BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Dandy and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2017-057 (27 October 2017)

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Paula Rose
Dated
Complainant
  • Troy Dandy
Number
2017-057
Channel/Station
Television New Zealand

Summary

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

An episode of a weekly mixed martial arts championship highlights and commentary programme, MMA: One Championship Weekly, was broadcast on TVNZ DUKE at 8.30am on Saturday 15 April 2017. The primary focus of the episode was a build-up to an upcoming match between Eduard Foyalang and Ev Ting scheduled for 21 April 2017. The episode profiled each of the fighters with reference to their backgrounds and family life. It also included 5-6 minute clips of their previous fights against other opponents. Mr Dandy complained that the use of footage from MMA fights was offensive and inappropriate to broadcast at a time when children may be watching television unsupervised. The Authority found that, taking into account the context, including that MMA: One Championship Weekly is an unclassified sports highlights show, the target audience of both the channel and the programme, and signposting at the beginning of the programme about the martial arts content, the fight footage used did not breach broadcasting standards.

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


Introduction

[1]  An episode of a weekly mixed martial arts (MMA) championship highlights and commentary programme, MMA: One Championship Weekly was broadcast on TVNZ Duke at 8.30am on Saturday 15 April 2017. The primary focus of the episode was a build-up to an upcoming match between Eduard Foyalang and Ev Ting scheduled for 21 April 2017. The episode profiled each of the fighters with reference to their backgrounds and family life. It also included 5-6 minute clips of their previous fights against other opponents.

[2]  Troy Dandy complained that, as ‘graphic violence and fighting’ were the primary purpose of the broadcast, it should not have been broadcast during children’s normal viewing times. Mr Dandy considered the broadcast of the content in the Saturday morning timeslot was ‘offensive, vulgar and harmful’.

[3]  The issues raised in Mr Dandy’s complaint are whether the broadcast breached the good taste and decency, children’s interests and violence standards of 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 programme breach broadcasting standards?

[5]  Mr Dandy’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 purpose of the good taste and decency standard (Standard 1) is to protect audience members from viewing broadcasts that are likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards.

[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 (Standard 4). Violent content should be appropriate to the context of the programme, and classified carefully.
The parties’ submissions

[9]  Mr Dandy submitted that:

  • The programme contained violent content and was broadcast at a time when children were likely to be watching without parental supervision (Saturday morning).
  • Children are highly impressionable and would not understand the context of ‘cage fighting’ in relation to the violent content shown.
  • The broadcaster targeted younger viewers and children by broadcasting the programme at 8.30am on Saturday morning.
  • ‘Violence is violence’, even if TVNZ considers MMA to be a sport.
  • The previews TVNZ broadcast prior to the programme did not provide sufficient warning to viewers about the programme’s violent content.
  • Broadcasting MMA at 8.30am on a Saturday morning during ‘peak children’s viewing time’ does not demonstrate the ‘exercise of care and discretion when portraying violence’.

[10]  TVNZ submitted that:

  • MMA: One Championship Weekly is a sports programme and therefore it does not carry a classification.
  • The programme screened at 8.30am during the G timeband on TVNZ DUKE, a channel which is aimed at older viewers and features many sports programmes aimed at this demographic.
  • TVNZ DUKE does not screen programming aimed at child viewers. It features a lot of sports programming and no children’s programming.
  • Both bouts featured in the broadcast were ‘teased’ just prior to the broadcast.
  • The broadcast gave viewers sufficient information about the upcoming footage so they could decide whether they wished to view the broadcast.
  • MMA is a recognised sport which, like boxing, involves physical contact between two opponents. It has been established that it is acceptable to screen boxing bouts in G time.1
  • The footage shown from the bouts was limited and conformed to the expectations of the sport which involves ‘boxing type hits and wrestling holds’. Hits were not repeated gratuitously, instead focusing on pivotal moments in the bouts which usually occurred during the low impact wrestling-style holds.

Our analysis

[11]  When we determine a complaint alleging a breach of broadcasting standards, we first give consideration to the right to freedom of expression. Our task is to weigh the value of the broadcast item, as well as the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression and the audience’s right to receive the information broadcast, against the level of actual or potential harm that might be caused by the broadcast.

[12]  In making this assessment, context is highly relevant to our consideration of the standards nominated in Mr Dandy’s complaint (good taste and decency, children’s interests and violence). Relevant contextual factors in this case include:

  • MMA: One Championship Weekly is an unclassified sports programme2
  • TVNZ DUKE is a free-to-air channel aimed at an adult male audience, positioning itself as ‘[t]he go to for guys who are looking for something awesome and maybe a bit unexpected’ 3
  • the programme’s adult target audience
  • the signposting prior to, and at the beginning of, the programme, which gave an indication of its martial arts content – including previews of the MMA footage
  • audience expectations of MMA: One Championship Weekly and of TVNZ DUKE.

[13]  We acknowledge that Mr Dandy found the footage to be violent and inappropriate for broadcast at 8.30am on a Saturday morning. However, we have reached the view that, overall, there was sufficient information available to signpost the programme’s likely content, and accordingly the broadcast did not breach the nominated standards.

[14]  The Authority has previously found that MMA is a legitimate sport, where a level of physicality is expected and consented to by participants.4 This means that, as sports programming, MMA fights and footage can be broadcast without a classification and are therefore not restricted to being broadcast at a certain time.

[15]  TVNZ DUKE is aimed at an adult male audience. Children are not the target audience for the channel and TVNZ advises that no children’s programming is offered on this channel. The DUKE programming schedule frequently includes sports shows, including during the G timeband, which are part of the channel’s niche programme offering designed to appeal to its target audience.

[16]  MMA: One Championship Weekly is a weekly MMA highlights programme that includes both highlights of past fights, and build-up and commentary on upcoming fights. As part of this focus it presents the backstory of the fighters for context, including their past performance in other fights. It is comparable with other sports commentary programmes in this respect, and there is an audience expectation that segments of the programme will contain footage from MMA bouts.

[17]  The subject matter would have been clear to viewers from the outset of the programme, as well as previews of the MMA footage that were broadcast prior to the programme, and in that context the fight footage was not unexpected or gratuitous. There was a significant introductory segment profiling the fighters and their personal lives prior to the footage being shown.

[18]  These factors in combination sufficiently informed the audience of the nature of the programme and allowed an opportunity for viewers, including parents and caregivers, to make a different viewing choice or to exercise discretion for themselves or children in their care.

[19]  Accordingly we do not consider that the right to freedom of expression is outweighed by any actual or potential harm in this broadcast. We therefore do not uphold the complaint that the broadcast breached the good taste and decency, children’s interests, and violence standards.


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

 


Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
27 October 2017 

 

 


Appendix

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

1     Troy Dandy’s formal complaint – 24 April 2017
2     TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 21 June 2017
3     Mr Dandy’s referral to the Authority – 19 July 2017
4     TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 6 September 2017


1  Citing Malone and Sadd and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2014-155

2  Under guideline 2c to Standard 2 – Programme Information, sports programme are not required to be classified.

3  https://www.tvnz.co.nz/sales/brands/tvnz-duke

4 Malone & Sadd and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2014-155 and Worthington and SKY Network Television Ltd, Decision No. 2014-082