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Ward and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2003-119

Members

  • P Cartwright (Chair)
  • R Bryant
  • Tapu Misa
  • Diane Musgrave

Complainant

  • Annette Ward of Christchurch

Dated

23rd October 2003

Number

2003-119

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint
Messiah 2: Vengeance is Mine – promo – programme to be broadcast at 8.30pm – promo screened during Holmes before 7.30pm – graphic – inappropriate time slot

Findings
Standard 7 – classification appropriate – no uphold

Standard 10 – appropriate discretion exercised regarding violence – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

[1] A promo for Messiah 2: Vengeance is Mine was broadcast on TV One at 7.20pm on Friday 11 July 2003 during Holmes. The programme Messiah 2, rated AO, was to be screened at 8.30pm on Sunday 13 July.

[2] Annette Ward complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the graphic and disturbing promo had been broadcast at an inappropriate time.

[3] In response, TVNZ said that the promo contained no explicit violence and did not include the scenes which had justified the film’s AO rating. It argued that the promo was appropriately classified as PGR and declined to uphold the complaint.

[4] Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s decision, Annette Ward referred her complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons below, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Decision

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

The Programme

[6] The programme Messiah 2: Vengeance is Mine was screened on Lexus Sunday Theatre beginning at 8.30pm on Sunday 13 July. A promo for the programme was broadcast during Holmes at about 7.20pm on Friday 11 July 2003.

The Complaint

[7] Pointing out that the promo contained graphic and disturbing scenes from the programme, Annette Ward complained to TVNZ that the promo had been screened at an inappropriate time. The broadcast of the promo had been especially ironic, she added, as the following item on Holmes had been about keeping children safe.

The Standards

[8] TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standards 7 and 10 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. The Standards and relevant Guideline 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.

Guideline

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.

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.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[9] Contending that there was very little violence actually shown and that the most violent scene was that of a man’s face who appeared to have his mouth taped shut, TVNZ explained that the role of promos was to draw upcoming programmes to the attention of viewers. It continued:

Trailers are often deliberately placed during programmes which attract the sort of audiences that might also appreciate the programme being advertised. On this occasion it was the view of TV One that the largely mature audience which watches and absorbs a current affairs programme like Holmes would be that most likely to also show an interest in a quality British drama scheduled later in the week in the channel’s prime outlet for mature drama.

[10] TVNZ acknowledged that the promo was juxtaposed with an item on child safety. It added that as the contents of news and current affairs programmes were often determined late, it was not possible to avoid the rare occasions "where a pre-scheduled trailer sits awkwardly with the programme content round about it". Nevertheless, TVNZ continued, the scenes which justified the "AO" rating for Messiah 2 were not included in the promo.

[11] With regard to Standard 7, TVNZ argued that the contents of the promo were appropriately screened in the PGR time band. As for Standard 10, TVNZ maintained that it had shown care and discretion and the promo did not contain gratuitous violence. It declined to uphold the complaint.

The Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority

[12] Ms Ward stated that the promo showed a bound man and a dish of surgical instruments and the "atmosphere of violence" suggested that he was going to be tortured. Implied violence of this sort, she wrote, was as graphic and disturbing as actual violence. In response to TVNZ’s statement that the promo did not include actual violence, Ms Ward pointed out that implied violence or threats of violence were not suitable for children.

[13] Ms Ward replied to TVNZ’s point that it was largely a mature audience which watched Holmes. She noted that One News and Holmes were the main source of knowledge about news and current affairs in New Zealand. In that situation, she said, TVNZ had to consider the needs of the whole community, including school children.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[14] In response to Ms Ward’s point about the range of viewers of news and current affairs, TVNZ stated that such programmes were not subject to censorship and, therefore, were not classified. Moreover, it added, news and current affairs sometimes contained disturbing or distressing material. It continued:

TVNZ believes this trailer was suitable for broadcast in PGR time, but especially so in a news and current affairs context where, if children are watching, they are in the company of adults and subject to any counselling those adults may feel necessary (in the same way that they counsel their children about events in the news or on Holmes). We find it difficult to believe that the trailer was the most distressing or menacing thing that the viewer has seen during an early evening news or current affairs programme.

The Complainant’s Final Comment

[15] Ms Ward reiterated her complaint and argued that TVNZ’s response did not address her concerns. Items on the news and Holmes, she wrote, were reported in a factual manner while the promo had an "atmosphere of menace". She regarded as gratuitous TVNZ’s observation that the promo was not the most disturbing event she had seen on television, and commented:

Primary school aged children are regularly required to prepare reports on news or current events and should be able to safely view international, national and local news during the PGR time slot.

The Authority’s Determination

[16] The Authority is aware that the broadcast of promos for AO programmes during the G and PGR time slots is a matter of concern for a number of viewers. It was an issue the Authority discussed with broadcasters in 2001 during the revision of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. Agreement was reached as recorded in Standard 7 and Guideline 7b of the revised Code. The provision allows the broadcast of AO promos during G and PGR timeslots but the content of the promos must comply with the criteria for the timeslots in which the promos are broadcast.

[17] The Authority examined the promo for the Messiah 2 broadcast at about 7.20pm during Holmes, to assess whether its context complied with the PGR criterion. It reads:

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

[18] Having examined the promo, the Authority finds that the broadcast complied with the standards. It concludes that the content of the promo is suitable viewing for children with parental guidance.

[19] The Authority notes what TVNZ described as the juxtaposition of the promo with an item on child safety, a juxtaposition which Ms Ward regarded as ironic. The Authority is inclined to agree with the complainant.

[20] The Authority observes that to find a breach of broadcasting standards on this occasion would be to interpret the Broadcasting Act 1989 in such a way as to limit freedom of expression in a manner which is not reasonable or demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society (s.5 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990). As required by s.6 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, the Authority adopts an interpretation of the relevant standards which it considers is consistent with and gives full weight to the provisions of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
23 October 2003

Appendix

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

1. Annette Ward’s Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – 11 July 2003
2. TVNZ’s Response to Ms Ward – 30 July 2003
3. Ms Ward’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 23 August 2003
4. TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 4 September 2003
5. Ms Ward’s Final Comment – 16 September 2003