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Hooker and TV3 Network Services Ltd - 2002-028

Dated

14th March 2002

Number

2002-028

Programme

Charmed promo

Channel/Station

TV3

Broadcaster

TV3 Network Services Ltd


Complaint
Promo – Charmed – slutty – offensive language – incorrect classification – broadcaster not mindful of children

Findings
Standard G2 – context – no uphold

Standard G8 – PGR rating correct – no uphold

Standard G12 – correct classification and time of broadcast – no uphold

Standard G22 – PGR rating correct – no uphold

Standard G24 – not relevant

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

[1] A promo for Charmed was broadcast on TV3 on 30 September 2001 at 8.20pm, during the film The Phantom Menace.

[2] Michael Hooker complained to TV3 Network Services Ltd, the broadcaster, about the use of the word "slutty" in a promo which was broadcast during PGR time.

[3] TV3 declined to uphold the complaint. It considered that the promo was acceptable for screening during PGR time.

[4] Dissatisfied with TV3’s decision, Mr Hooker referred his complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

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

Decision

[5] 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 this complaint without a formal hearing.

The Promo

[6] A promo for Charmed was broadcast on TV3 on 30 September 2001 at 8.20pm, during the film The Phantom Menace. During the promo, one of the characters said "get your slutty hands off my husband".

The Complaint

[7] Michael Hooker complained to TV3 about the use of the word "slutty" during the promo. He said that the word "slut" and its derivatives had "a similar [level of] unacceptability" to the word "whore" which, in the Authority’s 1999 survey:

was considered unacceptable by 55.3% of respondents… in an AO time band.

[8] Mr Hooker also referred to Decision No. 1996-019, in which the Authority held that the use of the phrase "stop pissing around" in a promo in PGR time breached standard G2 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

The Standards

[9] Mr Hooker asked that his complaint be assessed under standards G2, G8, G12, G22 and G24 of the Television Code. The first three of those standards require broadcasters:

G2 To take into consideration currently accepted norms of decency and taste in language and behaviour, bearing in mind the context in which any language or behaviour occurs.

G8 To abide by the classification codes and their appropriate time bands as outlined in the agreed criteria for classification.

G12 To be mindful of the effect any programme may have on children during their normally accepted viewing hours.

[10] The remaining standards provide:

G22 Promotions (promos) for AO programmes may be screened during PGR or G time bands provided the promo is made in such a way that it can be classified as PGR or G, as appropriate. Promotions which carry an AO classification may only be screened within AO time bands.

G24 Broadcasters must be mindful that scenes containing incidents of violence or other explicit material may be acceptable when seen in the total context of a programme, but when extracted for promotion purposes such incidents will be seen out of context and may thereby be unacceptable, not only in terms of the codes but also for the time band during which the trailer is placed.

TV3’s Response to the Complaint

[11] TV3 declined to uphold the complaint. It considered that the promo was acceptable for screening during PGR time.

[12] Addressing each of the nominated standards in turn, TV3 maintained that:

the phrase "get your slutty hands off my husband" did not breach standard G2 in the context of a promo playing in a PGR programme in PGR time

standard G8 was not breached as the promo was correctly classified and screened in an appropriate time band

standard G12 was not breached as TV3 had been conscious of child viewers by following its usual practice of giving promos a censor rating and screening them according to this rating

as the promo was correctly rated, screened in an appropriate time band and its content was acceptable for broadcast in the PGR programme and timeband, standard G22 was not breached

standard G24 was not breached as TV3 could not find any "explicit material" in the promo.

[13] TV3 also commented on Mr Hooker’s use of the Authority’s research. It said that Mr Hooker had:

raised the Broadcasting Standards Authority research on specific words in numerous complaints, and made a specious correlation between unrelated words (in this complaint "whore" and "slut") and the further extrapolation of supposed offences caused. We in no way accept this facile use of the research. In the numerous complaints raised by you regarding language, there have never been any other complainants, either formal or informal. It is our view that the rather strained correlations that have been put forward by you are simply not applicable.

