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Patterson and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2010-127

Members

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Tapu Misa
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Mary Anne Shanahan

Complainant

  • Louise Patterson of North Shore

Dated

23rd December 2010

Number

2010-127

Programme

Close Up and promo

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Close Up
 – item on proposed brothel aimed at women – contained interview with owner – promo shown during One News – both item and promo allegedly in breach of good taste and decency, controversial issues, responsible programming, and children’s interests

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – promo and item covered legitimate story – neither broadcast contained visuals of brothels or sex workers – contextual factors – not upheld

Standard 4 (controversial issues) – focus of promo and item was Ms Corkery – neither contained a discussion of a controversial issue of public importance – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcasts

[1]  A promo for Close Up was broadcast during an episode of One News on TV One at 6.25pm on Monday 16 August 2010. The promo started with a voiceover saying, "Women paying for sex?", with the words appearing on-screen at the same time.

[2]  The voiceover continued saying, "Pam Corkery thinks it will work. Tonight live, she comes clean on the past and those controversial plans of opening a brothel for women".

[3]  Close Up was broadcast at 7pm on TV One the same evening. It featured a live studio interview with Pam Corkery about her controversial plan to open a brothel aimed at women. The first part of the interview focused on her battle with alcoholism. The interviewer then introduced her controversial plan to open a brothel.

[4]  Ms Corkery offered her views on the subject and drew on the analogy of women getting the vote receiving a similar amount of controversy to her proposal. Talking about the proposal, Ms Corkery stated:

We’ll canvass a lot of issues about what women actually do want from men. We want real ones by the way, not your metro-sexual snags – a grab by the hair, up against the shower door – bang. We want professionals.

[5]  Ms Corkery concluded the item by saying, "It’s the first in the flaming world. We were the first with the vote and we’re going to be first with the legal male knock-shop. I think it’s a proud day and I’m very proud of it".

Complaints

[6]  Louise Patterson made formal complaints to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the promo and the Close Up item breached broadcasting standards relating to good taste and decency, controversial issues, responsible programming and children’s interests.

[7]  With respect to the promo, the complainant said she had been watching the 6pm news when she saw the promo with the voiceover and on-screen graphics saying "Women paying for sex?" She said that her son had been "very disturbed" by the promo.

[8]  With respect to the item itself, Ms Patterson argued that Close Up "should be rescheduled to be only shown after 8.30pm if it is going to have segments about brothels and other sexually suggestive/explicit content". She contended that the item’s content was inappropriate for broadcast at 7pm.

Standards

[9]  TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standards 1, 4, 8 and 9 and guidelines 1a, 1b, 8b and 9a of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. These provide:

Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency

Broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency.

Guidelines

1a     Broadcasters will take into account current norms of good taste and decency bearing in mind the context in which any content occurs and the wider context of the broadcast e.g. programme classification, target audience, type of programme and use of warnings etc.

1b    The use of visual and verbal warnings should be considered when content is likely to disturb or offend a significant number of viewers except in the case of news and current affairs, where verbal warnings only will be considered. Warnings should be specific in nature, while avoiding detail which may itself distress or offend viewers.

Standard 4 Controversial Issues – Viewpoints

When discussing controversial issues of public importance in news, current affairs or factual programmes, broadcasters should make reasonable efforts, or give reasonable opportunities, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.

Standard 8 Responsible Programming

Broadcasters should ensure programmes:

  • are appropriately classified;
  • display programme classification information;
  • adhere to timebands in accordance with Appendix 1;
  • are not presented in such a way as to cause panic, or unwarranted alarm or undue distress; and
  • do not deceive or disadvantage the viewer.

Guideline 8b

All promos (including promos for news and current affairs) should be classified to comply with the "host programme" (the programme in which they screen):

  • Promos for AO programmes shown outside AO time should comply with the classification of the host programme;
  • Promos shown in G or PGR programmes screening in AO time should comply with the G or PGR classification of the host programme;
  • When a promo screens during an unclassified host programme (including news and current affairs) in G or PGR time, the promo must be classified G or PGR and broadcasters should pay regard to Standard 9 – Children’s Interests.
  • When a promo screens adjacent to an unclassified host programme (including news and current affairs) in G or PGR time, the promo should comply with the underlying timeband.
  • Broadcasters should be aware that promos showing footage of violence or other explicit material outside the context of the original programme may be unacceptable to viewers in the context of the host programme in which they screen
Standard 9 Children’s Interests

During children’s normally accepted viewing times (see Appendix 1), broadcasters should consider the interests of child viewers.

Guideline 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 that would disturb or alarm them.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

Promo

[10]  TVNZ noted that the promo was broadcast during One News, which was an unclassified news programme targeted at adults, and said that the Authority had recognised that children were unlikely to watch news programmes unsupervised.

[11]  The broadcaster argued that the promo did not contain any inappropriate material and was acceptable to screen during One News. It was of the view that the promo would not have offended a significant number of viewers in the context of a 6pm news programme and it declined to uphold the good taste and decency complaint.

[12]  With respect to Standard 4, TVNZ argued that the standard specifically related to news, current affairs and factual programming and that, because the item was a promo, the standard did not apply.

[13]  Turning to Standard 8, the broadcaster considered that the promo was correctly rated PGR and scheduled to screen during One News. It declined to uphold the responsible programming complaint.

