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Cripps and MediaWorks TV Ltd - 2015-043

Members

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Paula Rose

Complainant

  • Nicola Cripps

Dated

10th November 2015

Number

2015-043

Channel/Station

TV3

Broadcaster

MediaWorks TV Ltd

Summary

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

A promo for NCIS and NCIS: LA showed scenes of guns being fired, photos of a dead body and someone getting punched in the face, among other things. The Authority upheld a complaint that the broadcast did not adequately consider children's interests. The content was not suitable for unsupervised child viewers, so the promo should have received a higher classification than G (for general audiences). On this basis the Authority found that the promo also breached the violence standard, as the broadcaster did not exercise adequate care and discretion when dealing with violent content.

Upheld: Children's Interests, Violence

Order: Section 16(4) – $500 costs to the Crown

 


Introduction

[1] A promo for NCIS and NCIS: LA showed scenes of guns being fired, photos of a dead body and someone getting punched in the face, among other things.

[2] Nicola Cripps complained that the level of violence in the promo was inappropriate to show during a 'family programme'.

[3] The issue is whether the broadcast breached the children's interests and violence standards of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4] The promo was broadcast on TV3 during The X Factor NZ at 8.26pm on 18 May 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 broadcaster adequately consider children's interests?

[5] 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 – and to avoid screening material that might disturb or alarm them (guideline 9a). The purpose of the standard is to protect children from broadcasts which might adversely affect them.1

[6] The promo contained shots of the following:

  • a character holding a hatchet
  • a character being lined up in the crosshairs of a gun
  • characters firing guns at each other
  • photographs of a dead body with a bloody chest wound
  • a character being dragged into a van
  • a character getting punched in the face.

[7] Nicola Cripps argued that the promo was 'quite violent' due to the 'fighting, shooting of guns, violence and photographs of dead bodies it contained'. She considered this to be inappropriate for younger audiences who were watching The X Factor NZ.

[8] MediaWorks argued that the violence in the promo was of a 'very low level and unlikely to have disturbed children'. It considered the violent content was 'brief, inexplicit and limited to several instances of hand-to-hand altercations' and did not include detail like blood or graphic injuries. MediaWorks said that the tone of the promo was mild and 'not outside the expectations of the G classification'.

[9] As part of the requirement to adequately consider children's interests when screening the promo, MediaWorks needed to ensure the promo was correctly classified and scheduled in an appropriate timeslot, to enable parents to protect their children and exercise discretion or offer guidance. Guideline 8b to the responsible programming standard states that all promos should be classified to comply with the 'host programme' (the programme in which they screen). This promo was broadcast during The X Factor NZ which was rated G and was likely to be viewed by children and families.

[10] We have considered whether the G classification was correct, or whether the promo warranted a higher classification. The relevant free-to-air television classifications are defined as follows in Appendix 1 to the Code:

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.

[11] Although the scenes in the promo were necessarily brief, in our view the cumulative effect of the numerous instances of violence we have listed above at paragraph [6] was potentially distressing and likely to alarm children. We do not think the promo 'excluded material likely to be unsuitable' for them in accordance with the G classification. The purpose of the classifications system is to give viewers reliable advice about the likely content of programmes. Parents and caregivers should have been able to rely on the G classification of The X Factor NZ as indicating they did not need to supervise their children while they watched. A PGR classification would be better suited to the content, meaning that parents could exercise discretion and offer guidance if necessary.

[12] In considering whether to uphold this complaint we have taken into account the broadcaster's right to freedom of expression. We are satisfied that upholding the complaint would not unreasonably restrict this right. We are not suggesting that the promo should not have been shown at all – only that it should have been correctly classified and screened in the appropriate time-band.

[13] Accordingly we uphold the complaint under Standard 9.

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

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

[15] When we consider a complaint under this standard, we take into account similar contextual factors as would be considered in relation to children's interests or good taste and decency, including the programme classification, the time of broadcast and the use of warnings (if any).

[16] The violence shown in the promo was not unduly graphic or prolonged and was consistent with expectations of NCIS which is a criminal investigation drama. However the programme NCIS screens in an Adults Only timeslot. This content was shown during a G-rated host programme that children were likely to be watching. On the basis that we have found the promo was incorrectly classified, was not screened in an appropriate timeslot and did not take account of children's interests, we also find that the broadcaster did not exercise adequate care and discretion when dealing with the violent content in this promo.