[14] Finally, in response to Mr Hooker’s reference to Decision No. 1996-019, TV3 said it:

could put forward a number of decisions where the use of swear words/low level coarse language has been found to be acceptable in G and PGR time. For example, 1998-019 (where the phrase "you smarmy little bastards" was found acceptable in kids G time), 1997-040 and 1997-041 (where the phrase "go to hell you old bastard" was found acceptable in kids G time), 1998-115, 1998-116 and 1998-083 (the use of "fuck" in PGR time). This list is not exhaustive. What is of relevance to this complaint is the context of screening and actual audience expectations. It is clear that the phrase "get your slutty hands off my husband" does not breach audience expectations for a PGR programme in a PGR time band.

Mr Hooker’s Referral to the Authority

[15] In his referral to the Authority, Mr Hooker said that, as TV3 had noted that Decision No. 1996-019 concerned a broadcast in 1995:

the clear implication was that TV3 consider that values in society have since deteriorated sufficiently that more latitude regarding promos [than] could reasonably be expected.

[16] Mr Hooker then referred to the Authority’s research, from which he concluded that society was becoming less tolerant of "profanity" on television.

[17] As to the decisions TV3 had cited in its decision not to uphold his complaint, Mr Hooker said that they were not relevant, as they dealt with programmes, not promos for programmes. Citing several previous decisions by the Authority in support of his position, he said:

Material screened in a promo will always be acceptable in the programme but standard G24 clearly states that material that may be acceptable in the context of the full programme often won’t be acceptable when extracted for promotional purposes.

[18] Mr Hooker then made two further points. First, he said that the words "whore" and "slut" were closely related and "would have very similar levels of offensiveness", and that his use of the research was not specious. Finally, as his concluding point, Mr Hooker said:

Being a promo the phrase was completely devoid of any redeeming contextual integrity and clearly breached the expectations of the extremely high percentage of the potential viewers ages 5 to 14 who were watching.

TV3’s Response to the Authority

[19] In TV3’s response to the Authority, it reiterated its comment made in response to other formal complaints made by Mr Hooker:

[TV3] does not accept Michael Hooker’s use of the Authority’s research. Specifically the correlations drawn between unrelated words and "extrapolations" of the research, which lead to unfounded conclusions.

[20] TV3 also explained that its reference to the promo in Decision No. 1996-019 having been broadcast in 1995 was a distinction between the year of broadcast and the fact that the Authority’s decision carried a 1996 date, not to some "implication" or perception" regarding society values.

Mr Hooker’s Final Comment

[21] In Mr Hooker’s final comment, he referred again to the Authority’s research to reiterate his submission that society has become less tolerant of profanity on television. He also submitted that standards G8 and G12 were likely to be breached due to the large number of children watching The Phantom Menace at the time the promo was broadcast.

The Authority’s Determination

[22] When it determines a complaint about whether a broadcast contravenes standard G2, the Authority is required to determine whether the material complained about breached currently accepted standards of good taste and decency, taking into account the context of the broadcast. The context is relevant, but not decisive, to the Authority’s determination of whether the programme breached standard G2. Accordingly, the Authority has considered the context of the programme. The Authority considers that relevant contextual matters include the programme’s PGR rating and its broadcast during the PGR time band (at 8.20pm) during a PGR rated movie. Having considered these contextual matters, the Authority concludes that the use of the word "slutty" did not breach standard G2.

[23] Standard G8 requires broadcasters to abide by the classification codes and their appropriate time bands. Similarly, standard G22 requires that a promo which is screened during a PGR timeband must be made in such a way that it be classified as PGR. In this case, the Authority considers that the promo was correctly classified as PGR material and was screened at an appropriate time. Accordingly, it finds that principles G8 and G22 were not breached.

[24] In relation to standard G12, the Authority considers that, by correctly applying a PGR certificate to the promo and screening it within the PGR time band, TV3 demonstrated that it was mindful of the effect of the broadcast on children.

[25] As to standard G24, the Authority does not regard this standard as relevant to the complaint, as it does not consider that the use of the word "slutty" in the promo constituted violent or explicit material.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
14 March 2002

Appendix

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

  1. Michael Hooker’s Formal Complaint to TV3 Network Services Ltd – 17 October 2001
  2. TV3’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 16 November 2001
  3. Mr Hooker’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 26 November 2001
  4. TV3’s Response to the Authority – 21 December 2001
  5. Mr Hooker’s Final Comment – 20 January 2002