BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Child and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2007-064

Members
  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
Dated
Complainant
  • Lynley Child
Number
2007-064
Programme
Without a Trace
Channel/Station
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Without a Trace – promo showed a woman interrogating a beaten man, who was sitting on a chair, his hands tied and bleeding – woman aimed a nail gun at the man’s groin and stated “…I will nail more than your hand to the chair” – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency, law and order, programme classification, children’s interests and violence standards 

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – contextual factors – not upheld

Standard 2 (law and order) – promo did not condone, promote or glamorise criminal activity – not upheld

Standard 7 (programme classification) – promo correctly classified as PGR – not upheld

Standard 9 (children’s interests) – majority agreed that the broadcaster adequately considered the interests of child viewers – not upheld

Standard 10 (violence) – promo was brief – did not contain explicit violence – majority considered broadcaster exercised sufficient care and discretion – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]  A promo for Without a Trace, broadcast on TV One at 6.55pm and 8.15pm on 17 May 2007, included a scene in which a man was interrogated using torture. The promo showed a man tied to a chair, his hands bleeding and his face showing signs of having been beaten. A woman holding a nail gun approached him. The woman straddled him, then pointed the nail gun towards his groin and stated “Tell me what you know, tell me, or I’m gonna do more than nail your hand to the chair”.

Complaint

[2]   Lynley Child complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the item had breached standards of good taste and decency, law and order, programme classification, children’s interests and violence.

[3]   Ms Child argued that the promo had been broadcast at inappropriate times and that it should have been accompanied by a warning. She maintained that “unsuspecting people of all ages should not be subjected to such violent images, language and concepts”.

Standards

[4]   TVNZ assessed the complaint under the standards and guidelines nominated by the complainant. They provide:

Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.

Standard 2 Law and Order

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards which are consistent with the maintenance of law and order.

Standard 7 Programme Classification

Broadcasters are responsible for ensuring that programmes are appropriately classified; adequately display programme classification information; and adhere to time-bands in accordance with Appendix 1.

Guidelines

7b   Broadcasters should ensure that all promos (including promos for news and current affairs) are classified to comply with the programme in which they screen (“host programme”). For example:

(i) promos for AO programmes shown outside AO time must comply with the classification of their host programme

(ii) promos shown in G or PGR programmes screening in AO time must comply with the G or PGR classification of their host programme.

7c   Where a promo screens in an unclassified host programme outside AO time (including news and current affairs), the promo must be classified G or PGR and broadcasters must pay particular regard to Standard 9 (Children’s Interests).

Standard 9 Children’s Interests

During children’s normally accepted viewing times, broadcasters are required, in the preparation and presentation of programmes, to consider the interests of child viewers.

Guideline 9a

Broadcasters should be mindful of the effect any programme or promo may have on children during their normally accepted viewing times – usually up to 8.30pm – and avoid screening material which would disturb or alarm them.

Standard 10 Violence

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are required to exercise care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence.

Guideline 10c

When compiling promos (promos), broadcasters should be mindful that scenes containing incidents of violence or other explicit material which may be acceptable when seen in the total context of a programme may, when extracted and shown out of context for promotional purposes, be unacceptable in terms of both the standards and the time-band in question.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[5]   In responding to Ms Child’s complaint, TVNZ pointed out that it was “quite in order” for a television station to provide information about programming that screened at Adults Only time during other programmes shown in G or PGR time. It stated “it simply involves the making of promos which exclude the material which earned the programme an AO rating”.

[6]   The broadcaster observed that the 6.55pm showing of the promo was during One News, which is an unclassified programme, and the 8.15pm broadcast was during Coronation Street, which has a PGR rating. It noted that the promo for Without a Trace was a PGR-rated promo and, referring to guideline 7c, it noted that promos shown during unclassified programmes must be G or PGR. It maintained that it had complied with Standard 7 and its related guidelines, and it declined to uphold the programme classification complaint.

[7]   TVNZ argued the violence in the promo was implied rather than expressly shown and that “it was also clearly fiction with the implication of violence emerging through the skills of those acting out the drama”. It declined to uphold the violence complaint.

[8]   In terms of Standard 1, the broadcaster maintained that the promo was drawing the public’s attention to a coming drama and that this was not a breach of good taste and decency.

[9]   TVNZ believed it had considered the interests of child viewers by broadcasting the promo during One News, an unclassified programme, and Coronation Street, a programme with a PGR rating. It reiterated that the violence was implied and that the promo did not contain material that required an AO classification. It declined to uphold the Standard 9 complaint.   

[10]   The broadcaster argued that Standard 2 was not relevant, because “the screening of a PGR programme promo during One News and Coronation Street is not inconsistent with the maintenance of law and order”.

