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Swenson and TV3 Network Services Ltd and TV4 Network Ltd - 2002-163, 2002-164, 2002-165

Members

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

Complainant

  • Tina Swenson of Auckland

Dated

17th October 2002

Number

2002-163–165

Channel/Station

TV3 and TV4

Broadcaster

TV3 Network Services Ltd and TV4 Network Ltd


Complaint
Most Wanted – 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 Without Me, Kiss Kiss and In the Middle and, according to Ms Swenson, Love Don’t Cost a Thing, were broadcast on TV3 and TV4 at various times on various dates between 17 and 21 July 2002.

[2] Tina Swenson complained to TV3 Network Services Ltd and TV4 Network Ltd, the broadcasters, that the music videos were sexually explicit, inappropriately classified and unsuitable for children.

[3] In declining to uphold the complaints, the broadcasters said that, in the context of music videos, the material did not breach current norms of good taste and decency. They also stated that the material complained about was appropriately classified, and that they had considered children’s viewing interests.

[4] Dissatisfied with the broadcasters’ 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 the music videos complained about (other than Love Don’t Cost a Thing) and have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaints without a formal hearing.

The Programmes

[6] Music videos were broadcast on TV3 and TV4 at various times on various dates between 17 and 21 July 2002. Specifically, the following videos were the subject of complaints:

Without Me, broadcast on Most Wanted, TV4, on 18 July 2002 at 7.27pm, and on 21 July 2002 at 3.24pm;

Kiss Kiss, broadcast on Most Wanted, TV3, on 20 July 2002 at 10.20am, and on 21 July 2002 at 11.50am;

In the Middle, broadcast on Most Wanted, TV4, on 17 July 2002 at 7.19pm; and

Love Don’t Cost a Thing, said by the complainant to be broadcast on TV3 (music filler) on 18 July 2002 at 2.00pm.

The Complaint

[7] Tina Swenson complained to TV3 and TV4, the broadcasters, that the music videos were sexually explicit, inappropriately classified and should have been broadcast after 8.30pm, during adult viewing time only. Ms Swenson contended that the music videos were unsuitable for children, because children were likely to copy the sexually suggestive clothing, dancing and behaviour seen in the videos.

[8] Ms Swenson continued:

We all know children emulate what they see, if all they’re seeing is half- naked ladies, in some cases, they only look 14, 15, they’re going to copy the simulated sex dance moves, they’re going to copy the "wear as less as possible" clothing (and) to look at men in a sexually charged manner. It doesn’t look pretty to see 6 and 7 year olds trying to copy this.

[9] In relation to the specific music videos, Ms Swenson made the following comments:

Without Me

Ms Swenson advised that this video contained sexual content which was unsuitable viewing for children.

Kiss Kiss

Ms Swenson wrote of this video; "[T]his is soft porn. Disgusting."

In the Middle

Ms Swenson said "I don’t think children need to see women in their underwear at a party. Unnatural and sexual."

Love Don’t Cost a Thing

Ms Swenson alleged that the video contained "stripping and dancing in a sexually explicit way."

[10] In conclusion, Ms Swenson wrote that all the music videos contained sexual content "from mild to soft porn", which was unsuitable viewing material for children.

The Standards

[11] The broadcasters 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 Broadcasters’ Response to the Complainant

[12] In declining to uphold the complaint, the broadcasters noted that Most Wanted is a chart show which screens popular music videos. They considered that other music videos that were screened during Most Wanted were of a similar nature to those videos complained about and also submitted:

Music which is aimed at and played for the teen viewer may sometimes seem "challenging" for the adult generation, this is not a new phenomenon and has … been experienced since Elvis became popular in the 50’s.

[13] Turning to the standards, the broadcasters declined to uphold a breach of Standard 1 for each of the music videos screened. They made the following comments in relation to each music video:

Without Me

TV4 submitted that this music video was a "spoof", and made satirical reference to popular American culture. The video also made reference to the unpopularity of the artist with authority figures, due to his music. TV4 noted, in relation to the complainant’s concerns, that the lead character was in bed with two women, however all were fully clothed and no sexual contact was shown. TV4 contended that this was acceptable material in a PGR rated programme.

