BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Chaney and TVWorks Ltd - 2013-019

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Louise Chaney
TVWorks Ltd

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Blender – music video for Lana Del Ray song “Born to Die” contained the lyrics “Let’s go get high” and showed artist smoking – allegedly in breach of law and order standard

Standard 2 (law and order) – lyrics and footage did not glamorise drug use and did not encourage viewers to break the law or otherwise promote or condone criminal activity – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1]  A music video for the song “Born to Die” by artist Lana Del Rey contained the lyrics “Let’s go get high” and showed the artist smoking what was alleged by the complainant to be a marijuana cigarette. The music video was broadcast during the programme Blender on C4 at 10.36am on Friday 8 March.

[2]  Louise Chaney made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the music video glamorised drug use.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the law and order standard (Standard 2) as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  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 broadcast encourage viewers to break the law, or otherwise promote, condone or glamorise criminal activity?

[5]  The intent behind the law and order standard is to prevent broadcasts that encourage viewers to break the law, or otherwise promote, glamorise or condone criminal activity.1 The standard exists to ensure that broadcasters refrain from broadcasting material which does not respect the laws which sustain our society.2

[6]  Ms Chaney was concerned about the impact of the music video on young people, arguing that it glamorised drug use in breach of guideline 2d. Guideline 2d to the law and order standard states that the realistic portrayal of anti-social behaviour, including the abuse of liquor and drugs, should not be shown in a way that glamorises these activities.

[7]  TVWorks disagreed that the music video glamorised or condoned criminal activity. It described the lyrics as “fleeting” and “relatively inconspicuous” in context, and noted that the song did not expressly mention drugs, or depict “obvious” drug use. The broadcaster asserted that the concept of “getting high” was not unusual in pop music, and maintained that such inexplicit, vague references were “unlikely to be particularly noticeable or result in any significant or measurable impact on drug use by young people”.

[8]  When we consider an alleged breach of broadcasting standards, we must give proper consideration to the right to freedom of expression. We assess the importance of the particular speech and the extent to which the values of freedom of expression are engaged, and weigh this against the level of harm alleged to have been caused by the broadcast, in terms of the underlying objectives of the relevant broadcasting standards. Here, the music video for the song “Born to Die” by American singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey was a legitimate form of artistic expression that promoted creativity and individuality, which are valuable in terms of free speech. Any limit on this freedom must be reasonable and justified.3

[9]  Ms Chaney’s primary concern was the effect the video would have on young people. While we accept that the music video and the channel, C4, were likely to appeal to a youth audience, we note that the video was broadcast at 10.36am on a Friday during the school term, so people of this age were unlikely to be watching.

[10]  In any event, we agree with the broadcaster that the alleged visual and verbal references to drugs did not glamorise drug use or otherwise encourage young people to take drugs. The lyrics “Let’s go get high” and footage of the artist smoking what the complainant alleged to be a marijuana cigarette, did not dominate the broadcast, but were dispersed infrequently throughout the song. In addition, these references were quite clearly in the context of telling a story about an unstable and ultimately doomed relationship, and the couple’s associated destructive behavior; this was not a glamorous or celebrated scenario that portrayed drug use as positive and desirable.

[11]  For these reasons, we are satisfied that viewers were unlikely to have been influenced by the inexplicit drug references, and that no real harm was likely to result from the broadcast, in terms of the objectives of the law and order standard. Upholding the complaint in these circumstances would unreasonably restrict the right to freedom of expression.

[12]  We therefore decline to uphold the complaint.


For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Radich
11 June 2013


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

1           Louise Chaney’s formal complaint – 8 March 2013

2          TVWorks’ response to the complaint – 25 March 2013

3          Ms Chaney’s referral to the Authority – 8 April 2013

4          TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 10 April 2013

1See, for example, Keane and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-082.

2Hunt and Māori Television, Decision No. 2009-010

3In accordance with sections 5 and 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.