Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
One Tree Hill – fictional series built around two young men with the same father – episode dealing with drink spiking and an attempted rape – contrary to children’s interests, incorrectly classified and insufficient warning – complaint upheld by broadcaster – action taken allegedly insufficient
Action taken – sufficient – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 An episode of One Tree Hill screened on TV2 at 3pm on Sunday 5 September 2004. One Tree Hill is a teen drama series built around two young men who share the same father, and it deals with issues which confront teenagers growing up in a modern society.
 This episode included a sequence in which a young woman narrowly avoided being raped after having her drink spiked at a party.
 Rudy Hueting complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the programme was incorrectly classified and should have been preceded by a more appropriate warning. He described the scene in the programme as showing:
…the efforts of a man to stupefy a teenage girl with “roofies”, followed by him clearly climbing on top of her while she cried out her objections.
 The complainant maintained that the programme had breached broadcasting standards relating to children’s interests, in particular those associated with programme classification and the treatment of the subject of rape.
 TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standards 7, 9 and 10 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provide:
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.
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.
Standard 10 Violence
In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are required to exercise care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence.
Programmes in which rape or sexual violence is a theme should be treated with the utmost care. Explicit detail and prolonged focus on sexually violent contact should be avoided. Any programme in which rape is depicted should be preceded by a warning.
 In its response to the complainant, TVNZ noted the complainant’s approval that the sequence seemed intended to send a message to teenagers about the dangers of leaving drinks unattended at parties.
 Referring to Standard 7 (programme classification), the broadcaster agreed that the content of the episode should have been classified PGR rather than G. It concurred that Standard 7 had been breached in this case. Acting on the breach, TVNZ advised the complainant that the episode had now been re-classified as PGR in case it was repeated at any stage. TVNZ also said it would review the content of other episodes of One Tree Hill to see if PGR classifications would be more appropriate in their cases as well.
 Following on from the breach of Standard 7, the broadcaster concluded that Standard 9 (children’s interests) must also have been breached. It said:
The presence of a G classification in a programme in which a theme of date rape was prominent suggested that TVNZ had not properly considered the interests of child viewers.
 Referring to Standard 10 (violence), TVNZ noted that while date rape is “inherently violent” there was no violence shown. However, looking at guideline 10d, the broadcaster concluded that there should have been a statement alerting viewers “that the subject of date rape was to arise in the story”. Given that an actual rape was not depicted, it said, this need not have been a “hard warning”, but agreed that some sort of advice was desirable.
 Accordingly, TVNZ concluded that the complaint should be upheld.
 Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr Hueting referred his complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
 The complainant felt that TVNZ considered his complaint to be “merely a nuisance” and that the matters he had raised were of no great concern. Although TVNZ had agreed the programme should have been classified as PGR, Mr Hueting said, it would seem that “TVNZ considers this distinction to be merely academic”. He noted:
…nowhere does [TVNZ] make any suggestion of an apology for any offence the network may have caused me, nor does it seem to be contrite for the lack of “utmost care” that the network applied with regard to themes of rape as presented to child viewers.
 Mr Hueting stated that he remained dissatisfied with the attitude of TVNZ in response to these breaches of broadcasting standards.
 In its response to the Authority, the broadcaster expressed regret that the complainant thought TVNZ felt the distinction between PGR and G is “merely academic”. It assured the Authority that TVNZ takes the classification system very seriously and to that end it employs four full-time censors. In this case, TVNZ acknowledged that an error had occurred and extended an apology to Mr Hueting if he was offended by the broadcast.
 In his final submission to the Authority, Mr Hueting reiterated that he did not feel TVNZ had applied sufficient effort into considering the appropriate classification of the broadcast. TVNZ had not suggested that they had changed their censorship approach to teen dramas as a whole, he said.
 Mr Hueting remained adamant that the subject of attempted rape should be treated “with utmost care”, and he did not feel that it had been treated appropriately in this broadcast.
 The complainant maintained that a written and spoken warning regarding the subject of attempted rape should have preceded this broadcast.
 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.
 This complaint is about the adequacy of the action taken by TVNZ after it upheld Mr Hueting’s complaint. The Authority observes that TVNZ has re-classified this episode of One Tree Hill and has committed to reviewing other episodes of the programme to see if PGR classifications would be more appropriate for them. The broadcaster also agreed that the subject of date rape should have been preceded by some sort of warning to viewers.
 The Authority notes that this episode of One Tree Hill, while incorrectly classified as a G programme, was broadcast during a PGR time band. TVNZ acknowledged its error and has taken steps to protect against the mistake being repeated. The Authority considers that the action taken by the broadcaster, having upheld the complaint, was sufficient on this occasion.
 The Authority is of the view that TVNZ dealt with the matter responsibly and it does not consider that further action was necessary or appropriate. Accordingly it declines to uphold the complaint.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
18 February 2005
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint: