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Freeman and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2011-121

Dated

20th December 2011

Number

2011-121

Programme

Police Ten 7

Channel/Station

TV2

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Police Ten 7 – “Bad boys” episode looked at “bad boys’ most memorable moments” – contained coarse language and nudity which were censored – allegedly in breach of standards relating to good taste and decency, law and order, discrimination and denigration, responsible programming, children’s interests, and violence

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – content would not have been unexpected in a long-running reality series about the work of the police – contextual factors – not upheld

Standard 8 (responsible programming) – programme correctly classified PGR – not upheld

Standard 9 (children’s interests) – programme preceded by clear warning advising parental guidance – broadcaster adequately considered children’s interests – not upheld

Standard 10 (violence) – broadcaster exercised adequate care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence – not upheld

Standard 2 (law and order) – broadcast did not encourage viewers to break the law or otherwise promote, condone or glamorise criminal activity – not upheld

Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration) – broadcast did not encourage denigration of, or discrimination against a section of the community – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Introduction

[1]  An episode of Police Ten 7, a reality TV series about the work of New Zealand police, was broadcast on TV2 at 7.30pm on 21 July 2011. The episode was advertised as “Bad Boys”, and the programme presenter introduced the episode saying:

Boys will be boys. They show off to their mates, play the tough guy and with the help of a few drinks can find themselves on the wrong side of the law. This behaviour causes many problems for the police and tonight on Police Ten 7, we take a look at our bad boys’ most memorable moments.

[2]  The programme contained coarse language, all of which was censored (both verbally and in written subtitles) apart from the word “shit” which was used twice verbally. It also showed a naked man being arrested, although his genitals were blurred. The programme was preceded by the following written and verbal warning:

The following programme is rated PGR. It contains language that may offend some people and may not be suitable for a younger audience. We recommend the guidance of a parent or other adult.

[3]  P Freeman made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the programme contained gratuitous violence and obscene language which breached standards relating to good taste and decency, law and order, discrimination and denigration, responsible programming, children’s interests and violence. The complainant argued that “the hate-filled, foul, obscene, offensive language of aggression and violence being yelled at police... was specially overemphasised by TVNZ”, and that TVNZ was “trivialising, glamorising and normalising what is really actually vicious criminal activity”. He considered that the programme should not have screened before 9.30pm, if at all.

[4]  The issue is whether the programme’s content breached Standards 1 (good taste and decency), 2 (law and order), 7 (discrimination and denigration), 8 (responsible programming), 9 (children’s interests), and 10 (violence) of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. We note that the complainant also referred to the programme’s listing in the Otago Daily Times. The Authority only has jurisdiction over broadcasts on television and radio, so we have limited our determination to the broadcast of Police Ten 7 on TV2.

[5]  The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Did the programme breach standards of good taste and decency?

[6]  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:

  • Police Ten 7 was broadcast at 7.30pm during children’s viewing times
  • it was classified PGR
  • the programme was preceded by a written and verbal warning for language that may offend, indicating the programme may not be suitable for younger viewers and advising parental guidance
  • the programme’s adult target audience
  • expectations of regular viewers
  • Police Ten 7 is a long-running and well-known series.

[7]  In our view, Police Ten 7 is designed to be a raw and real presentation of what life is like for police working on the streets, sometimes in very difficult situations. For this reason, we acknowledge that it is sometimes challenging to watch. However, we consider that in this context, where police are dealing with difficult individuals, viewers expect some degree of challenging content, including coarse language. We agree with the broadcaster in this respect that, as the programme has been on air for many years it has generated considerable audience expectation surrounding the likely behaviour of the people arrested. In addition it was clearly signposted in the warning which preceded this particular episode that the programme contained “language that may offend some people”. Apart from two instances in which the word “shit” was used, all other coarse language was censored, both verbally and in subtitles. In our view, the language was adequately censored, and we agree with TVNZ that it was preceded by a sufficient warning which allowed viewers an opportunity to make a different viewing choice.

[8]  The complainant also considered that the programme contained “gratuitous violence”. We acknowledge that this particular episode contained a high degree of physical confrontation between police and offenders. This was a compilation of what was described as the “most memorable” moments. These images had been broadcast previously and we do not think that aggregating them together made the broadcasts unacceptable. The violence was not particularly graphic or prolonged, and the police appeared sensible and restrained when they had to use physical force to apprehend individuals. 

[9]  Taking into account the above contextual factors, we consider that most viewers would not have been surprised or offended by the programme’s content. We therefore find that the programme’s content did not threaten current norms of good taste and decency in breach of Standard 1.

