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McLoon and MediaWorks TV Ltd - 2015-071 (28 January 2016)

Dated

28th January 2016

Number

2015-071

Programme

Turning Point

Channel/Station

TV3

Broadcaster

MediaWorks TV Ltd

Summary

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

Turning Point featured a Christian sermon about the second coming of Jesus Christ. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the programme should have been classified PGR instead of G, and breached various other broadcasting standards. The programme did not contain any material which exceeded its G classification or which threatened broadcasting standards.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Controversial Issues, Accuracy, Fairness, Responsible Programming, Children’s Interests, Violence


Introduction

[1]  Turning Point featured a Christian sermon about the second coming of Jesus Christ.

[2]  Scott McLoon complained that the programme should have been classified PGR instead of G, as any child viewers should be subject to parental guidance. He also complained the programme breached various other standards.

[3] The issue is whether the broadcast breached the good taste and decency, controversial issues, accuracy, fairness, responsible programming, children’s interests and violence standards as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. In our view the responsible programming and children’s interests standards are the most relevant to the complaint so we have focused our determination on those standards. We briefly address the remaining standards at paragraph [14] below.

[4]  The programme was broadcast on TV3 at 8.30am on Sunday 16 August 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 programme beach the responsible programming and children’s interests standards?

[5]  As Mr McLoon’s complaint raises similar issues under both the responsible programming and children’s interests standards, we have addressed these standards together.

[6]  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

[7]  Mr McLoon’s complaint appears to relate to the classification and broadcast of Christian programmes generally, rather than the content of the programme in question. He considered that Turning Point should be classified ‘at least PGR’, because the Bible contains references to rape, killing, incest and homophobia and children should not hear about these matters without parental supervision. Mr McLoon recognised the Authority’s finding in a previous decision that ‘reasonable viewers are able to form their own views about the ideas put forward’ in such programmes,2 but argued that a child is not a ‘reasonable viewer’.

[8]  MediaWorks stated that Mr McLoon’s arguments did not directly correspond to the content of the broadcast identified in his complaint. It noted that G-classified programmes may not necessarily be designed for children, but must not contain material likely to alarm or distress them. MediaWorks did not identify any such material during the programme. It argued child viewers would be more likely to view cartoon programming broadcast at the same time on Sunday mornings. MediaWorks also argued that the programme did not contain anything that was likely to offend the general viewing audience, given audience expectations of Christian programming. In support of their arguments MediaWorks referred to previous Authority decisions which recognise that generally religious expression is a valuable and legitimate exercise of the right to free speech, so long as it adheres to broadcasting standards.3

[9]  Mr McLoon’s primary concern is that this programme ought to have received a classification higher than G. The G and PGR 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.
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.

[10]  We do not consider that the programme contained any material which exceeded a G classification or which would have disturbed or alarmed any children who happened to be watching. There was no mention of rape, incest or homophobia in this particular broadcast. While there were a few oblique verbal references to violence, these were not graphic or elaborated on. The pastor gave his interpretation of certain Christian teachings about the ‘final battle’ and punishment that would accompany the second coming of Jesus Christ, and read relevant excerpts from the Bible. He also referred to beheadings which had occurred recently. The pastor did not incite viewers or followers of the Christian faith to violence.

[11]  Additionally, we agree with the broadcaster that Turning Point, which is broadcast on a Sunday morning and has a target audience of adult Christian viewers, would be unlikely to appeal to, or to attract, many child viewers. As we have noted above, the complainant’s concerns appear to relate to the general classification of Christian programmes. We are limited to considering the particular broadcast nominated, in which there was no mention of the matters alleged in the complaint.

[12]  As a general comment, we note that we place high value on the right to freedom of expression, including religious expression, which includes both the broadcaster’s right to screen a variety of programme content, and viewers’ right to receive information and view the programmes they choose. If viewers do not agree with the ideology being discussed in a particular programme, they are able to make a different viewing choice.

[13]  For these reasons we find that the broadcast was correctly classified and that the broadcaster adequately considered children’s interests, and we do not uphold the complaint under Standards 8 and 9.

Did the item breach any other broadcasting standards?

[14]  The complainant also raised the good taste and decency, controversial issues, accuracy, fairness and violence standards. In summary, these standards are either not applicable or not breached because:

  •  the programme did not feature any sexual material, nudity, depictions of violence, coarse language or other content likely to disturb or offend viewers (Standard 1). The complainant’s concerns in this regard are more properly addressed under the responsible programming and children’s interests standards;
  •  the controversial issues and accuracy standards only apply to news, current affairs or factual programming, and Turning Point does not fall into this category as it consists mainly of opinion and religious beliefs (Standards 4 and 5);
  •  the fairness standard only applies to persons or organisations taking part or referred to in the broadcast, and the complainant did not specify whom he felt was treated unfairly or why (Standard 6); and
  •  the programme did not depict any violence (Standard 10) and the complainant’s concerns in this regard are more properly addressed under the responsible programming and children’s interests standards.

[15]  Accordingly we do not uphold the complaint that these standards were breached.

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

 

 

Peter Radich

Chair

28 January 2016

 

Appendix

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

1      Scott McLoon’s formal complaint – 16 August 2015

2      MediaWorks’ response to the complaint – 8 September 2015

3      Mr McLoon’s referral to the Authority – 8 September 2015

4      MediaWorks’ response to the Authority – 5 October 2015


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

2 Lloyd and SKY Network Television, Decision No. 2015-033

E.g. Lloyd and SKY Network Television, Decision No. 2015-033