BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Holder and TVWorks Ltd - 2013-064

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
Dated
Complainant
  • Wendy Holder
Number
2013-064
Programme
Predators
Broadcaster
TVWorks Ltd
Channel/Station
TV3 # 3

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

During Predators, a science fiction film about a group of humans hunted by aliens, a male character who was a convicted murderer, commented ‘I’m gonna rape me some fine bitches’ and made references to consuming cocaine. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the comments glamorised criminal activity and denigrated women. The comments were acceptable taking into account both the external context, including the time of broadcast, AO classification, and pre-broadcast warning for violence and language, as well as the narrative context, including that the film was highly unrealistic, and the development of that particular character who was obviously a ‘baddie’ and despised by the other characters.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration


Introduction

[1]  Predators, a science fiction film about a group of humans hunted by aliens, was broadcast at 8.30pm on 26 August 2013 on TV3. Approximately one hour into the film, at 9.37pm, one male character, who was a convicted murderer, said:

Yo man, if we ever make it home, I’m gonna do so much fucking cocaine, I’m gonna rape so many fine bitches, no matter what time is it [sic], 5 o’clock. Damn, I’m gonna rape me some fine bitches. You know what I’m saying?

[2]  The film was rated AO and preceded by the following visual warning:

AO: This programme is rated adults only and contains violence that may disturb and language which may offend some people.

[3]  Wendy Holder made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the character’s comments glamorised criminal activity and denigrated women.

[4]  The issue is whether the broadcast, and specifically the character’s comments, breached the good taste and decency, law and order, and discrimination and denigration standards, as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[5]  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 broadcast threaten current norms of good taste and decency?

[6]  The good taste and decency standard is primarily aimed at broadcasts containing sexual material, nudity, coarse language or violence.1 The Authority will also consider the standard in relation to any broadcast that portrays or discusses material in a way that is likely to cause offence or distress.2

[7]  Ms Holder argued that the comments were unacceptable for broadcast on free-to-air television as the broadcaster ‘has no control of the audience’, especially at 8.30pm when there is ‘a high risk of young vulnerable viewers’.

[8]  TVWorks argued that the reference to rape and drug-taking was acceptable in the context of an AO-rated film targeted at an adult audience and preceded by a clear warning for violence and language. It said the broadcast was a sequel to the classic 1987 film Predator so there was a ‘very high degree of audience expectation for the type of material presented’. 

[9]  The comments identified by the complainant were fleeting in the context of a movie that was more than two hours in length. They were made by the character of a convicted murderer who was on death-row before suddenly finding himself on another planet being hunted by aliens. The comments occurred well into the movie and formed part of the narrative context. The references to rape and drug-taking reinforced that the character was a ‘baddie’, and the comments engendered a response from another character, in an obviously sarcastic tone, ‘Oh yeah, totally, 5 o’clock, bitch raping time’, supporting the suggestion throughout the movie that the murderer was despised by the other characters.

[10]  We are satisfied that the comment was acceptable in context, including:

  • the movie was broadcast after the adults only watershed at 8.30pm and the comment occurred after 9.30pm
  • the movie was rated AO indicating that it contained adult themes and was directed primarily at mature audiences
  • it was preceded by a specific warning for violence and language
  • it was a science fiction film far removed from reality
  • it was a sequel to the classic film Predator
  • the movie’s adult target audience
  • audience expectations.

[11]  The approach developed by the Authority, in its application of the good taste and decency standard, is to require broadcasters to give the audience sufficient information to regulate their own viewing behaviour. This places a degree of responsibility on viewers to inform themselves about the viewing choices they make,3 and recognises the important right to freedom of expression which is protected by the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. We are satisfied that the audience was properly informed of the nature of the movie, so the comments would not have unduly offended most viewers in context.

[12]  We therefore decline to uphold the Standard 1 complaint.

Did the broadcast encourage viewers to break the law, or otherwise glamorise or condone criminal activity?

[13]  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.4 The standard exists to ensure that broadcasters refrain from broadcasting material which does not respect the laws which sustain our society.5

[14]  Ms Holder argued that broadcasting the comments on free-to-air television created ‘a great risk of the suggestion and behaviour displayed… reaching young people, who are easily influenced’, and that they could incite criminal activity.

[15]  TVWorks said the comments were made by a character ‘shown to be morally repugnant and [who was] despised by the other characters’, and most viewers would have understood he was a ‘dramatic construction who was not intended to be prescriptive of acceptable behaviour’. It considered it ‘highly unlikely that viewers would have sympathised with him or supported his proposed criminal activities’.

[16]  The Authority is not concerned with broadcasts which merely discuss or depict criminal behaviour. As noted above, the references to drug use and rape were made by an unlikeable character in a science fiction film far removed from reality. The movie did not glamorise or in any way encourage such behaviour. The content was well within the film maker’s right to employ dramatic licence and to develop fictional characters and storylines.

[17]  We therefore decline to uphold this part of the complaint.

Did the broadcast encourage discrimination of, or denigration against, women as a section of the community?

[18]  The discrimination and denigration standard (Standard 7) protects against broadcasts which encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, a section of the community.

[19]  The term ‘denigration’ has consistently been defined by the Authority as blackening the reputation of a class of people.6 ‘Discrimination’ has been consistently defined as encouraging the different treatment of the members of a particular group to their detriment.7 It is also well-established that in light of the requirements of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, a high level of invective is necessary for the Authority to conclude that a broadcast encourages denigration or discrimination in contravention of the standard.8

[20]  Ms Holder argued that the repeated comment ‘I’m gonna rape so many fine bitches’ was abusive and denigrated women.

[21]  We understand the complainant’s view that this was an unpleasant comment and could have offended some viewers. However we reiterate our view that the comment clearly formed part of the narrative context in a highly unrealistic film. It conveyed the traits of the speaker and reinforced how he was viewed by the other characters. The Authority has previously acknowledged that it is within the right of broadcasters and programme makers to employ dramatic licence to tell stories and develop fictitious characters.9

[22]  Accordingly, we are satisfied that the movie did not encourage the discrimination of, or denigration against, women as a section of the community and we decline to uphold the Standard 7 complaint.

                                                                                    

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
19 November 2013


Appendix

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

1                 Wendy Holder’s formal complaint  – 27 August 2013

2                 TVWorks’ response to the complaint – 3 September 2013

3                 Ms Holder’s referral to the Authority – 13 September 2013

4                 TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 19 September 2013


1Turner and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2008-112

2Practice Note: Good Taste and Decency (Broadcasting Standards Authority, November 2006)

3See, for example, Preston and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2012-022, and Practice Note: Good Taste and Decency (Broadcasting Standards Authority, November 2006).

4See, for example, Keane and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-082.

5Hunt and Māori Television, Decision No. 2009-010

6See, for example, Mental Health Commission and CanWest RadioWorks, Decision No. 2006-030.

7For example, see Teoh and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2008-091.

8E.g. McCartain and Angus and The Radio Network, Decision No. 2002-152

9See, for example, Young and TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2013-038.