BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Godson and SKY Network Television Ltd - 2008-020

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • John Godson
SKY Sport 2

Complaints under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Australian Tennis Open – some footage included a “Live” watermark even though the matches had already been played – allegedly inaccurate

Standard P8 (accuracy) – not a “significant error of fact” – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1]   From 14 to 27 January 2008, footage of the Australian Tennis Open was broadcast on SKY Sport 2 between 1pm and 12am. Between matches that were broadcast live, historical footage, simultaneous matches, and highlights from matches which had already taken place were screened to fill in the scheduled breaks. Some of these were introduced by commentators as footage that was filling the time between matches, or identified as games that had already been played earlier in the tournament. For example:

...Later on, we’ve got the second of the men’s singles semi-finals... but until then, what about the first semi-final. The young Frenchman...last night took on the world number two French Open champion... and we’re going to pick up a replay here at 2-4 in the first set...


[2]   John Godson made two formal complaints to SKY Network Television Ltd, the broadcaster, about the broadcasts of the Australian Tennis Open. He alleged that much of the “filler” footage contained a superimposed logo reading “SKY Sport 2 LIVE” in the top left corner of the screen, even though it was not live footage. He argued that SKY had therefore breached the accuracy standard.

[3]   Noting the time difference between New Zealand and Australia, Mr Godson referred to shots of a clock on the tennis court as evidence that the footage shown was not live.


[4]   The complainant nominated Standard P8 of the Pay Television Code of Broadcasting Practice in his complaint. It provides:

Standard P8 Accuracy

Significant errors of fact should be corrected at the earliest opportunity.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[5]   SKY stated that it had reviewed the broadcast with regard to Mr Godson’s comments and made a number of observations. First, it noted that the Australian Open contained live coverage as well as events “played ‘off tape’ from the host broadcaster directly from the venue; this is normal for all tennis played on world feeds”.

[6]   Secondly, SKY asserted that this “off tape” material was used during the natural breaks in a featured live game “in order to present a complete picture to viewers of the tournament, delivering a mixture of historical footage, excerpts from games currently being played and synopses of games previously played”.

[7]   Finally, the broadcaster maintained that over the 14-day tennis tournament, the coverage provided was predominantly live, with delayed coverage used to cover the transition from one live game to the next.

[8]   For these reasons, SKY did not uphold Mr Godson’s complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[9]   Dissatisfied with SKY’s response, Mr Godson referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

[10]   The complainant argued that SKY’s response was “quite evidently designed to confuse the television-operational-techniques ignorant” in that they were using signals originating from another production company. He considered that in reality, SKY was “too lazy” to monitor the incoming signals, and instead just let them go to air unchecked.

[11]   Mr Godson took issue with SKY’s comment that synopses of games previously played were sometimes screened in the natural breaks in a live match, as he said he had watched almost all of the third set of one particular match, hours after it had been played. A synopsis, he said, “is certainly not something that is re-shown exactly as broadcast hours before”.

[12]   The complainant considered that if SKY wanted to use pre-recorded footage, all it had to do was to omit the word “Live” from the broadcast.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[13]   SKY provided a “sample” of the coverage of the Australian Open, broadcast between 6pm and 7.45pm on 25 January 2008, as in total there was 182 hours of footage over the two-week period of the tournament. It emphasised, however, that the “Live” logo was not present in the recording, because it was inserted as the coverage was being transmitted to SKY subscribers. Its “clean recordings are created before this watermark is placed on the sports coverage”, SKY said.

Authority's Determination

[14]   The members of the Authority have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

[15]   While the recording provided by SKY did not contain the “Live” logo, the Authority has taken the opportunity to observe the generic use of the logo by SKY Sport in other programmes. The “Live” logo appears as a discrete watermark at the top right corner of the screen. The Authority is of the view that it can consider the complaint without seeing a complete recording of the broadcast complained about.

[16]   The Authority is not convinced that the presence of the “Live” watermark was a “fact”. Even if it was, for the reasons outlined below, the Authority finds it was not a “significant error of fact” as contemplated by Standard P8.

[17]   Any tennis tournament will consist of a number of matches being played, sometimes simultaneously. It is expected that, in order to give a full picture of the event, “live coverage” will from time to time replay coverage from matches that were not able to be shown when they were actually played, as well as highlights for viewers who have recently tuned in to the lengthy coverage.

[18]   Given viewers’ understanding of world sport, the Authority considers that viewers watching the Australian Tennis Open would have known and understood that SKY’s generic use of the “Live” logo did not necessarily indicate that the match being shown was occurring at that particular moment.

[19]   Accordingly, the Authority finds that SKY’s use of the word “Live” did not constitute a significant error of fact for the purposes of Standard P8. It declines to uphold the complaint.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
30 April 2008


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

1.           John Godson’s formal complaint – 21 January 2008
2.           Mr Godson’s second complaint – 25 January 2008
3.           SKY’s response to the complaint – 15 February 2008
4.           Mr Godson’s referral to the Authority – 22 February 2008
5.           SKY’s response to the Authority – 5 March 2008