One News – interview with golfer Michael Campbell – liquor signage on backdrop – incidental promotion not minimised – upheld by TVNZ – a breach of standard A3 – staff reminded of responsibilities – action insufficient
Acton taken sufficient
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
Golfer Michael Campbell was interviewed on One News, broadcast on TV One on 16 January 2001, about his participation in the forthcoming New Zealand open golfing championship. The work "Steinlager" was clearly visible on the backdrop behind him.
GALA’s Complaints Secretary (Cliff Turner) complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the signage breached the standard which required that incidental liquor promotions be minimised.
TVNZ upheld the complaint. It acknowledged that a different camera angle could have been used. It advised that sports staff had been fully reminded of their responsibilities under the Promotion of Liquor Code.
Dissatisfied with the action taken, Mr Turner referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
For the reasons given below, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint that the action taken was insufficient.
The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the item complained about and have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.
The Complaints Secretary of GALA (Cliff Turner) complained to TVNZ about an item on One News broadcast on TV One between 6.00-7.00pm on 16 January 2001. At about 6.40pm, the Complaints Secretary wrote, "golfer Michael Campbell was interviewed in front of background in which the word Steinlager was clearly visible". He considered that the item breached Programme Standard A3 and Rule 1.6 of the Voluntary Sports Code.
Standard A3 of the Programme Code for the Promotion of Liquor records:
A3 Broadcasters will ensure that the incidental promotion of liquor is minimised.
The Voluntary Sports Code is to be read in conjunction with the Programme Standards and it provides:
1.6 Backdrops for Tour/Event Announcements or Interview
Backdrops shall focus on the specific team, event or tour and may incorporate sponsorship logos. Backdrops shall not be a predominant feature. There shall be no reference to liquor advertisements.
At pre-arranged interviews the placement of the interviewee shall not have liquor signage as a predominant feature.
TVNZ assessed the complaint against the nominated standard. It also referred to Guideline 8 of the Code which reads in part:
If the liquor promotion is so extensive that the activity or individual cannot be filmed, despite the best efforts of the camera crew, without the blatant intrusion of liquor promotions, the broadcast of that material will breach A3.
The [Complaints] Committee did not know whether a different camera angle may have enabled the Steinlager signage to be excluded from the frame, but believed that if that was not possible, Mr Campbell should have been asked to consent to an interview against a different background.
TVNZ acknowledged that the broadcast breached standard A3, and apologised to GALA. It explained that there were a number of new appointments to the sports desk and that they had "apparently overlooked the requirements of A3". Staff, it added, had been reminded of their responsibilities and TVNZ assured GALA that it found such breaches unacceptable.
As TVNZ’s response was considered unsatisfactory, Mr Turner on behalf of GALA referred the complaint to the Authority. Questioning the value of TVNZ’s assurance, he wrote:
Blame is attached to newly recruited staff. TVNZ management should ensure that all journalistic staff are fully conversant with the Programme Standards.
In its response to the Authority, TVNZ pointed out that TVNZ’s news and current affairs division had not had a complaint about incidental liquor promotion since late 1999:
… despite news crews encountering almost daily situations in which strategically placed liquor promotions (connected with the sponsorship of newsworthy events) have been present.
TVNZ said that every effort was being made to keep staff up to date despite the high staff turnover rate.
The Authority accepts that TVNZ takes its responsibilities seriously under the Programme Code for the Promotion of Liquor. GALA and similar interest groups, through their vigilance, can take considerable credit for the care TVNZ takes. While the word "Steinlager" was clearly apparent on this occasion, it could not be regarded as a major feature.
The Authority agrees with GALA’s Complaints Secretary that inexperienced staff are not an excuse for a breach of the standards. TVNZ has indicated, however, that it has taken action to remind all staff of the broadcasters’ responsibilities under the Liquor Code.
Taking into account TVNZ’s contention that it takes seriously its responsibilities, and given the infrequency of complaints of this nature, the Authority is of the view that the action taken on this occasion was sufficient.
For the above reasons, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
26 April 2001
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint: