BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

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Campaign for Our Children and CanWest TVWorks Ltd - 2004-168

Members
  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
Dated
Complainant
  • Campaign for Our Children
Number
2004-168
Programme
CSI Miami
Broadcaster
CanWest TVWorks Ltd
Channel/Station
TV3 # 2

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
CSI Miami – series about crime scene investigation team – episode about a man who had been murdered and tied to his bed after having been sexually assaulted – allegedly contrary to children’s interests

Findings
Standard 9 (children’s interests) – programme in Adults Only timeband – preceded by warning – established programme with established format – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1] An episode of CSI Miami screened on TV3 at 8.30pm on 16 July 2004. The series centred around a crime scene investigation team in Miami.

[2] In the first few minutes of the programme, the crime scene investigation team entered a deceased man’s house to find him tied to his bed and covered with a blanket.

Complaint

[3] Penny Jones, trustee of the Campaign for Our Children organisation, complained on behalf of the organisation that the broadcast was contrary to children’s interests. In particular, she alleged that Standard 9 and Guidelines 9b and 9c of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice had been breached.

[4] Ms Jones noted that the episode was described in the TV Guide as follows:

A naked man is found tied to his bed, having been suffocated while he was being sexually assaulted.

[5] Ms Jones stated that this “inappropriate AO part of the programme” had fallen soon after the adults only watershed. She argued that, pursuant to Standard 9b, the broadcaster should have exercised discretion to ensure that the content which led to the AO rating was not shown soon after the watershed.

[6] The complainant added that the broadcast of this episode had occurred on a Friday night during the school holiday period, and that this constituted a breach of Guideline 9c of the code. She argued that the broadcaster should have been mindful of the fact that children tend to stay up later than usual on Friday nights and during school holidays, as per the guideline.

[7] Ms Jones expressed her concern that the broadcaster did not appear to know the school holiday dates, and said that the holidays “seem to be a particular problem” in terms of programme choices.

Standards

[8] Standard 9 and Guidelines 9b and 9c of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice are relevant to the determination of this complaint. They provide:

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.

Guidelines

9b  When scheduling AO material to commence at 8.30pm, broadcasters should exercise discretion to ensure that the content which led to the AO rating is not shown soon after the watershed.

9c  Broadcasters should have regard to the fact that children tend to stay up later than usual on Friday and Saturday nights and during school and public holidays and, accordingly, special attention should be given to providing appropriate warnings during these periods.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[9] CanWest TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, advised the complainant that the programme was rated AO and preceded by the following warning:

This programme is recommended for Adults Only viewing. Certain scenes may offend.

[10] The broadcaster noted the complainant’s concern about what she felt was “ignorance of the fact of the school holidays and a dearth of suitable material screened over the holidays”. However, it stated, these “general concerns” did not raise any specific standard compliance issues”.

[11] The broadcaster stated that the programme complied with the classification time band, as it was rated AO and screened after 8.30pm. It did not consider that the material in the programme took it into the category of a programme requiring a more restrictive classification.

[12] CanWest considered the fact that the programme had screened during the school holidays. It noted that the guidelines to Standard 9 require the broadcaster to “exercise discretion” about adult content and to give “special attention…to providing appropriate warnings during [the relevant] periods”. The broadcaster maintained that it had met the requirements of these guidelines, and gave the following reasons:

  • The programme was not aimed or targeted at children, and was preceded by an adequate warning.
  • The publicity material viewed by the broadcaster provided a good insight into the likely content of the programme.
  • CSI Miami has an established audience so the likely content and style of the programme is widely known and expected. The familiar pattern of the series is to ‘introduce’ the plot by a view of the victim whose murder will be investigated.

[13] The broadcaster considered that “discretion was exercised to ensure that AO content was not shown too soon after the watershed” and that an appropriate warning was given. Accordingly, it found there had been no breach of Standard 9 (children’s interests).

Referral to the Authority

[14] Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Ms Jones referred her complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. She stated that the content of the programme shown within the first five minutes constituted a breach of Standard 9 (Guideline 9b).

[15] Referring to Guideline 9c which states that “special attention should be given to providing appropriate warnings during these periods”, the complainant argued that the broadcaster should have given more than one warning before the programme.

[16] Ms Jones said her evidence refuted the broadcaster’s assertion that AO content was not shown soon after the watershed, and that an appropriate warning was given. She also stated that the broadcaster should use its freedom of expression appropriately, “bearing in mind the viewing habits of children during weekends and school holidays”.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[17] The broadcaster noted that the format of CSI Miami is to have the crime scene, sometimes including bodies, being examined at the start of the programme. It stated that the details of the crime and cause of death “which often contains information or material which is ‘Adult’” is not seen until much later in the programme.

[18] CanWest contended that the format of this show is “extremely well known to the audience” so the expectation of seeing a crime scene at the beginning of the show would have been very high.

[19] Referring to the complainant’s concern about the number of warnings preceding the show, the broadcaster stated that it is “not common practice” to screen more than one warning. It said that the “natural and common sense meaning of guideline 9c is that a warning should be given for programmes that require them prior to screening”. CanWest did not accept that additional warnings were required for this programme as the content of CSI Miami was “true to expectation”.

[20] Furthermore, the broadcaster noted that it had no control over what information is printed in the TV Guide.

Authority's Determination

[21] The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

[22] The Authority does not uphold the complaint and concurs with the reasons advanced by CanWest in its decision. CSI is a well-known show that by its very nature deals with matters of violence and the forensic investigation of crime; the letters “CSI” stand for “Crime Scene Investigation”. The show’s target audience is adults. The format is always the same – the show commences with the depiction of the result of a violent crime, from which point the plot unfolds.

[23] Given this specific branding of the CSI shows, and given the promotional material for this particular episode – of which the complainant was aware – as well as the AO classification, the Authority considers that viewers should have been aware that the show would focus on crime and associated violence. This view is reinforced by the fact that the programme was preceded by a warning, specifically alerting viewers to the Adults Only classification. The cumulative effect of these factors was to inform viewers clearly that the programme was not suitable for children.

[24] While CSI did start with the depiction of the crime scene, the Authority observes that the commission of the violent act – along with other scenes of a much more “adult” nature – was not shown until much later in the item. Furthermore, as noted above, the show invariably starts with this type of scene and it would have come as no surprise to the majority of viewers. Nor was the programme broadcast in normally accepted viewing times for children; after 8.30pm is recognised as being an Adults Only timeslot.

[25] The programme was broadcast during the school holidays, and thus Guideline 9c – which indicates that extra care is required during the holiday period – is relevant. When considering the meaning of this for the present situation, the Authority thought it important that the scene was not unduly graphic, that the programme has a well-known format and that it was preceded by a warning. In these circumstances, the Authority is of the view that the broadcaster gave sufficient consideration to the interests of children, even taking into account that the programme was broadcast in the holiday period.

 

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
8 February 2005

Appendix

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

  1. Campaign for our Children’s formal complaint – 16 July 2004
  2. CanWest TVWorks Ltd’s decision on formal complaint – 18 August 2004
  3. Campaign for our Children’s referral to the Authority – 9 September 2004
  4. CanWest TVWorks Ltd’s response to the Authority – 19 November 2004