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McDonald and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2017-031 (30 June 2017)

Members

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

Complainant

  • Donald McDonald

Dated

30th June 2017

Number

2017-031

Programme

1 News

Channel/Station

TVNZ 1

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd

Summary

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

An item on 1 News promoted the new single from New Zealand singer-songwriter, Lorde. It featured clips taken from the music video for Lorde’s single, ‘Green Light’. In the clips, the singer could be seen leaning out of a car window and later dancing on the car roof. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this item was in breach of the law and order standard by encouraging reckless driving. The music video, and the news item’s promotion of it, did not actively encourage audiences to break the law, or otherwise promote criminal or serious antisocial activity, taking into account the context. The Authority found that viewers would have understood the singer’s actions to have taken place in the ‘fantasy’ realm of the music video, which made sense within the fictional narrative of the song.

Not Upheld: Law and Order


Introduction

[1]  An item on 1 News promoted the new single from New Zealand singer-songwriter, Lorde. It featured clips taken from the music video for Lorde’s single, ‘Green Light’. In the clips, the singer could be seen leaning out of a car window and later dancing on the car roof.

[2]  Donald McDonald complained that the clips of Lorde ‘hanging out of [the] car’ encouraged ‘foolish’ and ‘criminal’ driving, as Lorde was an influential star and a young role model.

[3]  The issue raised by Mr McDonald in his complaint is whether the broadcast breached the law and order standard as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The item was broadcast during the 6pm news on 3 March 2017 on TVNZ 1. 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 broadcast encourage viewers to break the law, or otherwise promote, condone or glamorise criminal activity?

[5]  The purpose of the law and order standard (Standard 5) is to prevent broadcasts that encourage audiences to break the law, or otherwise promote criminal or serious antisocial activity.1 The standard is concerned with broadcasts that actively undermine, or promote disrespect for, the law or legal processes.

The broadcaster’s submissions

[6]  TVNZ submitted that:

  • The item did not glamorise crime or condone the actions of criminals. The music video was filmed in controlled conditions in an overseas location and there was no active glamorisation of serious antisocial or illegal behaviour.
  • Music videos often contained ‘fantastical elements’, and Lorde leaning out of the car window would be seen in this light.
  • A previous decision by the Authority concerned a music video by The Cardigans, which showed the lead singer driving recklessly.2 The Authority found no breach of the law and order standard, stating that the video did not encourage ‘disrespect for the principles of law’ and ‘would be seen by viewers as fantasy’.

Our analysis

[7]  When we make a determination on a complaint alleging a breach of broadcasting standards, we first give consideration to the right to freedom of expression. We weigh the value of the broadcast item, as well as the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression, and the audience’s right to receive information and, in this case, to be entertained, against the level of actual or potential harm that might be caused by the broadcast.

[8]  In this case, the music video for the song ‘Green Light’, by New Zealand singer-songwriter Lorde, was a legitimate form of artistic expression that explored the struggle of rebuilding after the break-up of a relationship, and the protagonist’s search for freedom. We consider that the news item’s coverage of this artistic work, by a successful New Zealand artist, was a valuable form of free speech. Any limit placed on this freedom must be reasonable and justified.3

[9]  As noted above, the law and order standard is concerned with broadcasts which actively undermine, or promote disrespect for, the law or legal processes.4 The standard does not prevent broadcasters from depicting criminal behaviour or other law-breaking – something more is required to find a breach of the standard. For example, direct incitement to break the law is likely to breach the standard, if there is a real likelihood that the audience will act on it.5

[10]  Here, we are satisfied that, while what took place in the clips complained about could be seen as reckless, they took place in the ‘fantasy’ realm of the music video, making sense within the fictional narrative of the song. In this respect, we agree with the broadcaster that the Authority’s previous decision concerning a music video by The Cardigans is analogous.6 Lorde’s actions during this music video – leaning out of a car window and dancing on the roof of the car – were symbolic of the song’s themes of freedom and escape. The singer did not actively encourage viewers to imitate her, and in our view, her actions did not amount to direct incitement to break the law, nor did they encourage or condone criminal activity. Nor do we think that, in the context of a news item reporting the release of the singer’s latest music video, the inclusion of these clips promoted, condoned or encouraged dangerous or reckless driving.

[11]  For these reasons we do not uphold the complaint under Standard 5.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

 

Peter Radich

Chair

30 June 2017

 

Appendix

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

1      Donald McDonald’s formal complaint – 3 February 2017
2      TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 12 April 2017
3      Mr McDonald’s referral to the Authority – 15 and 16 April 2017
4      TVNZ’s confirmation of no further comment – 26 May 2017

 


1 See, for example, Keane and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-082
2 Cheer and SKY Network Television Ltd, Decision No. 2001-064
3 Sections 5 and 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990
4 Commentary: Standard 5 – Law and Order, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 15
5 As above
6 Cheer and SKY Network Television Ltd, Decision No. 2001-064