Airlie and TVWorks Ltd - 2008-051
- Joanne Morris (Chair)
- Diane Musgrave
- Tapu Misa
- Paul France
- Kathleen Airlie
Channel/StationTV3 # 3
Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Bones promo – scenes including a human skull hitting a car windscreen, a human skeleton on a table and two characters kissing – dialogue about cannibalism – included on-screen graphics, one of which read “TV’s hottest crime scene” – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency, law and order and children’s interests
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – contextual factors – not upheld
Standard 2 (law and order) – complaint related to programming content in general – decline to determine
Standard 9 (children’s interests) – promo incorrectly rated G – images were fleeting and inexplicit – broadcast was during an unclassified news programme – broadcaster sufficiently considered the interests of child viewers – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 A promo for the fictional crime investigation programme Bones was broadcast during 3 News on TV3 at 6.25pm on Monday 17 March 2008. The promo contained highlights of the upcoming series and included scenes of dialogue between the regular characters, two characters hugging and kissing, footage of a human skull hitting a car windscreen, a human skeleton on a table, x-rays of a human skull and cars exploding.
 During the promo one of the characters stated “Stop! Or I will kick you in the testicles”. The same character also said “All of the bones show teeth marks” and then “Cannibalistic violin thief?” to which another character replied “Yeah, it’s a stretch”. Graphics were also laid over the promo that read “Returning soon to 3”, “You can feel it in your bones”, “Everybody has secrets” and “TV’s hottest crime scene”.
 Kathleen Airlie made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the promo breached standards of good taste and decency, law and order, and children’s interests.
 Ms Airlie argued that that the promo should have been preceded by a warning as the dialogue was “offensive and revolting, especially concerning a topic as disturbing as cannibalism”.
 The complainant contended that the promo glorified “the worst kind of crime work” by including the scene of the two characters embracing and kissing, while the on-screen graphic read “hottest crime scene”. Referring to guideline 2c of the law and order standard, she argued that too much violent content was being shown in programming and that “where techniques are so thoroughly described, it invites imitation”.
 Referring to guideline 9a of the children’s interests standard, Ms Airlie considered that the promo was inappropriate for broadcast at a time when children could have been watching.
 TVWorks assessed the complaint under Standards 1, 2 and 9 and guidelines 1b, 2c and 9a of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. These provide:
Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency
In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.
Broadcasters should consider – and if appropriate require – the use of on-air visual and verbal warnings when programmes contain violent material, material of a sexual nature, coarse language or other content likely to disturb children or offend a significant number of adult viewers. Warnings should be specific in nature, while avoiding detail which may itself distress or offend viewers.
Standard 2 Law and Order
In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards which are consistent with the maintenance of law and order.
Programmes should not depict or describe techniques of crime in a manner which invites imitation.
Standard 9 Children’s Interests
During children’s normally accepted viewing times (see Appendix 1), broadcasters are required, in the preparation and presentation of programmes, to consider the interests of child viewers.
Broadcasters should be mindful of the effect any programme or promo may have on children during their normally accepted viewing times – usually up to 8.30pm – and avoid screening material which would disturb or alarm them.
Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant
 TVWorks stated that the promo was rated G (General) and that it was broadcast during an advertisement break in its 3 News programme.
 The broadcaster argued that to constitute a breach of Standard 1, the broadcast material must be unacceptable to a significant number of viewers in the context in which it was shown. It contended that the promo was correctly rated G and that the timing of broadcast was appropriate, because it was unlikely that “any of its content would disturb or alarm children watching 3 News”.
 TVWorks stated that it was “uncommon for warnings to be played before a promo” and argued that it had taken sufficient care in rating and scheduling the promo for broadcast during 3 News. It declined to uphold the complaint that the promo breached Standard 1 (good taste and decency).
 In relation to Standard 2 (law and order), the broadcaster argued that the promo did not include any material that depicted techniques for committing crime. It noted that the complainant’s concern seemed to relate to programming in general and it considered that it could not address this aspect of Ms Airlie’s complaint, because it did not specifically relate to the Bones promo.
 With respect to children’s interests, TVWorks referred to the specific content of the promo (the mention of cannibalism, teeth marks on bones and kissing), and argued that similar examples of this type of content could be found in children’s fairy tales and literature such as “Hansel and Gretel”. It noted that the promo only mentioned cannibalism and did not show any footage of cannibalistic acts. The broadcaster considered that the image of skeletons would be unlikely to disturb children due to their familiarity with Halloween and ghost stories. TVWorks contended that the scene involving two characters hugging and kissing was tasteful and not overtly sexual. The broadcaster declined to uphold the complaint.
Referral to the Authority
 Dissatisfied with TVWorks’ response, Ms Airlie referred her complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. She maintained that the promo’s content was gratuitous, and disagreed with its G-rating and its time of broadcast.
 The complainant reiterated her argument that the broadcaster had not sufficiently considered the interests of child viewers. In response to TVWorks’ argument, she contended that fairytales did not juxtapose “laughter and sexiness” with “horrible things”.
 Ms Airlie argued that the reference made to “teeth marks on the victim’s bones” described the crime of cannibalism in breach of the law and order standard.
 The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.
Standard 9 (children’s interests)
 Standard 9 requires broadcasters, in the preparation and presentation of programmes, to consider the interests of child viewers. While the Authority accepts some of the material contained in the item, such as skeletons and cars exploding, would be unlikely to disturb child viewers, other material, such as the references to cannibalism, were inappropriate to include in a G-rated promo. The Authority considers that the promo was incorrectly rated G and should have been rated PGR.
 However, the Authority notes guideline 7c to the programme classification standard. It states:
Where a promo screens in an unclassified host programme outside AO time (including news and current affairs), the promo must be classified G or PGR and broadcasters must pay particular regard to Standard 9 (Children’s Interests).
 Although the Authority considers that the promo was incorrectly rated, it was broadcast during an unclassified news programme in which PGR-rated promos are permitted. Further, the images complained of were fleeting and inexplicit. In these circumstances, the Authority considers that the broadcaster sufficiently considered the interests of child viewers. Accordingly, it declines to uphold the complaint that the promo breached Standard 9 (children’s interests).
Standard 1 (good taste and decency)
 When the Authority considers a complaint that alleges a breach of good taste and decency, it is required to take into consideration the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, the relevant contextual factors include:
- the promo was broadcast during an unclassified news programme
- news programmes have an adult target audience
- the promo was rated G (General)
- the promo was broadcast at 6.25pm
- Bones is an AO classified programme.
 In the Authority’s view, the images in the promo were fleeting and the dialogue was relatively inexplicit. While it has found that the promo was incorrectly rated, it considers that the promo’s content was acceptable for broadcast during an unclassified news programme.
 Taking the above contextual factors into account, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint that the promo breached Standard 1 (good taste and decency).
Standard 2 (law and order)
 The Authority notes that Ms Airlie’s complaint relating to an alleged breach of Standard 2 was directed at programming content in general, as opposed to the Bones promo specifically. Complaints concerning alleged breaches of broadcasting standards must relate to a specific programme or promo rather than programming content in general. In these circumstances, the Authority agrees with TVWorks’ approach in declining to assess Ms Airlie’s Standard 2 complaint. Accordingly, it declines to determine the complaint that the promo breached the law and order standard.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaints that the programme breached Standards 1 and 9, and it declines to determine the Standard 2 complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
13 August 2008
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1. Kathleen Airlie’s formal complaint – 7 April 2008
2. TVWorks’ response to the formal complaint – 6 May 2008
3. Ms Airlie’s referral to the Authority – 16 May 2008
4. TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 19 June 2008