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Bridson and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2005-062

Members

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

Complainant

  • Lisa Bridson of Lower Hutt

Dated

19th August 2005

Number

2005-062

Programme

Coke Countdown

Channel/Station

TV2

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Coke CountdownTop 40 music video clips – allegedly sexually explicit and in breach of good taste and decency, fairness and children’s interests

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – contextual factors – not upheld

Standard 6 (fairness) – denigration requires a high threshold – no denigration of women – not upheld

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

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1] Coke Countdown was broadcast on TV2 on Sunday 8 May 2005 from 10am to 12 noon.

[2] The programme was a Top 40 show, featuring the most popular hit songs of the week. The fourth spot in the line up featured the song “Candy Shop” by hip hop artist 50 Cent, and featured female vocalist Olivia. 

Complaint

[3] Lisa Bridson complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the programme did not display good taste and decency, and breached standards relating to children’s interests. She referred specifically to the “Candy Shop” video. Ms Bridson wrote that the programme was shown at a time when children were often watching and contained several videos which were inappropriate for children.

[4] She considered that many of the videos were degrading and portrayed women as sexual objects. She referred to the lyrics of “Candy Shop”, noting: “if you be a nympho I’ll be a nympho, in the hotel or the back of the rental”, “isn’t it ironic how erotic it is to watch ‘em in thongs”. She also recalled viewing chocolate sauce being dribbled over a scantily clad woman in a bathtub.

Standards

[5] Standards 1, 6 and 9 and guidelines 6g, 9a and 9d of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice are relevant to the determination of this complaint:

Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.

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.

Guideline 6g

Broadcasters should avoid portraying persons in programmes in a manner that encourages denigration of, or discrimination against, sections of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, or occupational status, or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religious, cultural or political beliefs. This requirement is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material which is:

i) factual, or

ii) the expression of genuinely held opinion in news, current affairs or other factual programmes, or

iii) in the legitimate context of a dramatic, humorous or satirical work,

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.

Guidelines

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.

9d Broadcasters should have regard to the fact that children tend to watch television through to midday on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and during school and public holidays. Accordingly, special attention should be given to providing appropriate warnings during these periods.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[6] In its response to the complaint, TVNZ expressed sympathy for the complainant’s point of view. It recognised her distaste for the lyrics and for what could be interpreted as demeaning attitudes towards women.

[7] However, TVNZ noted that popular music had caused an uproar in previous eras, using the examples of the Rolling Stones’ “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”, the rock ‘n roll dancing popularised by Elvis Presley, and the Beatles “homage to the drug culture” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”.

[8] TVNZ agreed that the images and lyrics of “Candy Shop” were “explicit and anarchic” in nature, but considered that they were no more harmful to young viewers than the “rock ‘n roll moments” that shocked previous generations of adults in the sixties and seventies.

[9] The broadcaster also noted that “Candy Shop” had been heavily edited before broadcast, with the imagery rearranged so that less explicit images were shown. It asserted that the woman having chocolate sauce dribbled on her was wearing a bathing suit similar to the sort of bathing costumes that were seen in abundance on New Zealand beaches every summer.

[10] TVNZ considered that “Candy Shop” was an example of the hip hop genre popular in many parts of the world. It argued that hip hop invariably involved sexual themes, and frequently reflected demeaning attitudes towards women. Though TVNZ considered that this was unfortunate, it argued that a programme purporting to show the most popular musical numbers of the week could not pretend hip hop does not exist.

[11] TVNZ noted that while children were likely to form part of the audience, Coke Countdown was PGR-rated.

[12] TVNZ considered that in the context of a Top 40 hit parade programme, the programme did not breach Standard 9. It considered that it had adequately considered the interests of child viewers by classifying the programme as PGR, and by excluding the most sexually explicit imagery of “Candy Shop”.

Referral to the Authority

[13] Dissatisfied with the response from the broadcaster, Lisa Bridson referred her complaint to the Authority under s8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.  She noted that her formal complaint to TVNZ had been in respect of the choice of all the videos shown on Coke Countdown, but that TVNZ had responded only to the complaint in respect of “Candy Shop”.

