BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Cheer and SKY Network Television Ltd - 2001-064

Members
  • P Cartwright (Chair)
  • B Hayward
  • R Bryant
  • J H McGregor
Dated
Complainant
  • Morris Cheer
Number
2001-064

Complaint
Sky Digital Juice Channel 21 – music video – "My Favourite Game" by The Cardigans – lead member driving dangerously while singing – encouraging young people to drive dangerously

Findings
Standard S2 – content not unsuitable for broadcast in context – no uphold

Standard S5 – no disrespect shown for principles of law – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

The music video "My Favourite Game" by The Cardigans, was broadcast on the Sky Digital Juice Channel 21 on 9 April 2001 at 10.50pm. The video depicts the lead singer driving a convertible car along a desert highway. The singer places a rock on the accelerator to keep the pedal down, and is seen at various stages using her feet to turn the steering wheel. Her driving causes other car drivers to crash their cars on the highway. She drives recklessly through a small town street, and at the end of the song she drives her car head first into a truck.

Morris Cheer complained to the broadcaster, Sky Network Television Limited, that the video breached standards of good taste and decency, and threatened the maintenance of law and order.

Sky considered that the video was clearly fantasy and not reality based. It contended that the video was a legitimate form of artistic expression. It declined to uphold the complaint.

Dissatisfied with Sky’s response, Mr Cheer referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons given below, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Decision

The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the item complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines this complaint without a formal hearing.

The music video "My Favourite Game" by The Cardigans was broadcast on Sky Television’s Juice Channel 21 on Monday 9 April 2001 at 10.50pm. In the video, the lead singer is shown driving a convertible car recklessly along a desert highway. She places a rock on the accelerator to keep the pedal down, and is seen at various stages using her feet to turn the steering wheel. Her driving causes numerous accidents and there are near misses. The video ends with the singer driving her car into a truck coming the other way, resulting in the singer being thrown from the car, and landing with no discernible injury. She is then knocked on the head with the rock which had been used to jam the accelerator on her car.

Morris Cheer complained to the broadcaster, Sky Network Television Limited, that the video breached standards of good taste and decency, and threatened the maintenance of law and order.

He stated:

New Zealanders don’t need encouragement to drive recklessly or to use their vehicles to intimidate or for thrills. This video is dangerous. Unfortunately, some people are likely to think about and emulate the driving in this video, just as they do other things they see on television.

Sky considered the complaint under section 4 of the Broadcasting Act, and in the context of the Standard Code of Broadcasting Practice for Subscription Television, without referring to specific standards.

Sky contended that the music video was clearly fantasy and not reality based. It argued that, in a video aimed at a teen/young adult audience, it was not unusual to try to achieve a slightly "bad" or antisocial image. It continued:

We believe however that our viewers are well able to distinguish fantasy from reality in these types of contexts. Depictions of "bad" driving have been part of broadcasting since its earliest days. We note that "bad" driving is frequently a feature of even mainstream movies, from James Bond through to Thelma and Louise. "Dangerous" driving by the protagonists in such films often results in accidents, explosions or even deaths.

Sky stated that it would be reluctant to "censor" such scenes in its programming, except in extreme circumstances. It said it had received no other complaints about the video, which had been made in 1998.

Mr Cheer referred his complaint to the Authority contending that the song had a sense of "real sadness, anger, and despair" in the lyrics. He argued that the visuals to the song clearly depicted reckless driving, including driving at pedestrians, and showed a an attempt to commit suicide, and a method of committing.

Mr Cheer argued that most people suffered severe disappointment or felt suicidal or reckless at some stage in their lives. He said that some people in that condition would be watching the video. He asked:

Is it responsible to present them with images of reckless driving and attempted suicide as a way of handling their depression? New Zealand it would seem would rather provide ambulances at the bottom of the cliff than take steps that might prevent harm from happening in the first place.

Mr Cheer then expanded on the effects such a video might have on vulnerable young people, mentioning that youth suicide and youth vehicle accident death rates in New Zealand were very high by international comparison.

Mr Cheer provided information to show that the band The Cardigans described the lyrics to the song as "much darker than those of previous Cardigan albums". Mr Cheer contended that the images in the video were more than merely background imagery for the singer. He said they clearly conveyed dangerous driving while in a disturbed state of mind.

Mr Cheer distinguished the video from the screening of James Bond movies. He stated:

While depictions of bad driving abound on television, they are usually in the context of an adventure story and have some justification. I cannot imagine a James Bond movie without a car chase scene. Bond is usually chasing or being chased while in the lofty pursuit of saving the world and this purpose is clearly conveyed in the context of the movie.

Mr Cheer quoted reports from Time magazine of the effects on children of watching violent or sexually explicit videos. In his view, reckless driving was dangerous to both the driver and other people, and it was socially irresponsible to portray it in a way likely to invite imitation.

Mr Cheer concluded:

I do not believe that Sky has subjected this music video to proper scrutiny either before or subsequent to my letter or that their expectations and actions in screening this music video meet the standards required of them.

The Authority’s Finding

The Authority notes that neither the complainant nor the broadcaster has nominated specific standards against which to assess this complaint. The applicable standards are contained in the Standard Code of Broadcasting Practice for Subscription Television. The Authority has determined that Mr Cheer’s complaint should be considered under standards S2 and S5. Those standards require broadcasters:

S2  To take into consideration currently accepted norms of decency and taste in language and behaviour, bearing in mind the context in which any language or behaviour occurs.

S5  To respect the principles of law which sustain our society.

When the Authority considers a complaint which alleges a breach of standard S2, it is required to consider the context in which the material was broadcast. On this occasion, relevant contextual factors include the video’s late time of broadcast at 10.50pm. The Authority also considers it relevant that the material complained about occurred in the context of a music video which was broadcast on a subscription channel which broadcasts music videos continuously. In its view, music videos are accepted mainstream entertainment and often present material which is challenging.

As to the nature of the material complained about, the Authority considers that the behaviour depicted would be likely to have been regarded by viewers as so far-fetched as to be beyond the realms of reality. Accordingly, the Authority does not consider that standard S2 was transgressed.

Turning to standard S5, the Authority does not consider that the broadcast of the video would encourage disrespect for the principles of law. Furthermore, in the Authority’s view, the behaviour about which Mr Cheer complained would probably be seen by viewers as fantasy. It therefore declines to uphold this aspect of the complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
21 June 2001

Appendix

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

  1. Morris Cheer’s Formal Complaint to The Broadcasting Standards Authority – 11 April 2001
  2. Sky Television’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 3 May 2001
  3. Mr Cheer’s Referral to the Authority – 15 May 2001