Referral to the Authority

[11]   Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Ms Child referred her complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. The complainant maintained that the content, rating and timing of the promo breached the broadcasting standards nominated in her original complaint to the broadcaster.

Authority's Determination

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

Standard 1 (good taste and decency)

[13]   When the Authority considers a complaint that alleges a breach of good taste and decency it is required to take into consideration the context of the broadcast. Relevant contextual factors on this occasion include:

  • the promo was broadcast at 6.55pm and 8.15pm
  • the promo had a PGR classification
  • the promo was broadcast during an unclassified programme and a PGR classified programme
  • the brief nature of the promo.

[14]   Further, a majority of the Authority (Joanne Morris, Diane Musgrave and Paul France) agrees with TVNZ that the violence contained in the promo was implied rather than explicit. Taking the contextual factors into account, the Authority declines to uphold the good taste and decency complaint.

Standard 2 (law and order)

[15]   The Authority has stated in previous decisions (e.g. Decision No. 2005-133) that 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. It is the Authority’s view that the promo did not promote, glamorise or condone criminal activity, or encourage viewers to break the law. Accordingly, it does not uphold the law and order complaint.  

Standard 7 (programme classification)

[16]   The promo was broadcast at 6.55pm during One News, which is an unclassified programme,and again at 8.15pm during Coronation Street, which has a PGR classification. Guideline 7c states:

Where a promo screens in an unclassified host programme outside AO time (including news and current affairs), the promo must be classified G or PGR and broadcasters must pay particular regard to Standard 9 (children’s interests).  

[17]   TVNZ argued that it had correctly classified the promo PGR, because the material that had gained the programme an AO classification had been left out. The Authority agrees with the broadcaster that the promo was correctly classified as PGR because, although it contained material more suited for mature audiences, it was not necessarily unsuitable for child viewers when subject to the guidance of an adult.

[18]   Accordingly, the Authority declines to uphold the programme classification complaint.

Standard 9 (children’s interests)

[19]   A majority of the Authority agrees with the broadcaster that it adequately considered the interests of children by broadcasting the promo during One News and Coronation Street. As mentioned above, the promo did not contain any explicit violence or material that would require an AO classification. In the majority’s view, the brevity of the promo would have made it difficult, especially for children, to comprehend what was being depicted. Accordingly the majority of the Authority declines to uphold the children’s interests complaint.

[20]   A minority of the Authority (Tapu Misa) disagrees with the majority in respect of the 6.55pm broadcast. In the minority’s view, the promo was at the high end of PGR, making it borderline AO, because of the implications of drugging, torture and violence. Despite the brevity of the promo, the violence was clearly and unambiguously conveyed, both through the visual image of the beaten, bleeding man tied to a chair and being interrogated, and the mental picture evoked by the woman's threat that she would "nail more than [the man's] hand to the chair".  The minority considers that conveying the idea of nailing a man's hand to a chair to extract information is as unsuitable for children as seeing the act itself.  In the minority's view, showing this at 6.55pm, a time when children might reasonably be expected to be watching, showed insufficient regard for children's interests. The minority would uphold the Standard 9 complaint.

Standard 10 (violence)

[21]   The Authority has found that the promo was correctly classified PGR, and screened during an unclassified programme and a programme with a PGR classification. Further, a majority of the Authority considers that the violence depicted in the promo was implied rather than explicit. In light of these matters, a majority of the Authority finds that the broadcaster did exercise sufficient care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence on this occasion. Accordingly, a majority of the Authority declines to uphold the violence complaint.

[22]   A minority of the Authority (Tapu Misa) considers that Standard 10 was breached in relation to the 6.55pm broadcast. The minority is aware that most children who watch the news tend to do so in the company of their parents, and that the news often contains stories which depict violent events. However, the minority distinguishes between the portrayal of real-life events shown in the context of a news item – which can be explained and contextualised by a parent or guardian – and dramatised scenes of violence, where the violence, or threat of violence, is heightened for the sake of entertainment. This is of particular concern in promos such as that complained about, which was shown during a time with an underlying G time-band and where, as guideline 10c states, "material is extracted and shown out of context" for the purpose of attracting viewers to an AO programme. The minority would uphold the Standard 10 complaint in relation to the 6.55pm, but not the 8.15pm, broadcast.

 

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint that the broadcast breached Standards 1, 2 and 7 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. A majority of the Authority declines to uphold the Standard 9 and Standard 10 complaints.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
25 September 2007

Appendix

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

1.            Lynley Child’s formal complaint to TVNZ – 17 May 2007
2.           TVNZ’s decision on the formal complaint – 11 June 2007
3.           Ms Child’s referral to the Authority – 29 June 2007
4.           TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 31 July 2007