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Woods and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2004-058

Members

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

Complainant

  • A M Woods of Wellington

Dated

27th May 2004

Number

2004-058

Programme

Bootylicious

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Bootylicious – PGR promo – broadcast during One News between 6.00pm and 7.00pm – crass – objectified women’s bodies – timing of promo unsuitable for children

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) and Guideline 1a – promo for programme on recent fashion fad – did not threaten current norms of decency and taste – not upheld

Standard 7 (appropriate classification) – promo classified “PGR News” – PGR appropriate classification – not upheld

Standard 7 (compliance with classification band) and Guideline 7b – One News (although itself unclassified) is in G time-band – PGR promo did not comply with classification band – upheld

Standard 9 (children’s interests) – broadcaster considered children’s interests in rating promo PGR – not upheld

No Order

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1] A promo for the programme Bootylicious was broadcast on TV One during One News between 6.00pm and 7.00pm on 8 December 2003. Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, described the programme the promo advertised as follows:

The documentary … was to be a light-hearted examination of a current international fashion fad which places new emphasis on (fuller) female bottoms. It is a fad reflected in modern clothing trends, in a wide variety of glossy magazines, and even in plastic surgery.

Complaint

[2] A M Woods complained to TVNZ that the promo was unsuitable for children but was broadcast at a time – just before 7.00pm – when children could be watching television. Ms Woods wrote:

My absolute protest is the timing of a promo objectifying in the most crass and reductive fashion women’s bodies and body parts, thus teaching children of all ages that it is ok for this to happen, and in the most public way, and ok for leering old men to insult women in this manner.

Standards

[3] TVNZ initially assessed the complaint under Standards 1 and 9 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. The standards and relevant guidelines state:

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.

Guideline

1a  Broadcasters must take into consideration current norms of decency and taste in language and behaviour bearing in mind the context in which any language or behaviour occurs. Examples of context are the time of the broadcast, the type of programme, the target audience, the use of warnings and the programme’s classification (see Appendix 1). The examples are not exhaustive.

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.

[4] The promo was classified “PGR News”. The relevant aspects of Appendix 1 state:

PGR – Parental Guidance Recommended

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

PGR programmes may be screened between 9am and 4pm, and after 7pm until 6am.

NOTE

News and current affairs programmes, which may be scheduled at any time and may, on occasion, pre-empt other scheduled broadcasts, are not, because of their distinct nature, subject to censorship or to the strictures of the classification system. However, producers are required to be mindful that young people may be among viewers of news and current affairs programmes during morning, daytime and early evening hours and should give consideration to including warnings where appropriate.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[5] TVNZ responded informally to the initial complaint. After the complaint had been referred to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989, it responded fully to the Authority.

[6] TVNZ wrote that the promo illustrated a “world-wide trend” whereby some women wear “short bikini briefs”. It accepted that some viewers might not like the trend, but contended that there was an emphasis in fashion on bottoms at present. It wrote:

In our view the trailer is cheerful and light-hearted, and it is perhaps ironic that a viewer should find this unacceptable during a news hour, which of necessity must frequently carry pictures and information about the most distressing and disturbing of events. The trailer might be regarded as a welcome moment of good natured fun and laughter.

[7] On the basis that the imagery and the language were not indecent, TVNZ maintained that the promo did not breach the Standard 1 requirement relating to good taste and decency. Further, it declined to uphold the Standard 9 aspect of the complaint, as it considered that the promo would not have had an adverse effect on children. TVNZ stated:

We could understand the complaint if there had been any suggestion of sexual activity but we do not see how the fact of bottoms (all of them “fashionably” clad to some extent) should be considered harmful to children. The imagery used in this trailer was NOT that which earned the programme itself its AO (Adults Only) classification.

Complainant's Final Comment

[8] Ms Woods’ final comment to the Authority addressed a number of matters using the following sub-headings: Sexual Exploitation, Dehumanising, How children deal with hurt, Dissociating and Integrating, and Consequences for children of sexual exploitation.

