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Black and MediaWorks TV Ltd - 2015-037

Members

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga

Complainant

  • Michael Black

Dated

15th July 2015

Number

2015-037

Channel/Station

TV3

Broadcaster

MediaWorks TV Ltd

Summary

[This summary does not form part of the decision.]

A promo for the movie No Strings Attached screened during The X Factor NZ which was rated G. The Authority upheld the complaint that explicit sexual references contained in the promo went beyond the boundaries of the G classification and consequently the broadcaster did not adequately consider the interests of younger viewers who were likely to be watching.

Upheld: Responsible Programming, Children's Interests

No Order


Introduction

[1]  A promo for the movie No Strings Attached containing sexual references screened during The X Factor NZ, which was rated G.

[2]  Michael Black complained that the promo contained multiple visual and verbal sexual references, which were inappropriate for child viewers and inconsistent with the G classification of the host programme.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the responsible programming and children's interests standards, as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The promo was broadcast on TV3 at 7.54pm on Sunday 19 April 2015. 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 promo breach standards relating to responsible programming and children's interests? 

[5]  The responsible programming standard (Standard 8) requires broadcasters to ensure that programmes are correctly classified and screened in the appropriate time-band. The children's interests standard (Standard 9) requires broadcasters to consider the interests of child viewers during their normally accepted viewing times – usually up to 8.30pm. The purpose of the standard is to protect children from broadcasts which might adversely affect them.1

[6]  Mr Black argued that the multiple sexual references in the promo went beyond expectations of a G-rated programme. He considered the promo depicted sexual activity that was both implied (visually and verbally) and specifically mentioned, for example characters saying they had 'just had sex'. Mr Black felt that the promo exposed his children to content that was inappropriate for their age.

[7]  MediaWorks argued that while the promo dealt with the theme of sex, it contained no explicit sexual material, nudity or unacceptable language. It maintained that 'sex as a theme is not inherently inappropriate for a G-rated programme provided it is presented inexplicitly and without inappropriate detail or language'. MediaWorks considered the sexual references were conversational, light-hearted and humorous in tone, so despite the sexual themes the overall effect of the promo was mild and not salacious. It argued that child viewers were unlikely to have the maturity required to understand the 'sophisticated connotations' and concluded that overall the promo was unlikely to have disturbed or alarmed a significant number of viewers. It noted that The X Factor NZ was targeted at a broader audience than just children, and therefore often contained promos aimed at older viewers.

[8]  Guideline 8b to the responsible programming standard allows broadcasters to promote AO programmes outside of AO time, provided the promo is classified to comply with the host programme (the programme in which it screens). The promo for No Strings Attached was classified G. Our task is to determine whether this classification was correct, or whether the promo warranted a higher classification. The G and PGR classifications are defined in Appendix 1 to the Code as follows:

G – General

Programmes which exclude material likely to be unsuitable for children. Programmes may not necessarily be designed for child viewers but should not contain material likely to alarm or distress them.

G programmes may be screened at any time.

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.

PGR programmes may be screened between 9am and 4pm, and after 7pm until 6am.

[9]  We acknowledge that the promo did not contain any nudity or shots of explicit sexual acts, and the overall tone was light-hearted and humorous. However, the references to an adult sexual relationship were clear and unequivocal and we disagree these would have gone over the heads of younger viewers. The promo depicted the movie's main characters passionately kissing in bed and in the shower. The characters also specifically talked about sex, making remarks such as, 'Do you want to use each other for sex all hours of the day and night?' and 'Congrats? For what, having sex with you?'

[10]  The G classification requires programmes to 'exclude material likely to be unsuitable for children'. In our view the sexual references in this promo were not suitable for unsupervised child viewers and therefore went beyond the boundaries of the G classification. This type of material more properly fit within the PGR classification, being 'material more suited for mature audiences but not necessarily unsuitable for child viewers' under adult supervision.

[11]  It will usually follow that by failing to correctly classify a programme and appropriately schedule it in accordance with the responsible programming standard, the broadcaster has also failed to adequately consider children's interests. This is because the same contextual factors are considered (such as the time of broadcast, the programme's classification, the use of warnings and the target and likely audience). It is also because of the potential impact on child viewers and parents' ability to exercise discretion if a programme's classification does not give reliable information about its content.

[12]  Our reasoning in relation to Standard 8 equally applies to the children's interests standard, and accordingly we also find that the broadcaster did not satisfy its obligations under Standard 9. This is especially so given that younger viewers were likely to be watching The X Factor NZ. An adequate consideration of the interests of child viewers ought to have led to a decision by the broadcaster not to broadcast the promo in a G-classified viewing environment.

[13]  We are satisfied that upholding the complaint does not unreasonably limit the broadcaster's right to freedom of expression. We are not saying that the promo should not have been broadcast, only that it should have received a higher classification and been appropriately scheduled in a PGR timeslot.

[14]  Accordingly, we uphold the complaint.

For the above reasons the Authority upholds the complaint that the broadcast by MediaWorks TV Ltd of a promo for No Strings Attached on 19 April 2015 breached Standards 8 and 9 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[15]  Having upheld the complaint, the Authority may make orders under sections 13 and 16 of the Broadcasting Act 1989. We do not intend to do so on this occasion. Our decision clarifies our expectations of promos screened during G programmes which children are likely to be watching, and publication of our decision is sufficient in the circumstances.

[16]  We note, however, that we recently upheld another complaint about a promo broadcast by MediaWorks, and that the broadcaster had received our decision on that complaint before this promo for No Strings Attached was broadcast.2 Accordingly we warn that we may make orders in the event of another similar breach.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
Authority Member
15 July 2015

 

Appendix

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

1      Michael Black's formal complaint – 19 April 2015

2      MediaWorks' response to the complaint – 15 May 2015

3      Mr Black's referral to the Authority – 1 June 2015

4      MediaWorks' response to the Authority – 5 June 2015

 

 


1 E.g. Harrison and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2008-066

2 See Henderson and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2014-156