[14] Ms Bridson reiterated her concerns about the lyrics and imagery of “Candy Shop”. She also repeated her complaint that the item breached standards relating to good taste and decency, and fairness.

[15] Referring to Standard 1, the complainant considered that “scantily clad women and sexual innuendo” was not the norm for decency and taste at 10am on a Sunday morning. She noted that Coke Countdown screened directly after What Now?, a popular children’s programme. Noting that the behaviour exhibited on the video clips might be normal in the context of a nightclub or late-night television, the complainant considered that children would only be exposed to this behaviour while watching television.

[16] The complainant considered that most of the videos shown on Coke Countdown on 8 May 2005 were denigrating to women, in terms of Standard 6 and guideline 6g. She disagreed with TVNZ’s argument that the imagery included in the hip hop videos was no more demeaning than scenes of hysterical women in the 1960s. She argued that while fans in the 1960s were choosing to express themselves, “hip hop videos were often full of bimbos being paid, and thus coerced, into being mere eye candy for a rich black male singer”.

[17] She also disagreed with TVNZ that music was a way for children to “express themselves and be revolutionary”. She considered that there was nothing revolutionary in “a bunch of misogynistic rich men having women treated as little more than an extension of their ‘bling bling’ (jewellery)”. The complainant asserted such behaviour was normalised through “sexist videos”. She considered that the portrayal of women in this manner was not acceptable, and that children should be encouraged to respect women.

[18] In closing, Ms Bridson noted the PGR rating of Coke Countdown but questioned how many young children would be able to read a PGR warning, let alone know the meaning of “parental guidance”. She was unaware of whether a verbal warning had been given, and claimed that even had one been aired, it would not have been in language that a pre-school child would understand. She claimed that the public expected that where one programme was deemed suitable for children’s viewing, the following programme should also be.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[19 ]In its response to the referral, the broadcaster responded to Ms Bridson’s remark that “not all [hip hop music] is sexist”. It advised that its assertion that hip hop invariably involved sexual themes, and reflected demeaning attitudes towards women, was based on advice from a leading hip hop radio station in Auckland.

[20] TVNZ asserted that regardless of the characteristics of the music, the songs were very popular with young listeners and the purpose of Coke Countdown was to play the 40 most popular songs in the week concerned. It noted that “Candy Shop” came onto the New Zealand charts at number 38 on 21 March 2005. It noted that it was number 4 on the charts the day that the complainant watched the programme.

[21] It advised that when “Candy Shop” first entered the charts at number 38, a short extract of about ten seconds was played. TVNZ noted that when Ms Bridson saw the track it was screened in the last half hour of a two-hour programme, and reiterated that the choice of music on the Top 40 was determined by the record-buying public.

[22] TVNZ suggested that sexual innuendo in hip hop videos might not be anything to get “carried away with”. It noted that the use of sexual suggestion and imagery in other genres had frequently shocked unsuspecting opera audiences.

[23] Finally, TVNZ noted the complainant’s suggestion that, had a warning been broadcast, a four-year-old would not have understood it. It agreed with Ms Bridson on that point, and said that, given this, it would be surprising if a four year old was able to understand the lyrics of the song, or draw the inferences articulated by the complainant.

Authority's Determination

[24] The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.  The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

Procedural matters

[25] Although TVNZ confined its consideration of this complaint to Standard 9, the Authority considers that Ms Bridson raised Standards 1 and 6 in her formal complaint. The complainant used the words “good taste and decency” in her formal complaint to the broadcaster. She also referred to what she considered to be the degrading treatment of women in some of the video clips included in Coke Countdown.

[26] Accordingly, the Authority has considered Standard 1 (good taste and decency) and guideline 6g (denigration) in its determination.  As TVNZ did not directly address these standards, the Authority considered seeking further comments from TVNZ before determining the additional standards complaints.  However, in light of the Authority’s assessment, discussed below, that these standards were not breached, no further comment was sought. 