Kiss Kiss

TV3 submitted that in the video the singer was either wearing clothes or was digitally covered by shining lights (and was also wearing pants). It maintained that there was no simulated sex.

In the Middle

TV4 contended that this video depicted both men and women at a party, either wearing underwear or swimming togs. TV4 stated that there was no nudity and, while there was some kissing, there was no simulated sex as maintained by the complainant.

Love Don’t Cost a Thing

TV3 submitted that it did not screen the music video complained about at the time claimed by Ms Swenson. It maintained that it does not use music videos featuring the artist involved as music fillers between programmes. TV3 suggested that Ms Swenson must have viewed this video on a different channel.

[14] In regard to Standard 7, the broadcasters noted that Most Wanted is rated PGR. They held that the music videos complained about were appropriately classified and screened within the appropriate time band. They also stated:

Programme classification information is provided for viewers so they are able to make informed decisions about whether they or children under their guidance will watch a particular programme. The programme was classified to alert parents to the fact that it might not be suitable for children whose viewing is unsupervised.

[15] The broadcasters reiterated their earlier comments that music videos are often "challenging and even sometimes alarming to the adult viewer." They noted that music videos are intended for a youth audience and may offend viewers outside the target audience.

[16] The broadcasters declined to uphold a breach of standard 7 in respect of each music video complained about. They concluded:

[I]t would be illogical to restrict such music video shows to AO audiences because the age groups attracted to this sort of music are teenagers, not the AO viewer.

[17] In reference to Standard 9, the broadcasters maintained that they had considered the interests of child viewers, as the music videos had been "rated by an experienced appraiser and restricted to screening in the PGR timeslot." They concluded that Standard 9 had not been breached as they:

[C]ould not identify any material in the videos which would ‘disturb or alarm children’, require a warning or, ‘exploited, humiliated or unnecessarily identified children or young people".

[18] The broadcasters addressed the complainant’s general concerns by stating that:

the "skimpy clothing" worn in the videos represents the current fashions;

it disputed that music videos could be regarded as "soft porn", as there was no nudity or graphic sexual acts; and

it regarded the imitation of the behaviour in the videos by children as a matter for parental guidance and believed that the PGR classification allowed for such guidance to be exercised.

The Referral to the Authority

[19] Dissatisfied with the broadcasters’ 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

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

The Authority’s Determination

[21] 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.

[22] On this occasion the relevant contextual factors include the type of programme (music chart show), the programme’s PGR classification, and target youth audience. In past decisions, 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.

[23] As to the nature of the material complained about in respect of the three music videos, the Authority notes that the videos Without Me and In the Middle 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 each of the broadcasts, the Authority does not consider that Standard 1 was breached.

[24] In relation to the music video Love Don’t Cost a Thing, the Authority notes that the broadcasters’ submitted that the video was not broadcast at the time claimed by the complainant. The Authority has therefore not considered the video, and makes no decision with respect to it.

[25] Turning to Standard 7, the Authority notes that the Most Wanted programme was broadcast in a PGR timeband. It is the Authority’s view that the programme was appropriately classified, given the nature of the material and the target youth audience. In its view, the Authority does not consider that the programme code AO should have been used, as the music videos complained about were appropriately aimed at a youth audience. The Authority declines to uphold this aspect of the complaint.

[26] Standard 9 requires broadcasters to consider the interests of child viewers during their normally accepted viewing times. Given that the screening of the programme was within the appropriate PGR timeband and that music videos themselves are targeted at a youth audience, the Authority considers that the broadcasters have demonstrated that they were mindful of the effect of the broadcasts on children. Further, the Authority does not consider that the broadcasters were 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.

[27] The Authority declines to determine the aspect of the complaint relating to Guideline 9c, given the time of the broadcast of the music videos. 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.

[28] 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 Complaints to TV3 Network Services Ltd and TV4 Network Ltd – 15 July 2002
  2. The Broadcasters’ Response to the Complainant – 9 August 2002
  3. Ms Swenson’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 19 August 2002
  4. The Broadcasters’ Response to the Authority – 28 August 2002
  5. Ms Swensons’ Final Comment – 9 September 2002