Skip to main content

Swenson and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2002-160, 2002-161, 2002-162

Members

  • P Cartwright (Chair)
  • R Bryant
  • J H McGregor

Complainant

  • Tina Swenson of Auckland

Dated

17th October 2002

Number

2002-160–162

Channel/Station

TV2

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint
Coca-Cola Chart Show and Coca-Cola RTR Countdown – music videos – sexual themes offensive – inappropriate classification – unsuitable for children

Findings
Standard 1 – contextual matters – no uphold

Standard 7, Guideline 7a – appropriate classification – no uphold

Standard 9, Guidelines 9a and 9d – no disturbing material – no uphold; Guidelines 9c and 9i – irrelevant – decline to determine

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

[1] Music videos Kiss Kiss, Hot in Herre and Are You In? were broadcast on TV2’s Coca-Cola RTR Countdown at 6.00pm on 20 July 2002 and on the Coca-Cola Chart Show at 10.00am on 21 July 2002.

[2] Tina Swenson complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the music videos were sexually explicit, inappropriately classified and unsuitable for children.

[3] In declining to uphold the complaints, TVNZ said that, in the context of music videos, the material screened did not breach current norms of good taste and decency. TVNZ also stated that the programmes were appropriately classified and, given the intended target youth audience, it said it had considered children’s viewing interests.

[4] Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s decision, Ms Swenson referred her complaints 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 complaints.

Decision

[5] The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of each of the three music videos complained about and have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

The Programmes

[6] Music videos were broadcast on TV2’s Coca-Cola RTR Countdown at 6.00pm on 20 July 2002 and on the Coca-Cola Chart Show at 10.00am on 21 July 2002. During the programmes, the following three music videos were screened:

Kiss Kiss (Holly Valance) which was broadcast on both programmes;

Are You In? (Incubus) broadcast on the Chart Show; and

Hot in Herre (Nelly) also broadcast on the Chart Show.

The Complaint

[7] Tina Swenson complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the music videos were sexually explicit, inappropriately classified and unsuitable for children. She wrote:

These programmes breach these standards by the sexually explicit material, simulation of sexual intercourse, the nudity of women. Our young impressionable kids aged new-born and up see these women dance like they are having sex, legs open enough to see their G-strings. Our young girls are watching this and want to dance like they do and dress like they do.

[8] In relation to the specific videos, Ms Swenson described the Kiss Kiss video, as a "soft porn". She contended that the Are You In? video was offensive because of the "sexual content of women in their underwear, in an unnatural situation". Similarly, she objected to Hot in Herre because of the "sexual content, women stripping because a man tells them to."

The Standards

[9] TVNZ assessed the complaints against the standards in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice nominated by Ms Swenson. The Standards and relevant Guidelines read:

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.

Guidelines

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.

1b  Broadcasters should consider – and if appropriate require – the use of on-air visual and verbal warnings when programmes contain violent material, material of a sexual nature, coarse language or other content likely to disturb children or offend a significant number of adult viewers. Warnings should be specific in nature, while avoiding detail which may itself distress or offend viewers.

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

7a  Broadcasters should ensure that appropriate classification codes are established and observed (Appendix 1). Classification symbols should be displayed at the beginning of each programme and after each advertising break.

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.

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.

9c  Broadcasters should have regard to the fact that children tend to stay up later than usual on Friday and Saturday nights and during school and public holidays and, accordingly, special attention should be given to providing appropriate warnings during these periods.

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.

9i  Broadcasters should recognise the rights of children and young people not to be exploited, humiliated or unnecessarily identified. (See United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child – Appendix 3)

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[10] In declining to uphold the complaints, TVNZ noted the time of the broadcasts complained about. It advised that RTR Countdown was broadcast in G (General) time on a Saturday night, and "it is not played next to any programme which is directed at the very young". The Chart Show was broadcast on a Sunday morning during PGR time, and followed the well-known children’s programme What Now?

[11] TVNZ considered the issue of music videos and the target youth audience. In its opinion:

Because listening to popular music is so much part of growing up for many youngsters, it seemed to the committee that its presence was desirable on television – and at times of the day when younger teens can watch.

It seemed to the committee that in dealing with music videos, television is simply responding to a new generation’s need to hear music to which it relates, albeit augmented by visual imagery. The committee believed that parents recognise that the music may be of a kind they don’t understand and that its content (both from a lyrical and visual point of view) might not be what they want the youngest of their children to hear and watch.

[12] In referring to the music videos complained about, TVNZ noted that all three songs have featured high in the charts, both overseas and in New Zealand. In relation to Kiss Kiss, TVNZ disagreed that the video was "pornographic", it said that the dancing was in rhythm with the music, and "not overtly erotic", although it noted that "being mildly sensual is part of most dancing." It considered that the singer though "lightly clad" was similar to what young women would wear at the beach, but TVNZ was unable to determine whether at the end of the song she was naked due to the lighting effects.

