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Gilmour and TV3 Network Services Ltd - 2001-035

Members

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

Complainant

  • Mark Gilmour of Palmerston North

Dated

3rd May 2001

Number

2001-035

Channel/Station

TV4

Broadcaster

TV3 Network Services Ltd


Complaint
Music video – HLAH – "Good Advice" from "Blood on The Honky Tonk Floor" – zombie genre – excessive violence

Findings
G2, G9, G11(i), G24, V1, V2, V3, V6, V8, V10, V11 – complaint subsumed under G2 and V1

Standard G2 – music video – context – challenging style – satirical – no uphold

Standard V1 – gruesome but verging on the farcical – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

The HLAH music video of "Good Advice" from the album "Blood on the Honky Tonky Floor" was screened on TV4 at 11.00pm on 30 November 2000.

Mark Gilmour complained to TV3 Network Services Ltd, the broadcaster, that the video displayed graphic violence which, he said, was "disgusting".

TV3 said that "Good Advice" was a satirical view of the zombie movie genre set in a contemporary club. The violence, it continued, was not realistic and was almost farcical.

Dissatisfied with TV3’s decision, Mr Gilmour referred his 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

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

The HLAH music video "Good Advice" was screened on TV4 at 11.00pm on 30 November. Mr Gilmour complained to TV3 Network Services Ltd, the broadcaster, that he was disgusted and sickened at the "extreme violence" shown in the video. He considered that the graphic violent scenes should not have been broadcast at any time.

TV3 assessed the complaint under the standards nominated by Mr Gilmour. The first three 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.

G9  To take care in depicting items which explain the technique of crime in a manner which invites imitation.

G11  To refrain from broadcasting any programme which, when considered as a whole:

(i) Simulates news or events in such a way as to mislead or alarm viewers.

The others read:

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 seen out of context and may therefore be unacceptable, not only in terms of the codes but also for the time band during which the trailer is placed.

V1  Broadcasters have a responsibility to ensure that any violence shown is justifiable, ie is essential in the context of the programme.

V2  When obviously designed for gratuitous use to achieve heightened impact, realistic violence – as distinct from farcical violence – must be avoided.

V3  Warnings should be given, at least at the beginning of a programme, when a programme contains material which is likely to be disturbing to the average viewer or which is unexpectedly violent for that programme genre.

V6  Ingenious devices for and unfamiliar methods of inflicting pain, injury and death, particularly if capable of easy imitation, must not be shown, except in exceptional circumstances which are in the public interest.

V8  When real or fictitious killings – including executions and assassinations – are shown, the coverage must not be prolonged.

V10  The cumulative or overall effect of violent incidents and themes in a single programme, a programme series or a line-up of programmes back to back, must avoid giving an impression of excessive violence.

V11  Any realistic portrayal of anti-social behaviour, including violent and serious crime and the abuse of liquor and drugs, must not be shown in a way that glamorises the activities.

TV3 explained:

The HLAH music video "Good Advice" is a satirical view of the zombie movie genre placed in a contemporary club setting. HLAH are an alternative NZ band. The HLAH music video involves the band going to a club to gamble (after some bad advice) and ending up being killed by their zombie doubles and their brains being served to the zombie leader. The HLAH video is a spoof of zombie movies. Traditionally, this genre contains gore and dismemberment. Zombies are the un-dead hungry for brains and they can only be stopped by being dismembered. The violence and the set-up are not realistic. Zombies do not exist. The violence that is shown is artificial and over-produced so that it becomes almost farcical. The killings shown are unrealistic, the band fights its zombie doubles and loses.

TV3 then assessed the complaint under each of the nominated standards. In regard to standard G2, TV3 addressed the contextual issues such as the time of screening (11.00pm), the similarities of the video to the New Zealand film "Brain Dead", and the fact that the video screened between two AO rated programmes on an acknowledged youth channel. It declined to uphold this aspect of the complaint.

As in its view the footage was obviously fake, TV3 argued that standard G9 was inapplicable. It reached a similar conclusion in regard to standard G11(i). It also did not accept that standard G24 was relevant, because the programme had been shown in full.

Turning to the standards relating to the portrayal of violence, TV3 said that the violence was expected, given the genre, and thus standard VI had not been contravened.

Standard V2 had not been breached, TV3 wrote, as the violence shown was artificial and almost farcical.

In regard to standard V3, the broadcaster said that the violence was not unexpected for the zombie genre. While "the effects would be unexpected for a more mainstream viewer", TV3 argued that the late hour of screening and the expectations of the average TV4 viewer did not require a warning.