[9] Ms Woods responded in detail to each paragraph of TVNZ’s response to the Authority, and made a number of points including:

  • The “documentary” was not an examination of a fashion fad, but an “excuse for an exploitative programme about some sexually associated women’s body parts”.
  • Bootylicious was not a “light-hearted documentary”. Its purpose was “clearly to titillate men”.
  • The concept of good taste and decency should include some “indication of mindfulness: of care, or notice, about the effects on other people, as well as some slight indication of sensibility”.
  • TVNZ had not shown any consideration of the interests of child viewers.
  • Television viewers did not need “light-hearted relief”, but relief from “sensationalism, exploitation, voyeurism and sheer rubbish”.
  • The complaint was not that there was anything inherently dirty or obscene about female (or male) buttocks. However, “the way the media and some other people treat women’s bodies including buttocks can well be and not infrequently is dirty and obscene and just plain gross”.

[10] Ms Woods’ final comment concluded as follows:

The promo for this programme contained the same kind (if not the same amount or degree because of time constraints) of exploitation and titillation as the highly exploitative programme itself, and intentionally so, in order to attract certain kinds of people to watch the programme, and was therefore totally unsuitable for children to see.

People so out of touch with what is life enhancing and what is destructive to children should not have the responsibility for broadcasting anything when children can watch.

TVNZ compounds its misdeeds by its denial.

My complaint should be upheld in the interests of all children and most especially those most vulnerable.

Authority's Determination

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

Preliminary matter

[12] In her referral, Ms Woods asked the Authority to explain why it publishes the names of complainants in its decisions.

[13] The Authority is sympathetic to requests for name suppression when the complaint alleges a breach of the complainant’s privacy. In all other cases, the Authority’s usual practice is to name the parties to a complaint. Name suppression in the case of privacy complaints protects the complainant from further publicity potentially compounding the initial alleged harm. Other complainants are acting in the public interest in making complaints, and the Authority sees no good reason to invoke name suppression.

Standard 7 – further correspondence

[14] Standard 7 and Guideline 7b of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice read:

Standard 7 Programme Classification

Broadcasters are responsible for ensuring that programmes are appropriately classified and adequately display programme classification information, and that time-bands are adhered to.

7b  Broadcasters should ensure that all promos (including promos for news and current affairs) comply in content with the classification band in which they are shown. For example, promos for AO programmes shown outside Adults Only time must conform in content with the classification of the time-band in which they are broadcast.

[15] TVNZ did not initially respond to the complaint under Standard 7. However, noting that in the original complaint the complainant recorded that her “absolute protest” was the “timing of the promo”, the Authority considered that the complaint raised the issue of the appropriateness of the promo’s classification. It therefore consulted TVNZ which confirmed that the promo had been classified “PGR News”. The Authority notes that the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice does not provide for such a classification, and in considering the complaint the Authority records that it is treating the classification as PGR.

[16] TVNZ provided the Authority with the following comment on the complaint under Standard 7:

[Under Standard 7] we point out that the trailer contained no nudity, and no sex (nor hint of sex). The trailer indicated a widely-recognised fashion trend – or “fad” if you like. …

We further note that the trailer was seen by the viewer during a news programme, and that news programmes are not classified. …

We would be extremely surprised if during any day’s 6-7pm news hour the contents of this trailer represented the most alarming or disturbing material viewers might see. We observe that early evening news programmes regularly (or at least in the appropriate seasons) feature fashion shows in which women are sometimes seen wearing no more than the women shown in this trailer. Other “regular” news items which have appeared in the news hour are the annual and gaudy Brazilian Mardi Gras with its scantily dressed revellers, and the always risqué range of participants in the annual Sydney “gay” parade.

[17] In relation to Guideline 7b, TVNZ said the content of the trailer did not stray beyond what would be acceptable in a comparable news item not preceded by a warning.

[18] In Ms Woods’ further comment on the complaint under Standard 7, she wrote that the trailer “contained at least one close up of a woman’s virtually naked buttock/s, and the trailer was clearly a sexual tease.” Ms Woods further advised the Authority that it was her understanding that, while news programmes were exempt from classification, advertisements and promos were not.

