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Browne and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2007-120

Members

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

Complainant

  • Fiona Browne of Oakura

Dated

30th April 2008

Number

2007-120

Programme

The Go Show

Channel/Station

TV2

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
The Go Show
– “George” lit a match and threw it in a rubbish bin – subsequent episodes showed the safe thing to do – allegedly in breach of children’s interests standard

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

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]      An episode of the children’s programme The Go Show, broadcast on TV2 at 3pm on Wednesday 19 September 2007, featured a segment about George, an animated character who “sometimes... forgets how to keep safe”. The presenter introduced the segment as follows:

Kia ora, how are you? I was just about to see what George is up to, would you like to join me? Well, sometimes George forgets how to keep safe, maybe you and I could give him a hand so he remembers to stop and think before he acts. Well, let’s see what he’s up to…

[2]   In an animation, George was shown walking through a park with his father and baby sister. He tripped over something on the ground and looked down to see a box with “Matches” written on the front. George raised his finger to his mouth and looked behind him at his father as if wondering what to do. A big red question mark then appeared on the screen.

[3]   The presenter of The Go Show spoke briefly and asked viewers what they would do in the same situation:

What was George doing today? Well, George was at the park with his dad, and his baby sister. Well, George was playing with a toy, and then he found something on the ground. Well, do you know what it was? It was a box of matches. What would you do if you found a box of matches? Well, I hope George remembers to stop, and think, and keep safe. Let’s see what he does…

[4]   The show returned to the cartoon. George picked up the box of matches, slid it open and took out a match. He lit the match on the side of the box, and then put it in a nearby rubbish bin which caught fire. George’s father realised what had happened and quickly picked George up and carried him away. Then George’s father was shown reprimanding him.

[5]   The presenter then concluded the segment by saying:

Did you see what George did? George lit a match, threw it inside the rubbish bin, and it started a fire. Was that a safe thing to do? …No. George’s dad had to quickly move George away from the fire, because George would’ve got hurt. Remember, matches are dangerous, they can start fires, so don’t touch matches. If you find some, give them to your mum or your dad, and let them sort it out. That way, you’ll keep safe.

Complaint

[6]   Fiona Browne complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the programme breached the “protection of young children”.

[7]   Ms Browne argued that the cartoon visually showed children what not to do, but only verbally (through the presenter) showed them the right thing to do. She said:

ANY child psychologist will tell you that the way young children learn to do things is by watching. Thanks to your show my two-year-old now knows how to light a match and to throw it in a rubbish bin. The presenter then said this is not what you do, but a toddler will not hear that. They do what they see. At no point did the presenter show an animation of the correct behaviour. With the number of child deaths in New Zealand due to playing with matches and lighters, this is NOT acceptable TV viewing for children.

[8]   The complainant concluded her complaint by saying “you should show ONLY the correct behaviour”.

Standards

[9]   Standard 9 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice is relevant to the determination of this complaint. It provides:

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.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[10]   TVNZ maintained that the programme clearly had the best interests of child viewers in mind. It noted that The Go Show was rated G and aimed at preschoolers.

[11]   The broadcaster emphasised that the segment containing George was a regular piece about a character who needed help to do the right thing. According to TVNZ, throughout the week viewers were asked to help George to do the right thing, and each day the “right thing to do” was discussed with the audience. George’s behaviour changed so that, by Friday, George had learnt to do the right thing. TVNZ supplied recordings of the segment from the next two episodes to show how the “George segment” progressed following the episode Ms Browne complained about.

[12]   The broadcaster argued that the intention of the segment was to teach children the correct thing to do in the situation depicted, and to help children think about their actions and what was right, by daily repeating the problem George faced and eventually showing him “getting it right”. It argued that throughout the segments the presenter and the cartoon repeated what should be happening to teach children the correct behaviour in that particular situation.

[13]   Furthermore, TVNZ maintained that George was not set up as a “hero” but as someone who needed help from the audience. Children knew this, it argued, because the segment was part of every episode. TVNZ said that consequently, viewers were unlikely to copy George’s “wrong” actions because they were placed in a position of superiority as the ones who were helping George, who did not know at first how to respond appropriately to the situation.

[14]   The broadcaster emphasised that the segment depicted negative consequences for George’s wrong actions – in this case getting told off by his father. It maintained that children learned not only by copying, but also by seeing the consequences of someone doing something wrong. The presenter always reiterated which behaviour was wrong, and what would be right, TVNZ said.

[15]   Accordingly, TVNZ found that the interests of child viewers were considered in the broadcast, and that no breach of Standard 9 had occurred.

Referral to the Authority

[16]   Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Ms Browne referred her complaint to the Authority under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

[17]   The complainant disagreed with TVNZ that The Go Show had the best interests of the child viewer in mind. She argued that “it is basic parenting to show the good behaviour and never the bad. The fact that they show the correct good behaviour in later episodes is irrelevant”.

[18]   Ms Browne also argued that it was entirely possible that not all children would see the episodes that showed the good behaviour. She emphasised that her complaint related to a particular episode rather than a series, and stated that while she felt that “bad behaviour should never be shown, TVNZ could at least show the good behaviour in the same episode”.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[19]   TVNZ said the purpose of highlighting the short series was to show the method the programme used to get the right message across.

[20]   The broadcaster also reiterated that children can learn by witnessing negative consequences of wrong actions as well as watching correct actions. It said the episodes were therefore “stand alone” in that the message still worked if a child only saw one episode (although the message was enhanced if they watched the progression of the segment throughout the week).

Authority's Determination

[21]   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.

 
Preliminary Issue

[22]   Under section 6 of the Broadcasting Act 1989, a broadcaster must “receive and consider formal complaints about any programme broadcast by it”. In other words, formal complaints can only be made about specific programmes. In this case, Ms Browne has complained that the 19 September episode of The Go Show breached Standard 9. The Authority appreciates that TVNZ provided subsequent episodes of the programme to show the progression of the “George” segment. However, it is not able to consider those episodes in determining whether Standard 9 was breached by the broadcast of the 19 September episode.

Standard 9 (children’s interests)

[23]   The Authority agrees with TVNZ that the message of the “George” segment, which was how to safely handle matches, was adequately conveyed in the episode complained about. The negative consequences of George’s behaviour, including being reprimanded by his father, were shown in terms which would have been understood by younger child viewers. The presenter then reinforced the cartoon’s message by verbally discouraging the unsafe behaviour and describing the correct behaviour in terms which older preschool children would have understood.

[24]   Accordingly, the Authority is satisfied that the broadcaster considered children’s interests in screening The Go Show on Wednesday 19 September. 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

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
30 April 2008

Appendix

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

1.            Fiona Browne’s formal complaint – 21 September 2007
2.           TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 24 October 2007
3.           Ms Browne’s referral to the Authority – 30 October 2007
4.           TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 22 February 2008