BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Campbell and MediaWorks TV Ltd - 2017-019 (26 April 2017)

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Paula Rose
  • Leigh Pearson
Dated
Complainant
  • Sharon Campbell
Number
2017-019
Programme
Promo for 7 Days
Broadcaster
MediaWorks TV Ltd
Channel/Station
Three

Summary

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

A promo for the latest season of 7 Days showed comedians featured on the programme preparing the show’s host for the ‘potentially hostile environment’, by heckling and pelting him with objects. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this promo trivialised the issue of bullying. The promo was a parody sketch of the type of heckling typically made by contestants during an episode of 7 Days, and common to live comedy programmes of this genre. It sought to recreate this live comedy environment in a humorous, satirical and highly exaggerated way, and in this context, the promo did not condone, encourage or trivialise bullying behaviour.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Violence, Discrimination and Denigration


Introduction

[1]  A promo for the latest season of 7 Days showed comedians featured on the programme preparing the show’s host for the ‘potentially hostile environment’, by heckling and pelting him with objects. The promo ended with the host yelling at the pair, ‘Stop it guys, I’m a human being!’, and lying on the ground in the foetal position.

[2]  Sharon Campbell complained that the promo trivialised the issue of bullying, using well-known individuals who were seen as role models, which was in extremely poor taste. She raised New Zealand’s high rates of domestic violence, child abuse and teen suicide, noting bullying could be a contributor to these issues.

[3]  The issues raised in Ms Campbell’s complaint are whether the broadcast breached the good taste and decency, children’s interests, violence and discrimination and denigration standards of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The promo was broadcast at 9.25pm on 20 February 2017 on Three. The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Did the programme breach broadcasting standards relating to good taste and decency, children’s interests and violence?

[5]  Ms Campbell’s complaint raises similar issues under the good taste and decency, children’s interests and violence standards. As the same contextual factors and other considerations are relevant to our assessment of each of these three standards, we have addressed them together.

[6]  The good taste and decency standard (Standard 1) aims to protect audience members from viewing broadcasts that are likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress. Broadcasters should take effective steps to inform audiences of the nature of the programme, and enable viewers to regulate their own and children’s viewing behaviour.

[7]  The children’s interests standard (Standard 3) states that broadcasters should ensure children can be protected from broadcasts which might adversely affect them.

[8]  Broadcasters should also exercise care and discretion when portraying violence, and ensure that any violent content is appropriate to the context of the programme and classified carefully (Standard 4).

The parties’ submissions

[9]  MediaWorks submitted that:

  • The promo depicted a mock rehearsal of 7 Days, depicting comedy heckling rather than what most viewers would understand to be ‘bullying’ in the conventional sense. Heckling was a ‘well-known hazard of the live comedy environment’ and the promo set out to recreate this type of environment.
  • The promo was light-hearted and humorous in tone, rather than malicious or nasty, and was ‘intended to invoke a sense of the perils of the live comedy environment rather than to trivialise, condone or encourage bullying’.
  • The promo did not contain any strong language, violence, sexual material or other material likely to disturb or alarm child viewers, and likewise did not contain any violent content.

[10]  In her referral to the Authority, Ms Campbell submitted that:

  • Bullying may not always be seen as malicious or nasty, but could be carried out via ‘sustained “Joking Around”’, where one person was the target of poor taste comments. By minimising the impact of this type of material, the broadcaster was contributing to the maintenance of New Zealand’s high violence statistics.
  • Many children, and adults, could resonate with the promo’s use of ‘heckling’, but may not be old enough or brave enough to complain about this.
  • Any form of violence could be seen as disturbing, and the broadcaster’s response to the complaint minimised the fact that bullying was a form of violence which was prevalent and disturbing.

Our analysis

[11]  When we consider a complaint under each of the nominated standards, we take into account the context of the broadcast, which here includes:

  • 7 Days is classified AO (Adults Only), with the latest season broadcast at 9pm, and this particular promo broadcast at 9.25pm
  • the nature of the promoted programme, which is a satirical comedy show targeted at adults
  • audience expectations of 7 Days, which involves comedians, split into teams, who often heckle and berate both the presenter and the opposing team
  • the promo was broadcast during Married at First Sight Australia, which was classified PGR (Parental Guidance Recommended), and also targeted at adults.

[12]  We do not consider that the content of this promo breached broadcasting standards, taking into account the context. While we understand the complainant’s concerns regarding the portrayal of bullying in the media and the serious issue of violence in New Zealand society, we do not agree that this promo trivialised, encouraged or condoned bullying behaviour.

[13]  7 Days is a long-running, locally-produced, late-night satirical comedy show that features comedians competing in a quiz about New Zealand current affairs. It is well known for its particular style of presentation and adult-targeted humour. The programme often features the appearing comedians heckling or berating each other, and this is a common feature of live comedy shows such as 7 Days. It was clear from the promo that the comments made to the presenter were made in jest, as a parody of this live comedy environment, and they were consistent with established audience expectations of the programme.

[14]  While we acknowledge the complainant’s argument that bullying may not always be seen as malicious or nasty, in the context of a one-off, parody sketch, we consider it was clear that the promo did not condone bullying behaviour and the promo would not have otherwise offended or distressed viewers (particularly given the 9.25pm time of broadcast, outside of children’s normally accepted viewing times).

[15]  We therefore do not uphold these aspects of Ms Campbell’s complaint.

Did the item breach any other broadcasting standards?

[16]  Ms Campbell also complained under the discrimination and denigration standard. The objective of the discrimination and denigration standard (Standard 6) is to protect sections of the community from verbal and other attacks. The standard protects against broadcasts which encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, any section of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, occupational status, or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religion, culture or political belief.

The parties’ submissions

[17]  Ms Campbell submitted that:

  • The comments made to the presenter (for example, ‘boo!’, ‘boring!’, ‘you’re too fat for that seat!’, ‘ya suck’, ‘that’s not a real beard’) were condemning, nasty and malicious, and of a discriminatory nature when related to a person’s size and/or looks.
  • The promo portrayed a section of the community – ie, people who are bullied – as inherently inferior or having inherent negative characteristics.

[18]  MediaWorks TV submitted that the promo was clearly intended to be humorous and did not carry the necessary level of condemnation or nastiness required to encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, any section of the community.

Our analysis

[19]  The sections of the community specified in the discrimination and denigration standard are consistent with the grounds for discrimination listed in the Human Rights Act 1993.1 Size, appearance and being bullied are not recognised grounds for discrimination under that legislation.

[20]  Additionally, the discrimination and denigration standard is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material that is legitimate humour, drama or satire.2 While we acknowledge the complainant’s concerns and recognise that this promo was not to her taste, the promo did not condone the act of bullying. Nor do we consider that the promo suggested that victims of bullying were inherently inferior or had inherent negative characteristics. The promo sought to recreate the live comedy environment in a humorous, satirical and highly exaggerated way, in order to ‘get [the host] ready for a “potentially hostile environment”’ and to generate publicity for the latest season of the programme.

[21]  We therefore do not uphold the complaint under Standard 6.

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

 

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

 

Peter Radich
Chair
26 April 2017

 

Appendix

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

1     Sharon Campbell’s formal complaint – 20 February 2017

2     MediaWorks’ response to the complaint – 17 March 2017

3     Ms Campbell’s to the Authority – 18 March 2017

4     MediaWorks’ confirmation of no further comment – 31 March 2017 

 

 


1 See https://www.hrc.co.nz/enquiries-and-complaints/what-you-can-complain-about/ 

 

2 Guideline 6c to Standard 6