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Couper-Wain and TVWorks Ltd - 2010-080

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Tapu Misa
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
Dated
Complainant
  • Rebekah Couper-Wain
Number
2010-080
Programme
Bones promo
Broadcaster
TVWorks Ltd
Channel/Station
TV3 # 3

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Bones promo – contained footage of spiders and skeletal remains – broadcast during 3 News at approximately 6.55pm – allegedly in breach of responsible programming and children’s interests standards

Findings
Standard 8 (responsible programming) – promo correctly classified G – not upheld

Standard 9 (children’s interests) – promo correctly classified – broadcaster adequately considered the interests of child viewers – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]   A promo for Bones was broadcast at approximately 6.55pm on 25 April 2010 during 3 News on TV3.

[2]   Bones was a drama series about a forensic anthropologist called upon by the FBI to solve complex murder cases. The 15-second promo included the following brief images :

  • a cluster of spiders crawling out of a crack
  • a woman shining a torch on skeletal remains, causing her to jump backwards and gasp
  • spiders crawling out of a skeleton skull
  • other brief shots of spiders.

Complaint

[3]   Rebekah Couper-Wain made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the Bones promo breached broadcasting standards.

[4]   The complainant argued that the promo contained “adult themes” that were inappropriate for broadcast during children’s normally accepted viewing times. She stated that her five-year-old son had been in the room at the time of the broadcast, exposing him to “inappropriate” and “frightening” images “just before bedtime”.

Standards

[5]   Standards 8 and 9 and guidelines 8b and 9a of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice are relevant to the determination of this complaint. They provide:

Standard 8 Responsible Programming

Broadcasters should ensure programmes:

  • are appropriately classified;
  • display programme classification information;
  • adhere to timebands in accordance with Appendix 1;
  • are not presented in such a way as to cause panic, or unwarranted alarm or undue distress; and
  • do not deceive or disadvantage the viewer.

Guideline 8b

All promos (including promos for news and current affairs) should be classified to comply with the “host programme” (the programme in which they screen):

  • Promos for AO programmes shown outside AO time should comply with the classification of the host programme;
  • When a promo screens during an unclassified host programme (including news and current affairs) in G or PGR time, the promo must be classified G or PGR and broadcasters should pay regard to Standard 9 – Children’s Interests.
Standard 9 Children’s Interests

During children’s normally accepted viewing times (see Appendix 1), broadcasters should 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 that would disturb or alarm them.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[6]   TVWorks noted that the promo was classified to run during 3 News, which had an adult target audience. It argued that news programming often contained reporting of events which were “disturbing and distressing” and which were not “directed at”, nor “suitable viewing for”, younger viewers. It considered that the promo was appropriately classified for the time and host programme in which it screened. TVWorks declined to uphold the complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[7]   Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Ms Couper-Wain referred her complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

[8]   The complainant reiterated her view that the promo contained material unsuitable for children, and that it should not have been broadcast so early in the evening at a time she had considered “safe” for child viewing. She stated that the promo occurred without any warning, giving her “very little time to respond”.

[9]   Ms Couper-Wain argued that although 3 News was targeted at adults, children were likely to be nearby at that time of the evening, which was “not quite bedtime for not only [her] son but for many children”. She considered that TVWorks had not adequately considered the interests of child viewers.

Authority’s Request for Further Information

[10]   In response to a request for the promo’s classification, TVWorks said that the promo was classified G, “due to the comical tone used between the characters in the promo – representing the sometimes quirky relationships between them in the actual programme”.

Authority's Determination

[11]   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 8 (responsible programming)

[12]   Standard 8 requires that programmes, including promos for programmes, are correctly classified and adhere to the time-bands set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code. The promo subject to complaint was for an AO-classified programme, Bones. It was rated G by TVWorks and was broadcast at 6.55pm during 3 News, which is unclassified.

[13]   Guideline 8b states that when a promo screens during an unclassified host programme (including news and current affairs) in G or PGR time, the promo must be classified G or PGR and broadcasters should pay regard to Standard 9 (children’s interests).

[14]   The G classification is defined as follows in Appendix 1 of the Code:

G – General
Programmes which exclude material likely to be unsuitable for children. Programmes may not necessarily be designed for child viewers but should not contain material likely to alarm or distress them.

[15]   In the Authority’s view, the promo did not contain anything that would have alarmed or distressed the majority of child viewers. It was inexplicit and fleeting, being only 13 seconds in length, and the quick transition between shots made it difficult to focus on any particular detail. Furthermore, we consider that the content was unrealistic and the tone of the promo was light-hearted rather than sinister.

[16]   Accordingly, the Authority finds that the promo was correctly classified G and therefore declines to uphold a breach of Standard 8.

Standard 9 (children’s interests)

[17]   Standard 9 requires broadcasters to consider the interests of child viewers during their normally accepted viewing times. The Bones promo was broadcast prior to 7pm, during the G time-band, meaning that it was broadcast during children’s viewing time.

[18]   Having determined that the promo was correctly classified G, we are also satisfied that the broadcaster adequately considered the interests of child viewers when it screened the promo in G time. As discussed above, we consider that the inexplicit content was unlikely to have alarmed or distressed child viewers. We therefore decline to uphold a breach of Standard 9.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
14 September 2010

Appendix

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

1.           Rebekah Couper-Wain’s formal complaint – undated

2.          TVWorks’ response to the complaint – 18 June 2010

3.          Ms Couper-Wain’s referral to the Authority – 5 July 2010

4.          TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 12 July 2010