Standard 1 (Good taste and decency)

[27] When considering a complaint of good taste and decency, the Authority takes into account relevant contextual factors, which in this case include:

  • the PGR rating of the programme
  • the item was broadcast in a PGR timeband
  • the target audience of Coke Countdown, which includes teenagers
  • the viewer expectations of the genre, and the well known nature of popular music videos
  • the fact that all performers were clothed, albeit at times skimpily
  • the broadcaster had edited the “Candy Shop” video.

[28] The Authority observes that some of the material in the programme was overtly sexualised.  It acknowledges that a section of the community would find the material offensive.

[29] However, taking into account the contextual factors listed above, the Authority considers that the programme was appropriately rated PGR.  It is of the view that, in the circumstances, the programme did not breach Standard 1.

[30] One member of the Authority (Tapu Misa) considers that although not amounting to a breach of the standard, the programme did approach the threshold for a breach.  In particular, Ms Misa was concerned about the high likelihood that children would have been watching, given that Sunday morning is a popular viewing time for children, and the programme was preceded by the very popular What Now?, a programme aimed specifically at younger children. 

[31] In light of the other contextual factors, however, the minority does not consider that the programme breached general standards of good taste and decency, especially as her specific concerns about the interests of children are more appropriately accommodated under Standard 9 (children’s interests).

Standard 9 (Children’s interests)

[32] In the view of a majority of the Authority, there are a number of factors that demonstrate that the broadcaster sufficiently considered children’s interests.

[33] The programme was appropriately classified PGR, and broadcast in the PGR timeband.  The Authority considers that while a small number of videos in the programme contained overtly sexual material, this was within the boundaries of the PGR rating.  The programme contained no nudity or depictions of sexual activity that would have taken the broadcast into the AO category.

[34] Furthermore, “Candy Shop” – which in the Authority’s opinion was the most overtly sexual video – was broadcast near the end of the two-hour show, and was thus well-removed from the preceding programme aimed specifically at children.  In this context, the Authority notes that when this video occupied an earlier spot in the Top 40 line up (at number 38) – thus being screened shortly after the end of the G-rated programmes – TVNZ did not show the full video, instead screening only a brief clip.

[35] The majority also accepts that the editing of “Candy Shop”demonstrated that the broadcaster had taken into account children’s interests.  Some images were edited from the video, and the broadcaster also blanked out some of the more explicit lyrics, such as “she likes it from behind”. This was one of the lyrics that the complainant had considered to be a breach of Standard 9.

[36 ]For the above reasons, a majority of the Authority considers that the programme took sufficient account of children’s interests, and did not breach Standard 9.

[37] A minority, Tapu Misa, considers that the programme breached Standard 9. She considers that between 10am and 12pm on a Sunday morning is children’s normally accepted viewing time and, despite the lack of actual nudity, many of the videos included on Coke Countdown contained overt displays of sexualised activity. Ms Misa is of the view that much of the material shown on the programme was unsuitable for young children.

[38] She also noted the adult sexual themes apparent in a number of the song lyrics, and considers that the cumulative effect of all the videos screened on Coke Countdown was to breach Standard 9.

[39] The minority considers that while the programme was rated PGR, some of the content went beyond what might be expected of a PGR programme screening before noon on a Sunday morning, during children’s normally accepted viewing times. Accordingly, the minority concludes that insufficient consideration was given to children’s interests, in breach of Standard 9.    

Standard 6 (fairness)

[40] Guideline 6g requires that broadcasters avoid encouraging denigration of sections of the community as a consequence of, among other things, their sex. The Authority has previously interpreted denigration to mean the blackening of the reputation of a class of people, and has stated that a high threshold applies before this standard will be found to have been breached.

[41] The Authority notes that performances by female dancers and musicians are integral to music video clips.  While the complainant believes that the sexualised images in this programme were degrading to women, the Authority considers that in this context, the videos did not threaten the high threshold of “blackening the reputation” of women generally.  

[42] For this reason, the Authority does not uphold the denigration complaint.

 

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
19 August 2005

Appendix

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

  1. Lisa Bridson’s formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – 10 May 2005
  2. TVNZ’s response to the formal complaint – 23 May 2005
  3. Lisa Bridson’s referral to the Authority – 16 June 2005
  4. TVNZ’s response to the referral – 23 June 2005