[13] In regard to Are You In?, TVNZ accepted the complainant’s view that the women were in their underwear. However, it argued that it may also have been swimwear. It concluded that there "was no nudity, and the movement and rhythm was sensual rather than sexual."

[14] In considering Hot in Herre, it noted that it was a typical rap song which as a musical genre, tends to denigrate women. However, it is "an important part of modern youth culture" appreciated by young men and women alike, TVNZ said.

[15] Turning to the standards, TVNZ declined to uphold a breach in relation to Standard 1, based on the context of a music chart show. It stated that parents and children are familiar with the content of such programmes, and that the items complained about did not breach current norms of good taste and decency. It noted that Guideline 1a specifically refers to the "target audience" as a relevant contextual factor to be considered. TVNZ also declined to uphold that a visual and verbal warning was required (Guideline 1b). In its view:

the nature of modern music videos is well-known and that parents who don’t want their children exposed to them would simply switch off. The three videos mentioned in your letter were not out of the ordinary in visual content or language.

[16] In regard to Standard 7, TVNZ concluded that the programmes complained about were appropriately classified. It considered that the broadcast of chart shows at a time when the intended target audience was unable to see them would be "absurd".

[17] In reference to Standard 9, TVNZ stated by broadcasting the programmes at a time when children had access to them, that it had considered the interests of child viewers. TVNZ said it had dealt with the issue of warnings (Guidelines 9c and 9d) under Standard 7, and it did not consider Guideline 9i relevant as children were not exploited, humiliated or unnecessarily identified in the music videos complained about. However, it did note that Ms Swenson’s reference to this Standard, which cites the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, supported its position, given that the youth audience was a relevant contextual factor to be considered.

The Referral to the Authority

[18] Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Ms Swenson considered that the videos complained about contained offensive material. She reiterated her concerns with respect to the suggestive sexual content in the music videos.

The Complainant’s Final Comment

[19] Ms Swenson expressed her concern regarding the impact that viewing music videos may have on the social behaviour of children.

The Authority’s Determination

[20] When it determines a complaint that a broadcast contravenes Standard 1 of the Television Code, the Authority is required to determine whether the material complained about breaches currently accepted standards of good taste and decency, taking into account the context of the broadcast. The context is relevant, but does not determine whether the programme breached the standard. Accordingly, the Authority has considered the context in which the music videos were broadcast.

[21] On this occasion the relevant contextual factors include the type of programme (music chart show) and target youth audience. In the past, the Authority has held that viewing music videos is generally accepted as mainstream contemporary entertainment for a youth audience, and the Authority continues to hold that view. The Authority acknowledges that younger audiences are often the target audience of such music videos.

[22] As to the nature of the material complained about in respect of the three music videos, the Authority notes that the videos Are You In and Hot in Herre, did not contain nudity or overtly sexual images. In relation to the Kiss Kiss video, the Authority considered it mildly sensual, however it was not "pornographic" as alleged by the complainant. In the Authority’s view warnings were not required pursuant to Guideline 1b as the music videos did not contain material likely to disturb children. Taking into account the context of the broadcast, the Authority does not consider that Standard 1 was breached.

[23] Turning to Standard 7, the Authority notes that the RTR Countdown programme was broadcast in G (general) time on a Saturday night, and that the Chart Show was broadcast on a Sunday morning during PGR time. It is the Authority’s view that the programmes were appropriately classified, given the nature of the material and the target youth audience. The Authority declines to uphold this aspect of the complaint.

[24] Standard 9 requires broadcasters to consider the interests of child viewers during their normally accepted viewing times. Given that the screening of the programmes were within the appropriate timebands and that the music videos themselves are targeted at a youth audience, the Authority considers that the broadcaster demonstrated that it was mindful of the effect of the broadcasts on children. Further, the Authority does not consider that the broadcaster was required to provide "appropriate warnings" as it does not consider that the music videos contained material that was likely to disturb or alarm children. Accordingly, the Authority concludes that Standard 9 was not breached.

[25] The Authority declines to determine the aspect of the complaint relating to Guideline 9c, given the time of the broadcast of the RTR Countdown programme. Similarly, the Authority declines to determine the aspect of the complaint relating to Guideline 9i, as it does not consider the issues of exploitation, humiliation and unnecessary identification of children to be relevant to the music videos that are the subject of the complaint.

[26] The Authority observes that to find a breach of broadcasting standards on this occasion would be to apply 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 and applies them in a manner which it considers is consistent with and gives full weight to the provisions of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

 

For the reasons given above, the Authority declines to uphold the complaints.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
17 October 2002

Appendix

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

  1. Tina Swenson’s Letters of Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – 10 July 2002
  2. TVNZ’s Response to the Complainant – 6 August 2002
  3. Ms Swenson’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 19 August 2002
  4. TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 26 August 2002
  5. Ms Swenson’s Final Comment – 9 September 2002