Standard V6 had not been breached because death by chainsaw was one of the mainstays of the horror genre.

Turning to standard V8, TV3 said it had not been breached because the killings were over-played and, with heads and limbs falling off bodies, it could not be considered realistic.

Neither standard V10 nor V11 had been breached, TV3 continued, because although the video might appear gruesome, it was a genre piece which was not realistic, and had screened between two AO rated programmes which were not particularly violent.

TV3 considered that no standards had been breached and then made a number of general comments which follow:

This complaint raises some interesting issues as it highlights the differences in expectations and standards between the alternative youth market and more "main-stream" audiences. TV4 is a youth orientated station. It is well known for supporting New Zealand music and alternative programming. Some of TV4's content could be considered "harder hitting" as it is programmed for an alternative market, who have different expectations and sensibilities to the more "mainstream" audiences. What this means in real terms is that while more "mainstream" viewers can not put the HLAH video into a viewing context and therefore find it gory and offensive. The expected TV4 viewer who is more alternative in their viewing and listening preferences, views the video as a satirical play on the zombie movie genre. ... To the TV4 viewer the special effects in the HLAH video are patently unrealistic and intended to be viewed as satire.

TV3 pointed to similarities between the video and the film "Brain Dead". It also pointed out that the Authority, in Decision No: 2000-011, had declined to uphold a complaint about footage on television showing a young man nailing his genitals to a cross and setting them alight. That complaint had not been upheld, TV3 reported, on the basis of the time of screening and the expected audience. Pointing to the similarity of the video complained about in this instance to the style of the series addressed in Decision No 2000-011, TV3 concluded:

As you can see your complaint has led to a thorough consideration by this Committee of the music video genre and viewer expectations of TV4. The Committee can readily accept and understand your concern about the video. We hope that this rather longwinded explanation and justification of the video will reassure you that the decision to programme and screen such material is not lightly made and that every effort is made to ensure such material is screened in an appropriate context. Thank you for expressing your concerns.

Stating that he found TV3’s response unsatisfactory and "patronising", Mr Gilmour referred his complaint to the Authority. He repeated his concern that the video showed human beings carrying out disgusting and violent actions.

The Authority's Findings

In his complaint about the HLAH music video "Good Advice", Mr Gilmour nominated 11 standards which he considered has been breached by the broadcast.

A number of the standards overlap and the Authority, having examined the complaint, considers that Mr Gilmour’s concerns are adequately encapsulated by standards G2 and V1. The former requires 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.

The latter provides:

V1  Broadcasters have a responsibility to ensure that any violence shown is justifiable, ie is essential in the context of the programme.

The Authority deals first with the good taste aspect of this complaint. As it always does when considering complaints alleging a breach of standard G2, the Authority takes into account the context in which the behaviour complained about occurred.

In its view, the prime relevant contextual matter is the fact that the broadcast was a music video. While music videos, as with all programmes, must comply with broadcasting standards, the Authority acknowledges that some videos adopt a challenging style which might confront broadcasting standards, and this is the case here. The Authority also acknowledges that younger audiences are often the target of music videos. The video which is the subject of this complaint, however, was broadcast late in the evening - at about 11.00pm - on a television station aimed at young adults.

The Authority acknowledged that the video was gruesome and noted that it was not preceded by a warning. Nevertheless, the Authority accepts that the exaggerated extent of the violence, and the way in which it was depicted, ensured that the video would be appreciated by the late evening audience as being satirical.

This comment leads on to the Authority’s findings under standard V1. It is of the view that the extent of the violence was such as to leave the viewer in no doubt that it was fictional violence verging on the farcical. Indeed, the amount of violence was central to an understanding of the satirical approach taken.

In these circumstances, the Authority concludes that the broadcast did not contravene the standards.

TV3 referred to Decision 2000-011 in its response to the complaint. The Authority regards that Decision as being of little relevance to its findings on this complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
3 May 2001

Appendix

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

  1. Mark Gilmour’s Complaint to TV3 Network Services Ltd (through the Broadcasting Standards Authority) – 2 December 2000
  2. Mr Gilmour’s Formal Complaint to TV3 – 8 December 2000
  3. TV3’s response to the Formal Complaint – 26 January 2001
  4. Mr Gilmour’s Referral to the Authority – 21 February 2001
  5. TV3’s Response to the Authority – 14 March 2001