Prime Living – magazine programme – incidental alcohol promotion – liquor promotion on backdrops and props – complaint upheld by broadcaster
Standard A3 – presenter wearing clothing carrying name of beer – uphold appropriate – now robust complaints procedure – action sufficient
Standard A4 – presenter’s clothing not backdrop or prop – not uphold
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
Prime Living, a magazine programme, is broadcast each weekday by Prime Television. During the episode broadcast in the Waikato on 15 October 1999 between noon–1.00pm, the presenter wore a rugby jersey bearing the words "Waikato Draught".
The Complaints Secretary (Cliff Turner) for the Group Against Liquor Advertising (GALA) complained to Prime Television New Zealand Ltd that the broadcast breached the standards relating to the incidental promotion of liquor, and to the use of liquor promotions on backdrops and props.
As Prime Television did not respond to the complaint, Mr Turner referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. When approached by the Authority, Prime apologised for its earlier lack of substantial response, and upheld the complaint under both standards.
For the reasons given below, the Authority upholds the complaint under standard A3, and declines to uphold the complaint that the action taken was insufficient.
The members of the Authority have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. A tape of the item was not available. The broadcaster did not dispute the content which it acknowledged was accurately described by the complainant. On this occasion, the Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.
Prime Living is an hour-long magazine style programme screened each weekday by Prime Television. In the episode broadcast between noon and 1.00pm on 15 October 1999 in the Waikato region, the presenter wore a Team Waikato rugby jersey which carried the words "Waikato Draught". Cliff Turner, GALA’s Complaints Secretary, complained to Prime that the programme breached standard A3 of the Programme Code relating to the Promotion of Liquor. On the basis that the jersey could be regarded as a prop for a studio programme, he also complained that the broadcast breached standard A4.
The standards read:
A3 Broadcasters will ensure that the incidental promotion of liquor is minimised.
A4 Broadcasters will ensure that backdrops and props for studio programmes do not carry liquor promotions.
Mr Turner’s initial letter of complaint to Prime Television was dated 16 October 1999 and, as he did not receive a response, he wrote again on 10 November. In its response dated 18 November, Prime apologised for not responding to the earlier letter and promised a substantial response "as soon as possible".
As a full response had not been received by 9 January 2000, Mr Turner referred GALA’s complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(b) of the Broadcasting Act.
The Authority requested a reply from Prime and, after a further letter, a full reply dated 7 March was eventually received.
Prime explained first that Prime Living in the Waikato region was produced in Hamilton for the local area. It reported that it had been unable to locate GALA’s letter of 16 October, and questioned the accuracy of the box number used. It reported that it had received the letter of 10 November, but noted that it had not been acted on.
In regard to the complaint, Prime acknowledged that the jersey had been worn by the presenter for the entire programme. Accordingly, the complaint was upheld under both standards. The jersey had been worn, it observed, as the programme was featuring an upcoming rugby match.
In mitigation, Prime noted that Prime Living in the Waikato had actively supported the programme promoted by the National Society of Alcohol and Drug Dependence (NSAD). Prime advised that it had re-confirmed the availability of the programme standards in its regional offices, and had re-issued its instructions on complaints procedures. In conclusion, it wrote:
Prime Television offers its unreserved apologies to both the complainant and the Authority for the series of delays and errors that have plagued this particular complaint.
In his final comment on GALA’s behalf, Mr Turner expressed concern about three matters. The first was the rebroadcast of the programme at 4.30pm on 15 October, after he had complained by telephone. Secondly, he noted that while the author of the 18 November letter may have taken no action, that letter had been copied to two others who apparently had also not followed up the matter. Thirdly, he commented that Prime had finally responded to the Authority’s letter of 17 February, not its initial letter to Prime dated 10 January 2000.
Dealing first with the aspect of the complaint which referred to the presenter wearing a rugby jersey carrying a liquor promotion, the Authority recalls that a similar issue was dealt with in Decision 100/94 (20.10.94). This decision involved a complaint by the GOAL (Group Opposed to the Advertising of Liquor – GALA’s predecessor) about an item on a health programme (Body and Soul) which featured a well-known rugby player who was wearing a shirt carrying the name of a beer. The Authority upheld that complaint as a breach of the standard which then applied. That standard was similar to the current standard A3. As that broadcast also involved the player stating that beer, not water, was the right drink for him, the Authority considered the breach to be serious and ordered the broadcast of a summary of its decision.
In view of the similarity of the type of incidental liquor promotion contained in both that decision and the current complaint, the Authority upholds the standard A3 aspect on this occasion.
Turning to the standard A4 complaint, the Authority observes that it has been applied to signs containing liquor promotion behind or beside the speaker. It has also been applied to objects on a table by the presenter which contain liquor promotion messages. However, the Authority has not previously described the clothing of a presenter as a studio "backdrop" or a "prop". Liquor promotions on clothing have been addressed under standard A3. Accordingly, in these circumstances it does not endorse Prime’s decision to uphold this aspect.
For the reasons set forth above, the Authority upholds the complaint that Prime Living, broadcast by Prime Television New Zealand Ltd on 15 October 1999 in the Waikato, beginning at noon, breached standard A3 of Code of Broadcasting Practice relating to the Promotion of Liquor. It declines to uphold any other aspects.
Having upheld a complaint the Authority may impose penalties under s.13(1) and s.16(4) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. The Authority appreciates the degree of annoyance felt by GALA’s Complaints Secretary at Prime’s inadequate complaints process. Nevertheless, it is the first complaint about Prime Living and the Authority is prepared on this occasion to accept Prime’s assurances that, first, a similar broadcast will not recur, and secondly, the complaints process in all its offices are now robust.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
4 May 2000
The following correspondence was received and considered when the Authority determined this complaint:
1. GALA’s letter of complaint to Prime Television New Zealand Ltd – 16 October 1999
2. GALA’s second letter of complaint to Prime – 10 November 1999
3. Prime Television’s interim reply to GALA – 18 November 1999
4. GALA’s referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 9 January 2000
5. Prime’s reply to the Authority (with attachment) – 7 March 2000
6. GALA’s final comment to the Authority – 26 March 2000