BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Campaign for Our Children and CanWest TVWorks Ltd - 2004-222

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • Campaign for Our Children
From Hell
CanWest TVWorks Ltd
TV3 # 2

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
From Hell – movie about the Jack the Ripper murders – screened during school holidays – man cut the buttons off woman’s dress in the first few minutes – allegedly contrary to children’s interests

Standard 9 (children’s interests) – no actual violence – shown in AO timeband – warning before programme – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1] The movie From Hell, which followed a 19th century detective trying to solve the “Jack the Ripper” case, was broadcast on TV3 on 12 July 2004 at 8.30pm.


[2] Penny Jones, trustee of the Campaign for Our Children organisation, complained to CanWest TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, 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.

[3] The complainant argued that the story line of the movie was “by its very nature gory and contains sexual violence and drug use”. The complainant expressed her disappointment that the broadcaster had chosen to screen this movie during the school holidays, and categorised it as “clearly detrimental to children’s emotional and sexual health”.

[4] Ms Jones referred to a scene at the beginning of the movie which showed a woman being accosted by a man in a darkened alleyway, where he proceeded to cut the buttons off her dress. She contended that this material should not have been shown so soon after the 8.30pm watershed (Guideline 9b).

[5] The complainant also stated that the broadcaster should have been mindful of the fact that children stay up later during the school holidays. While there was a warning preceding the programme, she said, it was “only on for a few seconds” and was “easily missed”. Referring to Guideline 9c which states that “special attention should be given to providing appropriate warnings during these periods”, the complainant interpreted this as meaning the broadcaster should have given more than one warning before the programme.


[6] CanWest assessed the complaint under Standard 9 and Guidelines 9b and 9c of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which 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.


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

[7] In its response to the complainant, CanWest first observed that the programme was rated AO and had screened after 8.30pm in an AO time band. It also considered that the broadcast met the requirements of Guidelines 9b and 9c, and pointed to a number of factors in coming to this conclusion.

[8] Firstly the broadcaster argued that the programme was not targeted at children and contended it had been preceded by an adequate warning. It also stated that the movie had been edited specifically for screening during the school holidays by removing material which would normally have been left in.

[9] Referring to the particular scene that the complainant objected to, CanWest argued that this was an important part of the movie because the male character became one of the main suspects in the murders. It did not find anything in the scene that was “unacceptable” for an AO movie screened in the school holidays.

[10] The broadcaster then considered the complainant’s concern about the adequacy of the warning which preceded the programme, stating that its pre-screening warnings meet the Code requirements and are “accepted industry practice”. It added:

Warnings are specific to the programme they precede. From Hell was publicised as being a movie which followed the investigation into the Jack the Ripper murders. The Jack the Ripper crimes are well known in our society as part of our shared history. This advance knowledge given in the publicity and the comprehensive warning at the beginning would provide ample warning of the likely content.

[11] CanWest contended that “it is not common practice” to screen more than one warning for a programme, and in this case it did not agree that an additional warning was required. The broadcaster also did not concur with the complainant’s interpretation of Guideline 9c as requiring more than one warning to be given during school holidays. Rather, it said, the purpose was to “ensure that care is taken to place appropriate audience notification on AO programmes during that time”.

[12] CanWest maintained that discretion had been exercised to ensure that AO content was not shown too soon after the watershed and that an appropriate warning had been given. Accordingly, it found that no breach of Standard 9 had occurred in this case.

Referral to the Authority

[13] 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 reiterated her concerns about AO content being shown soon after the 8.30pm watershed, and the fact that only one warning preceded the movie.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[14] In its response to the Authority, CanWest referred to the scene in which the buttons were cut off the woman’s dress. It observed that the woman’s breasts were not exposed and the crime was not “sexually motivated”. The broadcaster argued that this type of crime “does not necessarily require an AO rating”.

Authority's Determination

[15] 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.

[16] The complainant focussed on one particular scene at the start of the movie, in which a woman was accosted in an alley, and buttons cut from her dress. The complainant considered that this scene was contrary to children’s interests.

[17] The Authority does not uphold the complaint and concurs with the reasons advanced by CanWest in its decision. From Hell was a movie about the Jack the Ripper murders, broadcast in Adults Only time, and preceded by a strong warning. Even though the programme was broadcast during school holidays, the Authority considers that clear notice was given that the movie was not going to be suitable viewing for children.

[18] Furthermore, the scene complained of was mild. No serious violence was portrayed and the scene was clearly dramatised and not realistic. Although buttons were cut from the woman’s dress, there was no nudity, the scene was not sexualised, and the woman suffered no injury. While the scene was menacing, it was appropriate in the context of an AO movie, shown after the 8.30pm watershed.

[19] The Authority also observes that the Code does not require that multiple warnings be given.

[20] For the above reasons the Authority considers that, in all the circumstances, the scene complained of was not contrary to the interests of children.


For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
8 February 2005


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

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