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Ross and Māori Television Service - 2017-045 (4 September 2017)

Members

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

Complainant

  • Gillian Ross

Dated

4th September 2017

Number

2017-045

Channel/Station

Māori Television

Broadcaster

Māori Television Service

Summary

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

East West East: The Final Sprint, an Albanian comedy film about an amateur Albanian cycling team, was broadcast on Māori Television at 8.30pm on 23 April 2017, during the school holidays. The film followed the cycle team as they made their way to France to take part in a race, only to learn that a revolution was underway in Albania, to which they chose to return. The film featured brief sexual scenes and material. East West East: The Final Sprint was preceded by a verbal (te reo Māori) and written (English and te reo Māori) audience advisory, warning that certain scenes and language may offend. The Authority found that the package of information about the film, including the film’s classification, 8.30pm broadcast and audience advisory, sufficiently prepared viewers for the sexual content contained in the film. The Authority found the sexual content was sign-posted for viewers and was in keeping with the quirky humour of the film. As such, the Authority found that the harm alleged to have been caused by the broadcast did not outweigh the right to freedom of expression, of both the broadcaster to screen the film, and of audiences to view it, and found no breach of the good taste and decency standard.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency  


Introduction

[1]  East West East: The Final Sprint, an Albanian comedy film about an amateur Albanian cycling team, was broadcast on Māori Television at 8.30pm on 23 April 2017, during the school holidays. The film followed the cycle team as they made their way to France to take part in a race, only to learn that a revolution was underway in Albania, to which they chose to return. The majority of the film followed the team’s misadventures as they attempted to cycle back through Europe to Albania. The film featured brief sexual scenes and material.

[2]  The film was preceded by a verbal (te reo Māori) and written (English and te reo Māori) audience advisory:

AO – This programme is recommended for adults only viewing. Certain scenes and language may offend.

Mā ngā pākeke anake tēnei hōtaka. Ka pāpouri pea ki ētahi o ngā pikitia me ngā kōrero.

[3]  Gillian Ross complained that this film contained scenes featuring topless women, full frontal nudity and masturbation, which were offensive and unacceptable, and should not have been shown at 8.30pm during the school holidays.

[4]  The issue raised in Ms Ross’ complaint is whether the broadcast breached the good taste and decency standard as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[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 broadcast threaten current norms of good taste and decency?

[6]  The purpose of the good taste and decency standard (Standard 1) is to protect audience members from viewing broadcasts that are likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards. Broadcasters should take effective steps to inform audiences of the nature of the programme, and enable viewers to regulate their own and children’s viewing behaviour.1

The parties’ submissions

[7]  Ms Ross submitted that the film contained blatant and pornographic sexual activity, which was not appropriate for the 8.30pm timeslot, particularly during the school holidays. While Ms Ross accepted that the film was screened with an AO warning, she submitted that anyone who came upon the film partway through would be unaware of this.

[8]  Māori Television submitted that:

  • The programme was correctly classified AO – Adults Only and was scheduled at 8.30pm for adult viewing. The programme featured an audience advisory prior to broadcast and this audience advisory also appeared on Māori Television’s programme schedule.
  • While the film was broadcast during the school holidays, the package of information provided to viewers made it clear the film was for adults only.
  • The content was not gratuitous or explicit and occurred 20 minutes into the movie. There was therefore sufficient time for viewers to refrain from watching, or warn children present to refrain from watching.

Our analysis

[9]  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. In this case, Ms Ross has submitted that the broadcaster caused harm by screening a film containing allegedly offensive sexual material, which was particularly inappropriate given the time of broadcast during the school holidays.

[10]  When we consider a complaint under this standard, we take into account the relevant contextual factors, which here include:

  • the film was broadcast during the school holidays at 8.30pm
  • the film was classified AO – Adults only and preceded by a verbal (te reo Māori) and visual (English and te reo Māori) audience advisory
  • the nature of the film, a foreign language film with English subtitles, which featured sexual material and scenes unsuitable for children
  • the film’s adult target audience
  • audience expectations of the film and of Māori Television, which often broadcasts art and foreign language films.

[11]  East West East: The Final Sprint contained passionate kissing, sex scenes, male masturbation and fleeting images of porn, which we accept could be considered by some viewers to be strong or graphic sexual material.

[12]  However, we consider that the package of information provided for viewers sufficiently prepared them for the sexual content contained in the film. The film was correctly classified AO – Adults Only, and was screened at the appropriate time of 8.30pm (with the AO symbol appearing after each advertisement break). The more challenging sexual material was not broadcast until later in the film, and the initial sexual scene (which included passionate kissing and a topless female character), would have signalled to viewers that the film contained sexual material suitable only for adults.

[13]  Further, the sexual content was relatively brief, was not gratuitous and, in our view, was primarily used for comedic effect. For example, the initial sex scene was stopped abruptly when the female character requested a red bra and panties from France. During the later sex scene, a male team member was able to steal a female character’s red bra as a ‘souvenir’. As such, the scenes (involving the film’s main characters) were in keeping with the quirky humour of the film and were not raunchy or graphic in nature.

[14]  While we accept that the pornographic footage (particularly during the male masturbation scene), was designed to be titillating within the narrative context, this scene was also brief and again used for comedic effect (as the character attempted to masturbate without waking his roommate).

[15]  The film was broadcast during the school holidays. However, it was targeted at adult viewers and we do not consider it would have appealed to children (being a subtitled film focused on adult themes). Further, the more graphic material was not broadcast close to 8.30pm, when children may still have been watching.

[16]  We acknowledge the complainant’s submission that the sexual material was, in her view, outside of her expectations of adults-only content. However, we consider that Māori Television is well-known for screening arthouse, foreign and independent films, which can be unusual or eccentric. In our view, the sexual content of this film was signposted in the early scenes, and we do not consider this level of sexual material would be outside of most audience members’ expectations for the film, or for Māori Television generally.

[17]  In light of the above factors, and when considering the film as a fictional, artistic piece which carried high value in terms of the right to freedom of expression, we find that the harm alleged to have been caused by the broadcast did not outweigh the broadcaster’s right to screen the film, and the audience’s right to view it.

[18]  We there do not uphold the complaint.

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

 

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

 

 

Peter Radich
Chair
4 September 2017  

 

Appendix

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

1      Gillian Ross’ formal complaint – 24 April 2017 (received 27 April 2017)
2      Māori Television’s response to the complaint – 5 May 2017
3      Ms Ross’ referral to the Authority – 22 May 2017
4      Māori Television’s response to the referral – 9 June 2017
5      Ms Ross’ final comments – 3 July 2017

 


1 Guideline 1b to Standard 1 – Good Taste and Decency