[17] We therefore uphold the complaint under Standard 10.

For the above reasons the Authority upholds the complaint that the broadcast by MediaWorks TV Ltd of a promo for NCIS and NCIS: LA on 18 May 2015 breached Standards 9 and 10 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[18] Having upheld the complaint, the Authority may make orders under sections 13 and 16 of the Broadcasting Act 1989. As this is the third complaint that we have upheld in a relatively short space of time regarding promos broadcast by MediaWorks during G programmes, we invited submissions on orders from the parties.2

Submissions on provisional decision and orders

[19] Ms Cripps submitted that while she had 'no desire to see [MediaWorks] fined', she would like it to 'be more careful' about scheduling promos and perhaps 'apply new process[es] to make sure the content they screen is suitable'.

[20] MediaWorks accepted the provisional decision and submitted that publication of the decision would be a sufficient remedy. It submitted that several factors meant that previous recent upheld decisions regarding MediaWorks promos should not be as relevant to the question of orders as the Authority suggested. Firstly, it said that the Authority's decision to uphold a complaint about a promo for The Night Shift3 was issued only three days before the broadcast of a promo for No Strings Attached (the subject of another upheld complaint)4 , and that the No Strings Attached promo was 'made and scheduled well in advance' of the Authority's decision about The Night Shift. Secondly, it submitted that because the complaint about the NCIS promo was upheld due to violent content while the previous two complaints concerned sexual content, the 'guidance [in the Authority's previous decisions] was not directly applicable to the appraisal of the NCIS promo'.

[21] Furthermore, MediaWorks submitted that its 'promos department has taken the three upholds very seriously and has strengthened the promo certification process in light of them'. It said this included an 'extra layer of oversight' and a 'procedural mechanism designed for a more rigorous appraisal process'.

Authority's response to submissions and decision on orders

[22] While we acknowledge MediaWorks' points, we still believe the broadcaster has received a number of signals within a number of months, through both complaints and our decisions, that an issue has arisen with the appraisal of promos scheduled to screen in G time – whether or not the concerns were the same. The timeline of these was as follows:

16 Nov 2014: MediaWorks broadcast a promo for The Night Shift and received a formal complaint about that promo.

16 April 2015: MediaWorks received the Authority's upheld decision regarding the promo for The Night Shift.

19 April 2015: Promo for No Strings Attached was broadcast. MediaWorks received a formal complaint about that promo the same day.

18 May 2015: Promo for NCIS, the subject of the present complaint, was broadcast.

2 June 2015: MediaWorks received Ms Cripps' complaint.

28 June 2015: MediaWorks received an additional formal complaint about a promo broadcast during a G-rated family movie (which was referred to us on 31 July).

15 July 2015: MediaWorks received the Authority's upheld decision regarding the promo for No Strings Attached.

[23] MediaWorks has accepted our decision and indicated that its promo department is taking steps to address this issue. We have also had regard to Ms Cripps' submission indicating she was not seeking any fine or costs against the broadcaster. Nevertheless, in our view we are justified in marking this breach to signal the need for further care to be taken around the classification of promos during G time. For this reason we consider it appropriate to order MediaWorks to pay $500 costs to the Crown.

Order

Pursuant to section 16(4) of the Act, the Authority orders MediaWorks TV Ltd to pay to the Crown costs in the amount of $500 within one month of the date of this decision.

This order for costs shall be enforceable in the Wellington District Court.

 

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

 

Peter Radich
Chair
10 November 2015

 

Appendix

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

1      Nicola Cripps' formal complaint – 2 June 2015

2      MediaWorks' response to the complaint – 18 June 2015

3      Ms Cripps' referral to the Authority – 19 June 2015

4      MediaWorks' response to the Authority – 6 July 2015

5      Ms Cripps' submissions on the provisional decision and orders – 8 September 2015

6      MediaWorks' submissions on the provisional decision and orders – 14 September 2015

 


E.g Harrison and Television New Zealand LtdDecision No. 2008-066

See Black and MediaWorks TV LtdDecision No. 2015-037 and Henderson and MediaWorks TV LtdDecision No. 2014-156

Henderson and MediaWorks TV LtdDecision No. 2014-156

Black and MediaWorks TV LtdDecision No. 2015-037