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Byrne and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2018-071 (14 November 2018)

Members

  • Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
  • Paula Rose
  • Wendy Palmer
  • Susie Staley

Complainant

  • Anna Byrne

Dated

14th November 2018

Number

2018-071

Channel/Station

TVNZ 1

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd

Summary

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

A complaint about a promo for Children Who Kill, broadcast at 5:30pm on a weekday during an episode of The Chase, has not been upheld by the Authority. The promo featured footage of a young boy and girl, with a voiceover explaining that the young boy murdered the girl and asking ‘should children who commit murder die behind bars?’ The Authority did not uphold this complaint under the children’s interests or violence standards. The Authority found the promo did not go beyond the expectations of The Chase or TVNZ 1’s mature target audience. The Authority further noted that while murder and death are adult themes, the promo itself did not contain any unduly disturbing or graphic images or detail that required the restriction of the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.

Not Upheld: Children’s Interests, Violence 


The broadcast

[1]  A promo for Children Who Kill was broadcast during The Chase, a G classified gameshow, at 5.30pm on 24 July 2018 on TVNZ 1. In the promo, a girl was shown playing with a puppy and talking to the camera. A voiceover informed viewers that the eight-year-old girl was murdered by the 14-year-old boy holding the camera. The voiceover asked: ‘should children who commit murder die behind bars?’ A young man then said: ‘I‘m so sorry for what happened.’

The complaint

[2]  Anna Byrne complained that this promo should not have been played at 5.30pm, considering the violent subject matter (murder) and the likelihood that children would be watching. Ms Byrne submitted children often either watch television at 5.30pm or are in the same room as an adult who is watching television and therefore need to be protected from violent content.

[3]  Ms Byrne referred to a previous decision of the Authority, Newton and Television New Zealand Ltd,1 in which the Authority found the broadcast of a person recounting a murder during a promo (saying ‘I, er, snapped, snapped her neck’) was in breach of the children’s interest standard.

[4]  Ms Byrne submitted the broadcast breached the good taste and decency and children’s interests standards of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

The broadcaster’s response

[5]  TVNZ submitted the promo did not breach the children’s interests or violence standards for the following reasons:

  • The Chase is aimed at mature viewers. Nielsen’s TAM (Television Audience Measurement) consolidated audience breakdown for The Chase on 24 July 2018 confirmed that only 3% of the total audience of 363,400 (all people aged 5 and above) were aged between 5 and 14.
  • No violence or injury was seen in the promo. While it was clear that a serious issue (a teenager murdering a child) was being discussed, no explicit visuals were shown. The discussion was carefully framed so that the details of how the child was killed were not shown or explained.
  • The dialogue did not fall outside of a G rating. A G rating means promos which exclude material likely to be unsuitable for children. ‘[Promos] may not necessarily be designed for child viewers but should not contain material likely to alarm or distress them. G promos may be screened at any time’.2
  • The focus of the promo was not the crimes committed by these children, but whether they should be given a second chance or jailed for life.
  • In contrast to Newton and Television New Zealand Ltd, the verbal discussion was not graphic or detailed.
  • Broadcasters are permitted to promote adult content outside of Adults Only viewing time, as long as the promo adheres to the certificate of the host programme.

The standards

[6]  The children’s interests standard (Standard 3) states that broadcasters should ensure children can be protected from broadcasts which might adversely affect them. Material likely to be considered under this standard includes violent content or themes.3

[7]  The violence standard (Standard 4) states that broadcasters should exercise care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence.

Our findings

[8]  When we consider a complaint that a broadcast has breached broadcasting standards, we first look at the right to freedom of expression, which is highly valued in New Zealand and enshrined in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. We weigh the right to freedom of expression against the level of actual or potential harm that might be caused by the broadcast. This could be harm to an individual, or, to society or the audience generally.

[9]  The programme information standard (Standard 2) in the Free-to-Air Television Code explicitly recognises that broadcasters are permitted to broadcast promos for PGR or AO programmes outside of the designated PGR and AO timebands, so long as any promo complies with the classification of the programme during which it screens (the ‘host programme’)4. In other words, broadcasters are able to promote AO programmes during G programmes, provided the content of the promo meets the requirements of the G classification. The G classification is defined as:5

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.

[10]  The question for us to consider is whether the content of the promo in question was within the scope of the G classification, and whether it contained content that might alarm, distress or otherwise adversely affect children or other viewers.

[11]  Context is highly relevant to our assessment of whether the broadcast considered the interests of children or whether the content was unduly, disturbingly violent.6 In our consideration of this complaint we found the following contextual factors to be relevant:

  • The promo was broadcast during The Chase, which is classified G, at 5:30pm.
  • The Chase is a quiz show, with a predominantly adult audience.
  • The promo was for a show with a violent subject matter.
  • The promo referred to a violent act of murder, but did not contain any graphic or detailed visuals or audio, or descriptions of violence. 
  • TVNZ 1 has a mature target audience.
  • Children Who Kill is a documentary series on crime and punishment.

[12]  While murder and death are adult themes, we note the promo itself did not contain any violent or unduly disturbing images. Unlike the promo considered in Newton and Television New Zealand Ltd, the discussion of these themes was brief and did not include any graphic detail or description of the act of killing. We consider this limits the potential for harm, taking into account audiences’ expectations that TVNZ 1 will broadcast content predominantly aimed at adults, and the mature target audience of The Chase.

[13]  While some children may have been watching The Chase at 5:30pm on a weekday after school, we do not consider that the content was so extreme as to adversely affect children who may have been watching. Considering the contextual factors discussed above and the lack of graphic images or discussion in the promo, we find any limit on the right to freedom of expression on this occasion would be unjustified.

[14]  We therefore do not uphold the complaint.

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


Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Judge Bill Hastings
Chair
14 November 2018

 


Appendix

The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1      Anna Byrne’s formal complaint – 24 July 2018
2      TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 21 August 2018
3      Ms Byrne’s referral to the Authority – 24 August 2018
4      TVNZ’s further comments – 19 October 2018
5      Ms Byrne’s final comments – 30 October 2018


1  Decision No. 2009-140

2  Referring to Definitions, Classifications (Free-to-Air Television), Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 9

3  Guideline 3a

4  Guideline 2e to Standard 2 (Programme Information)

Guideline 2a to Standard 2 (Programme Information)

6  Commentary: Children’s Interests and Violence, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, pages 13-14