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Roberts and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2007-115

Members

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

Complainant

  • Catherine Roberts of Wellington

Dated

26th March 2008

Number

2007-115

Programme

The Tudors promo

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Promo for The Tudors – contained sequence of brief scenes including woman standing with her arm across her chest, with one breast partly visible, and two shots of male character lying on top of a woman in bed kissing her – allegedly in breach of programme classification and children’s interests standards

Findings
Standard 7 (programme classification) – majority considered promo was appropriately classified PGR – broadcast during unclassified host programme – not upheld

Standard 9 (children’s interests) – majority considered broadcaster considered the interests of child viewers – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]  A promo for The Tudors, a drama series about the reign and marriages of King Henry VIII, was broadcast at 7.20am on TV One on Sunday 9 September 2007 during the current affairs programme Sunday. The promo showed a sequence of brief scenes from the movie-length premiere of the programme, including:

  • King Henry bending down in front of a woman, who was wearing a low-cut gown, and kissing her breasts
  • a topless woman standing with her arm across her chest, with one breast partly visible
  • King Henry kissing a woman’s neck and pulling down one side of her nightdress to reveal her shoulder
  • two shots of King Henry lying on top of a woman in bed kissing her; only the upper part of his body was visible, but both characters appeared to be naked.

Complaint

[2]   Catherine Roberts made a formal complaint about the promo to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster. She contended that it contained “explicit sex scenes”, nudity and bare breasts. The complainant stated that she had been horrified to see the promo in “primetime viewing before 8.30pm”.

[3]   Ms Roberts noted that many children woke up before their parents early in the morning and turned the television on. She said that she was “appalled that a lot of young impressionable children were probably exposed to these scenes”.

Standards

[4]   Standards 7 and 9 and guidelines 7c and 9a of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice are relevant to the determination of this complaint. They provide:

Standard 7 Programme Classification

Broadcasters are responsible for ensuring that programmes are appropriately classified; adequately display programme classification information; and adhere to time-bands in accordance with Appendix 1.

Guideline 7c

Where a promo screens in an unclassified host programme outside AO time (including news and current affairs), the promo must be classified G or PGR and broadcasters must pay particular regard to Standard 9 (children’s interests).

Standard 9 Children’s Interests

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

Guideline 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.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[5]   With respect to Standard 7 (programme classification), the broadcaster was of the view that the promo was appropriate to screen during Sunday, a news and current affairs programme, screening in G time. It noted that Sunday was unclassified, and was part of a line-up that was not appealing to or aimed at child viewers (including The City Gardener, Gardens of the World and Tagata Pasifika).

[6]   TVNZ noted that G programmes were defined as programmes “which exclude material likely to be unsuitable for children. Programmes may not necessarily be designed for child viewers but must not contain material likely to alarm or distress them.” The broadcaster maintained that nothing in the promo would disturb or alarm child viewers. It noted that the nudity in the promo was “very quick” and showed a topless woman covering her breasts, where one breast was shown briefly. It stated that no full-frontal nudity had been shown, and that the parts referred to by the complainant were only “a small part of the total promo”. TVNZ did not agree that the promo required an Adults Only (AO) rating.

[7]   Finding that the promo was acceptable to screen in a news and current affairs programme not aimed at children, the broadcaster declined to uphold the Standard 7 complaint.

[8]   Looking at Standard 9 (children’s interests), TVNZ contended that it had taken into consideration the interests of child viewers by scheduling the promo in an unclassified news and current affairs programme that was more appealing to adult viewers. It concluded that the standard was not breached.

Referral to the Authority

[9]   Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Ms Roberts referred her complaint to the Authority under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. While she acknowledged that Sunday was not aimed at young children, Ms Roberts noted that children were up at that time of the morning and parents could not “put a parent lock” on advertising.

[10]   In the complainant’s view, the broadcaster should have realised that children tend to watch television through to midday on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Noting TVNZ’s point that the shots were very brief, Ms Roberts contended that it was obvious that the characters were “engaged in sex”. She reiterated her view that the promo breached Standards 7 and 9.

Authority's Determination

[11]   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 7 (programme classification)

[12]   Standard 7 states that broadcasters are responsible for ensuring that programmes are appropriately classified. The promo complained about was broadcast during the current affairs programme Sunday, whichis unclassified, at 7.20am on a Sunday morning. Accordingly, guideline 7c is relevant to the determination of this complaint. It states:

Where a promo screens in an unclassified host programme outside AO time (including news and current affairs), the promo must be classified G or PGR and broadcasters must pay particular regard to Standard 9 (children’s interests).

[13]   A majority of the Authority (Joanne Morris, Diane Musgrave and Paul France) considers that the promo for The Tudors was appropriately classified as PGR. The PGR rating applies to:

Programmes containing material more suited for mature audiences but not necessarily unsuitable for child viewers when subject to the guidance of a parent or adult.

[14]   In the majority’s view, the images in the promo were fleeting and inexplicit. The shots of King Henry lying on top of a woman did no more than carry an implication that the couple might be engaged in sex. Because each scene in the sequence was extremely brief, the majority considers that TVNZ paid adequate regard to children’s interests in accordance with guideline 7c.

[15]   The majority finds that, although the promo contained material more suited for mature audiences, it was not necessarily unsuitable for child viewers when subject to the guidance of a parent or adult. Therefore the majority does not agree with the complainant that the promo should have received an AO rating. Accordingly, the majority finds that the broadcaster met the requirements of Standard 7 and guideline 7c by broadcasting the promo during an unclassified host programme outside AO time. It declines to uphold this part of the complaint.

[16]   A minority of the Authority (Tapu Misa) is of the view that the promo was borderline AO, and should not have been shown during a G time-band at a time when many children watch television. The minority does not agree that the scenes depicting sexual activity, which in the minority’s opinion were unambiguous rather than inexplicit, were suitable for child viewers, even taking into account their brevity. Although brief, the minority finds it relevant that there were several scenes which, in combination, contributed to the adult nature of the promo.

[17]   Having determined that the promo was more appropriately classified as AO, the minority considers that the broadcaster breached Standard 7 by broadcasting the promo at 7.20am on a Sunday morning during an unclassified current affairs programme. The minority would uphold the Standard 7 complaint.

Standard 9 (children’s interests)

[18]   Standard 9 requires broadcasters to consider the interests of child viewers during their normally accepted viewing times. A majority of the Authority (Joanne Morris, Diane Musgrave and Paul France) considers that the broadcaster adequately considered the interests of child viewers on this occasion.

[19]   The majority is of the view that child viewers would not have been disturbed or alarmed by the images in the promo (guideline 9a). As discussed above, the images were extremely brief and inexplicit; sexual activity was implied but not shown. Having found that the promo was appropriately classified PGR and broadcast during an unclassified current affairs programme (which was unlikely to attract unattended child viewers) the majority finds that Standard 9 was not breached.

[20]   The minority (Tapu Misa) disagrees.  Having found that the promo contained enough adult material to justify an AO rating, the minority is of the view that the broadcaster did not pay sufficient regard to the interests of child viewers on this occasion. The minority acknowledges that the host programme was unclassified and that children were unlikely to have been watching it unattended, but is unable to see how parental discretion or guidance is possible for adult-themed scenes in a 30-second promo which screens without warning or context. The minority would uphold the Standard 9 complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
26 March 2008

Appendix

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

1.            Catherine Roberts’ formal complaint – 10 September 2007
2.           TVNZ’s decision on the formal complaint – 10 October 2007
3.           Ms Roberts’ referral to the Authority – 22 October 2007
4.           TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 5 February 2008