Standard 7 – promo classification

[19] The Authority considers that PGR was the appropriate classification for the promo complained about. While the programme the promo advertised was AO and contained material unsuitable for children, the Authority considers that the promo itself only warranted a PGR classification. The Authority does not agree with the complainant’s view that the promo was harmful for children under the guidance of an adult.

Standard 7 – PGR promo broadcast during One News

[20] Ms Woods complained that the timing of the promo towards the end of One News (which is broadcast between 6pm and 7pm) was inappropriate.

[21] In Decision No: 2003-138/140 dated 15 December 2003, the Authority ruled that a PGR promo for The Strip, broadcast at 6.30pm during 3 News, breached Standard 7 of the Television Code. The Authority recorded:

The Authority accepts that 3 News is not classified and yet it is broadcast during the G time-band. However, the Authority does not accept TV3’s argument that the G time-band was “suspended” by the news programme and, therefore, the promos were shown in an “unclassified” time-band. In the Authority’s view, news programmes because of their nature, constitute the sole exception to the time-bands. The PGR definition is clear that PGR programmes, including promos, may not be screened between 4pm and 7pm. They do not get a “reprieve” from the time-band rules merely because they are screened during the news. The Authority considers that this view has been implicit in its determinations over the years.

[22] For the reasons given in Decision No: 2003-138/140, the Authority upholds the aspect of the complaint that the broadcast of a PGR promo for Bootylicious during One News breached Standard 7.

Standard 1 – good taste and decency

[23] When the Authority determines a complaint alleging a breach of good taste and decency, it is required to take into account the context of the broadcast complained about. The contextual factors on this occasion include the time of broadcast, the promo’s classification, and the target audience. The Authority notes that the fact that the promo was classified PGR and broadcast in G time is only one of a number of contextual factors to be taken into account.

[24] In the Authority’s view, there was nothing in the promo complained about which threatened current norms of decency and taste. The Authority does not uphold the aspect of the complaint that the promo breached Standard 1.

Standard 9 – children’s interests

[25] Standard 9 requires broadcasters to consider the interests of child viewers. In accordance with Guideline 9a, during children’s normally accepted viewing times broadcasters should avoid screening material which would disturb or alarm them.

[26] In the Authority’s view, the fact that TVNZ appropriately classified the promo PGR demonstrates that the broadcaster considered the interests of child viewers as required by Standard 9. Therefore it does not uphold the aspect of the complaint that the promo breached Standard 9.

[27] The Authority notes that broadcasting a PGR promo during the G time-band might be a factor suggesting that a broadcaster had not adequately considered the interests of child viewers. The Authority acknowledges, however, that at the time of the broadcast complained about, television broadcasters were operating on an assumption that the G time-band was “suspended” by the early news programme. (The promo for Bootylicious was broadcast during One News on 8 December 2003. The precedent for this decision – Decision No: 2003-138/140 – was issued on 15 December 2003.)

 

For the reasons above, the Authority upholds the complaint that the broadcast by Television New Zealand Ltd of a promo for Bootylicious during One News on 8 December 2003 breached Standard 7 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

It declines to uphold all other aspects of the complaint.

[28] Having upheld a complaint, the Authority may make orders under ss.13 and 16 of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

[29] The Authority is aware that its view that the underlying time band for the early news hour is G time does not reflect current industry practice. The question of the classification of the material which screens within the early news hour is currently being discussed with the broadcasters. Therefore, the Authority considers that an order is not appropriate on this occasion.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
27 May 2004

Appendix

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

  1. A M Woods’ Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – 11 December 2003
  2. A M Woods’ Referral to the Authority – 17 January 2004
  3. TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 29 January 2004
  4. A M Woods’ Final Comment – 16 February 2004
  5. TVNZ’s Further Correspondence – 28 April 2004
  6. A M Woods’ Further Correspondence – 4 May 2004