstances it found no breach of Standard 2 (law and order).

[11] TVNZ found that the interests of child viewers had been adequately considered in the broadcast of the advertisement, and considered it unlikely that the footage would have alarmed or disturbed children. It did not uphold the Standard 9 complaint.

Authority's Determination

[12] 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.

[13] The Authority agrees with the complainant that a seatbelt was not visible across Mr Key’s shoulder as he was shown travelling in the vehicle. However, the advertisement contained a clear shot of Mr Key removing his seatbelt before exiting the stationary vehicle, and it had been correctly positioned across his left shoulder. The Authority considers that the reasonably attentive viewer would have concluded that Mr Key was wearing a seatbelt during the filming of the advertisement. TVNZ and the National Party have confirmed that this was in fact the case.

[14] In these circumstances, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

[15] Even if Mr Key had not been shown removing his seatbelt, the Authority considers that the broadcast of the advertisement would not have breached Standard 2 (law and order). The Authority has stated on previous occasions (e.g. Decision No. 2007-108) that the intent behind the law and order standard is to prevent broadcasts that encourage viewers or listeners to break the law, or otherwise promote, glamorise or condone criminal activity. Although Mr Key is a public figure, the Authority considers that the mere depiction of him apparently not wearing a seatbelt would not reach the threshold of promoting, glamorising, or condoning criminal activity.

[16] Similarly, the Authority would not have upheld the Standard 9 (children’s interests) complaint even if the advertisement had left the impression that Mr Key was not wearing a seatbelt. The footage did not contain any material which would have “disturbed or alarmed” child viewers as envisaged by guideline 9a to the children’s interests standard. The Authority concludes that TVNZ adequately considered the interests of child viewers when broadcasting the advertisement.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
30 October 2008

Appendix

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

1.           Andy Boreham’s direct referral to the Authority – 28 October 2008
2.          The New Zealand National Party’s response to the Authority – 29 October 2008
3.          TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 30 October 2008