Super Liquor Sportsnight was broadcast on TVOne between 10:35–11:35pm on the evenings of 10, 17 and 24 May 1999. It is a specialist sporting programme and each episode looks at a number of topical issues.
On behalf of the Group Against Liquor Advertising (GALA), Complaints Secretary Cliff Turner complained that each broadcast breached the standard which requires that the saturation of liquor advertising be avoided. The combined number of visual and verbal liquor sponsorship credits, together with liquor advertising screened during the commercial breaks, he wrote, amounted to 26 in the case of the first programme, 26 for the second and 22 for the third. A guideline to the Promotion of Liquor Code, he noted, limited the number of permissible references to liquor in hour long programmes to 20.
TVNZ acknowledged that as the guideline had been exceeded, the standard had been breached on each occasion. Production staff on Super Liquor Sportsnight, it advised, had been reminded of the standard.
Dissatisfied with the extent of the action taken by TVNZ after it had upheld the complaints, GALA’s Mr Turner referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
For the reasons below, the Authority upholds the complaints that having upheld the complaints as a breach of standard A1, the broadcaster’s subsequent action was insufficient. It orders costs to the Crown of $500.00 for each breach.
The members of the Authority have viewed the items complained about and have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. In this instance, the Authority determines the complaints without a formal hearing.
Mr Cliff Turner, the Complaints Secretary for the Group Against Liquor Advertising (GALA) complained to TVNZ about the broadcast of Super Liquor Sportsnight on TVOne beginning at about 10.35pm on 10, 17 and 24 May.
On 10 May, Mr Turner wrote, he had counted 17 visual and six verbal sponsorship credits for Super Liquor. A further three liquor advertisements, he added, were screened during the commercial breaks.
A week later, on 17 May, Mr Turner recorded that there were again 17 visual sponsorship credits, plus seven verbal credits, and two liquor advertisements. The following week, he had counted 14 visual credits, five verbal credits, and three liquor advertisements.
Mr Turner considered that each programme breached standard A1 of the Promotion of Liquor Programme Code. In support of this contention, Mr Turner referred to guideline 2 of the Code which provides that liquor promotions should not occur more frequently than, on average, one each three minutes. Under this guideline, liquor promotions during the hour long Super Liquor Sportsnight, Mr Turner noted, should not exceed twenty. Each programme, he complained, had breached this provision.
TVNZ assessed the complaints under standard A1 of the Code, which provides:
A1 Saturation of liquor promotions, separately or in combination, must be avoided.
It noted that guideline 2 of the Code reads:
2 As a general guideline, broadcasters will avoid creating the impression that liquor promotions dominate the viewing or listening period if no more than one brief liquor promotion including a name association or sponsorship credit (not exceeding six seconds), is broadcast every three minutes averaged over the duration of the viewing or listening period. A simultaneous visual and verbal mention will count as two mentions.
TVNZ agreed that the number of liquor promotions exceeded the guideline and, accordingly, accepted that each programme had breached the standard.
As a result of your letter, the production staff on Super Liquor Sportsnight have been reminded by the Executive Editor of TVNZ Sports of the requirements of standard A1, and of the wording of the guideline. The occasion of your complaint also prompted a reminder to other production staff likely to encounter liquor sponsorship in forthcoming programmes.
While accepting that the standard had been breached, TVNZ pointed out that the level of excess did not suggest unbridled use of sponsorship messages. It also explained that the Super Liquor Sportsnight series was near finishing.
When he referred GALA’s complaint to the Authority, Mr Turner recalled that the guideline had evolved from a number of the Authority’s decisions in 1993. Now, he wrote, TVNZ appeared to disregard those decisions. Putting the case for the imposition of penalty, Mr Turner wrote:
An identical complaint about Super Liquor Sportsnight was upheld by TVNZ on 8 October 1998. Steps taken then to prevent a recurrence of this kind of breach have obviously failed. There seems no reason to accept TVNZ’s present statement, that production staff have been reminded of the requirements of Standard A1, as sufficient action. Similar action was taken last October but did not prevent a repeat offence.
In its report to the Authority, TVNZ admitted that it had made a mistake and pointed out that the error had been acknowledged.
In decision 1998-150 (dated 26.11.98), the Authority dealt with the adequacy of TVNZ’s action after TVNZ had upheld a complaint from GALA that the broadcast of Super Liquor Sportsnight on 28 September 1998 breached standard A1 of the Promotion of Liquor Programme Code. TVNZ had upheld that complaint as the inclusion of liquor promotions in the programme contravened guideline 2 of the Code. The Authority wrote on that occasion:
The Authority’s recently released Annual Report for the year 1997-1998 records that only one complaint referring to the Code for the Promotion of Liquor was received during that period. However, this complaint is the third one received by the Authority in recent weeks which has referred to that Code.
While the Authority accepts that the action taken by TVNZ on this occasion – when the contravention was drawn to its attention – was prompt, appropriate and sufficient, it considers that it is important that the Code for the Promotion of Liquor is observed by broadcasters from the outset. If further breaches occur, the Authority advises that it will then need to consider the use of its powers to impose a penalty.
TVNZ has acknowledged that the broadcasts of Super Liquor Sportsnight on 10, 17 and 24 May this year breached standard A1 for the same reason. Taking into account the warning contained in the decision issued late last year, the Authority considers that an order requiring the payment of costs to the Crown of $500 for each breach is appropriate.
For the above reasons, the Authority upholds the complaints that the action taken by Television New Zealand Ltd, having upheld the complaints that the broadcasts of Super Liquor Sportsnight on 10, 17 and 24 May 1999 breached standard A1 of the Code for the Promotion of Liquor, was insufficient.
The Authority imposes the following orders.
Pursuant to s.16(4) of the Broadcasting Act 1989, the Authority orders Television New Zealand Ltd to pay costs of $500 to the Crown in respect to each of the broadcasts within one month of the date of these decisions.
The Orders shall be enforceable in the Wellington District Court.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
19 August 19999
The following correspondence was received and considered when the Authority determined this complaint:
1. GALA’s Complaints to Television New Zealand Ltd – 25 May 1999
2. TVNZ’s Response to the Formal Complaints – 14 June 1999
3. GALA’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 16 June 1999
4. TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 28 June 1999