[14]  Looking at Standard 9, TVNZ reiterated that children were unlikely to watch news programmes unsupervised and argued that it had adequately considered the interests of child viewers by broadcasting the promo in a "PGR environment". It declined to uphold the complaint that the promo breached Standard 9.

Close Up item

[15]  Looking at Standard 1 the broadcaster noted that Close Up was an unclassified news and current affairs programme that was broadcast during the PGR timeband.

[16]  TVNZ was of the view that the Pam Corkery interview was suitable for a news and current affairs programme screening at 7pm. It considered that the item’s main focus was her battle with alcoholism and that it was only towards the end of the interview that the discussion turned to her proposed brothel. It argued that the interview was "valid and newsworthy".

[17]  The broadcaster maintained that none of the item’s content warranted an AO classification or would have offended a significant number of viewers. It declined to uphold the Standard 1 complaint.

[18]  Turning to Standard 4, the broadcaster said that the item focused on Pam Corkery, her life, and her upcoming projects. It considered the interview was a "point of view piece and that Pam Corkery was best placed to discuss the different facets of her life". It declined to uphold the complaint that the controversial issues standard had been breached.

[19]  TVNZ stated that Standard 8 required programmes to be correctly classified and screened in appropriate timebands. It reiterated that Close Up was an unclassified news and current affairs programme and argued that the item was not presented in such a way as to cause panic, unwarranted alarm or undue stress. It therefore declined to uphold the responsible programming complaint.

[20]  Looking at Standard 9, the broadcaster reiterated that children were unlikely to watch news and current affairs programmes unsupervised and that there was an expectation that parents would supervise their children’s viewing in PGR time. It maintained that the content of the item was acceptable to screen during PGR time and that it had adequately considered the interests of child viewers. It declined to uphold the Standard 9 complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[21]  Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Ms Patterson referred her complaints to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. She maintained that the promo and the item contained AO material and that Standards 1 and 4 had been breached.

Authority's Determination

[22]  The members of the Authority have viewed recordings of the broadcasts complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaints without a formal hearing.

Standard 1 (good taste and decency)

Promo

[23]  When we consider an alleged breach of good taste and decency, we take into account the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, the relevant contextual factors include:

  • the promo was broadcast at 6.37pm during One News, which was unclassified
  • it was broadcast during children’s normally accepted viewing times
  • the host programme had an adult target audience.

[24]  We consider that, while relatively provocative, the promo promoted a legitimate news story in a matter-of-fact manner. Although the voiceover and on-screen graphics posed the question "Women paying for sex?", we note that it did not contain any visuals related to the sex industry.

[25]  In our view, the promo was correctly classified PGR, because, while it posed an adult-themed question, it referenced a legitimate current affairs story and did so in the context of a news programme targeted at adults. The promo did not contain any content that would warrant an AO classification.

[26]  Taking the above contextual factors into account, we decline to uphold the complaint that the promo breached Standard 1.

Close Up item

[27]  The relevant contextual factors for this programme include:

  • Close Up was an unclassified news and current affairs programme
  • it was broadcast at 7pm during children’s normally accepted viewing times
  • the programme had an adult target audience
  • the expectations of regular viewers.

[28]  In our view, the topic covered in the item was a legitimate news story relating to a well-known New Zealand personality. It consisted of a straightforward interview which, for the most part, related to the personal trials and tribulations of Pam Corkery.

[29]  We note that the item did not contain any visuals of the sex industry and consider that the item dealt with the subject matter in a responsible manner. We find that coverage of such issues is legitimate in a news and current affairs programme broadcast in the PGR timeband.

[30]  We agree with TVNZ that children were unlikely to watch Close Up unsupervised, and we consider that the item’s subject matter was well signposted so that parents were given adequate time to exercise discretion.

[31]  Taking the above contextual factors into account, we decline to uphold Ms Patterson’s complaint that the item breached standards of good taste and decency.

Standard 4 (controversial issues – viewpoints)

[32]  Standard 4 states that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed in news, current affairs or factual programmes, broadcasters should make reasonable efforts, or give reasonable opportunities, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.

[33]  A controversial issue of public importance has typically been defined by the Authority as something that would have a significant potential impact on, or be of concern to, members of the New Zealand public (e.g. Powell and CanWest TVWorks Ltd1).

[34]  On this occasion, we consider that the item’s focus was on Ms Corkery, her plans to open a brothel and, as mentioned in paragraph [28] above, it mostly dealt with her personal trials and tribulations, in particular her struggle with alcoholism.

[35]  In our view, the item did not contain a discussion of a controversial issue of public importance because it was squarely focused on Ms Corkery’s personal experiences and future business plans, as opposed to any wider debate about brothels in general. We therefore decline to uphold the complaint that the Close Up item breached Standard 4.

[36]  We also conclude that the promo, which related to the same topic, did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance. Accordingly, we decline to uphold Ms Patterson’s complaint that the promo breached Standard 4.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
23 December 2010

Appendix

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

Promo for Close Up

1.          Louise Patterson’s formal complaint – 16 August 2010

2.         TVNZ’s response to the formal complaint – 14 September 2010

3.         Ms Patterson’s referral to the Authority – 18 September 2010

4.         TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 10 November 2010

Close Up Item

1.          Louise Patterson’s formal complaint – 16 August 2010

2.         TVNZ’s response to the formal complaint – 14 September 2010

3.         Ms Patterson’s referral to the Authority – 18 September 2010

4.         TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 10 November 2010


1Decision 2005-125