Was the programme correctly classified and screened in an appropriate timeslot?

[10]  Standard 8 (responsible programming) requires broadcasters to ensure that programmes are correctly classified and adhere to the time-bands set out in Appendix 1 to the Free-to-Air Television Code. Police Ten 7 was classified PGR and screened at 7.30pm. The PGR classification is defined as follows in Appendix 1:

PGR – Parental Guidance Recommended

Programmes containing material more suited for mature audiences but not necessarily unsuitable for child viewers when subject to the guidance of a parent or an adult.

[11]  For the reasons discussed above in our consideration of Standard 1, we agree with the broadcaster that the programme’s content was not unsuitable for supervised child viewers, and therefore was appropriately rated PGR. We do not consider that the programme contained any material which warranted a higher classification of Adults Only, or a restriction to a later time of broadcast.

[12]  Accordingly, we are satisfied that Police Ten 7 was correctly classified, and we decline to uphold the complaint under Standard 8.

Did the broadcaster adequately consider children’s interests?

[13]  Standard 9 (children’s interests) requires broadcasters to consider the interests of child viewers during their normally accepted viewing times – usually up to 8.30pm. Guideline 9a to that standard states that broadcasters should be mindful of the effect any programme or promo may have on children during these times, and avoid screening material that would disturb or alarm them.

[14]  For the reasons outlined above in our consideration of Standards 1 and 8, we are satisfied that the broadcaster adequately considered the interests of child viewers in screening Police Ten 7 at 7.30pm on TV2. We do not consider that the programme’s content was likely to alarm or disturb child viewers under the supervision of an adult, and in any case we note that the programme was not targeted at children. Further, the pre-broadcast warning clearly signalled that the programme may contain material unsuitable for a younger audience, allowing parents sufficient opportunity to exercise discretion with regard to their children’s viewing.

[15]  Accordingly, we decline to uphold the Standard 9 complaint.

Did the broadcaster exercise adequate care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence?

[16]  Standard 10 (violence) states that broadcasters should exercise care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence.

[17]  As outlined above in our consideration of Standard 1, we agree with TVNZ that some degree of violence would have been expected in a reality series about the work of the police, who inevitably have to use physical force to restrain offenders. We reiterate our view that the violence in the episode was not unduly graphic or dwelt upon, and for this reason we consider that the programme did not require an explicit warning for violence, and that the content was consistent with the programme’s PGR rating.

[18]  Accordingly, we are satisfied that the broadcaster exercised adequate care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence, and we decline to uphold the complaint under Standard 10.

Did the broadcast encourage viewers to break the law or condone criminal activity?

[19]  The Authority has previously stated that the intent behind the law and order standard is to prevent broadcasts that encourage viewers to break the law, or otherwise promote, glamorise or condone criminal activity (see, for example, Gregory and TVNZ1).

[20]  The complainant argued that TVNZ was “trivialising, glamorising and normalising what is really actually vicious criminal activity”, for the purposes of humour and entertainment, and encouraging the mockery of New Zealand police.

[21]  We disagree. On the contrary, we consider that, while there was an element of entertainment – as there is with all reality series broadcast in primetime – the programme clearly aimed to highlight criminal behaviour in a negative way, and to demonstrate the consequences of this type of behaviour, by explaining in each situation the outcome of any charges and whether a sentence was imposed. We agree with the broadcaster’s arguments in this respect. We do not consider that the programme encouraged the mockery of police. Rather, the police involved in the programme were portrayed positively, and as being professional and competent.

[22]  Accordingly, we are satisfied that the programme did not encourage viewers to break the law, or otherwise glamorise, promote or condone criminal activity. We therefore decline to uphold the complaint under Standard 2 (law and order).

Did the broadcast encourage denigration of, or discrimination against, a section of the community?

[23]  Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration) protects against broadcasts which encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, a section of the community.

[24]  While the complainant mentioned “racism” in his original complaint, he did not identify which section of the community he was referring to, or explain how he believed the programme breached Standard 7. TVNZ considered Standard 7 in relation to the police.

[25]  We are satisfied that Police Ten 7 was a realistic portrayal of the work of police, and that it did not encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, any section of the community. We therefore decline to uphold the complaint under Standard 7.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
20 December 2011

Appendix

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

1                 P Freeman’s formal complaint – 12 August 2011

2                 TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 8 September 2011

3                 P Freeman’s referral to the Authority – 12 September 2011

4                 P Freeman’s further submissions – 3 October 2011

5                 TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 26 October 2011


1Decision No. 2005-133