BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Hooker and TV3 Network Services Ltd - 2002-043

Members
  • P Cartwright (Chair)
  • B Hayward
  • R Bryant
  • J H McGregor
Dated
Complainant
  • Michael Hooker
Number
2002-043
Channel/Station
TV3

Complaint
Promo Bitches and B*stards – offensive language – promo for AO rated programme screened at 8.00pm – inappropriately classified

Findings
Standard G2 – contextual matters – no uphold

Standard G8 – promo appropriately classified – no uphold

Standard G12 – taking into account classification and theme of programme in which promo screened – no uphold

Standard G22 – see G8 – no uphold

Standard G24 – no violent or explicit material – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision. 


Summary

 

[1] A promo for the AO rated programme Bitches and B*stards was broadcast by TV3 at 8.00pm on 15 November 2001, during the PGR rated programme Family Confidential.

[2] Michael Hooker complained to TV3 Network Services Ltd, the broadcaster, that the broadcast of offensive language at that time was unacceptable and in breach of the broadcasting standards. He cited some of the Authority’s earlier decisions about the broadcast of promos in support of his complaint.

[3] In response, TV3 focused on the context in which the promo was broadcast. It argued that, given the themes and language of Family Confidential, the promo was not inappropriate, and it declined to uphold the complaint.

[4] Dissatisfied with TV3’s decision, Mr Hooker referred his complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons below, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Decision

[5] The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the item complained about and have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

The Programme

[6] A promo for the programme Bitches and B*stards, which included audio and visual references to the words "bitch" and "bastard", was broadcast on TV3 at 8.00pm on 15 November 2001.

The Complaint

[7] Michael Hooker complained to TV3 that the language in the programme’s title was offensive. He referred to a number of the Authority’s earlier decisions and to its research on community attitudes in the previous 10 years to substantiate his complaint.

[8] Mr Hooker highlighted comments in earlier decisions which referred to the need for special care when promos for AO programmes were broadcast in the PGR time band. He also referred to comments which indicated the need for care when using promos as viewers seldom had any choice whether or not to watch them.

[9] Taking into account the comments in Decision No: 1996-019 where a complaint was upheld about the use of the phrase "stop pissing around" in a promo during the PGR time band, Mr Hooker asked whether the phrase "bitches and bastards" would be acceptable in an advertisement broadcast in PGR time.

The Standards

[10] TV3 assessed the complaint against the standards nominated by Mr Hooker. Standards G2, G8 and G12 require broadcasters:

G2  To take into consideration currently accepted norms of decency and taste in language and behaviour, bearing in mind the context in which any language or behaviour occurs.

G8  To abide by the classification codes and their appropriate time bands as outlined in the agreed criteria for programme classifications.

G12  To be mindful of the effect any programme may have on children during their normally accepted viewing times.

[11] The other standards cited read:

G22  Promotions (promos) for AO programmes may be screened during PGR or G time bands provided the promo is made in such a way that it can be classified as PGR or G, as appropriate. Promotions which carry an AO classification may only be screened within AO times bands.

G24  Broadcasters must be mindful that scenes containing incidents of violence or other explicit material may be acceptable when seen in the total context of a programme, but when extracted for promotion purposes such incidents will be seen out of context and may thereby be unacceptable, not only in terms of the codes but also for the time band during which the trailer is placed.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[12] TV3 explained that Bitches and B*stards was a British-made programme about people who had gained the reputation of being nasty. The promo, TV3 added, was broadcast during a PGR rated programme Family Confidential and it contained both audio and visual references to the words "bitch" and "bastard".

[13] It maintained that the series Family Confidential contained low level offensive language and thus viewers would not find the language used in the promo unexpected.

[14] Turning to the standards, TV3 maintained that standard G2 was not contravened given the contextual issues cited together with the point that the words were not used aggressively in the promo.

[15] Repeating the point that Family Confidential was rated PGR and included low level swearing and teenage themes, and was appropriate in the PGR time band, TV3 declined to uphold the standard G8 and G12 aspects.

[16] In regard to standards G22 and G24, TV3 stated that the title was not the reason why Bitches and B*stards was rated AO. It acknowledged that promos did not usually include such words as "bitch" and "bastards", because their use would limit the times the promo could be screened. However, in this case the words were in the title of the programme and, by screening it during Family Confidential, TV3 maintained, the standards had not been transgressed.

[17] It declined to uphold the complaint.

The Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority

[18] In response to TV3’s emphasis on the programme which was being screened at the time the promo was broadcast, Mr Hooker referred to Decision No: 1995-022 when the Authority noted that it was not prepared to accept the type of programme as a justification for a promo "should it otherwise contravene the standards".

[19] Mr Hooker concluded:

"Bitch" and "bastard" are derogatory terms. The use of such language in children’s viewing time, particularly without context, desensitises children to such language and gives children the impression that referring to people in this way is acceptable.

Mr Hooker’s Final Comment

[20] As the Authority’s survey disclosed that respondents had a strong objection to the word "bitch", Mr Hooker did not accept that it could be described as "low level" swearing.

The Authority’s Determination

[21] When it determines a complaint about whether a broadcast contravenes standard G2, the Authority is required to determine whether the material complained about breaches currently accepted standards of good taste and decency, taking into account the context of the broadcast. The context is relevant, but not decisive, to the Authority’s determination of whether the programme breaches standard G2. Accordingly, the Authority has considered the context of the promo.

[22] The Authority considers that relevant contextual matters include the promo’s PGR rating and its broadcast during the PGR rated programme Family Confidential. As TV3 pointed out, Family Confidential included low level swearing and teenage themes. The Authority also considers it relevant that the words complained about were not used aggressively. Rather, the words were used specifically to refer to people who took part in the programme. Having considered these contextual factors and, moreover, taking into account the points noted in paragraph [22], the Authority concludes that the material Mr Hooker complained about does not breach standard G2.

[23] Standard G8 requires broadcasters to abide by the classification codes and their appropriate time bands. Similarly, standard G22 requires that a promo which is screened during the PGR time band must be made in such a way that it can be classified as PGR. In this case taking into account the contextual factors listed above, the Authority considers that the promo was correctly classified PGR and was screened at an appropriate time. Accordingly, it finds that standards G8 and G22 were not breached.

[24] In relation to standard G12, the Authority accepts TV3’s argument that screening the PGR classified promo during Family Confidential, a programme containing teenage themes, was not inappropriate. The Authority also declines to uphold this aspect of the complaint.

[25] As to standard G24, the Authority does not regard this standard as relevant to the complaint, as it does not believe that the material Mr Hooker complained about in the promo constituted violent or explicit material.

[26] The Authority is aware that promos for programmes to be screened later in a more restrictive time band cause concern to some viewers. It is the Authority’s experience from the complaints that it has been necessary to remind broadcasters from time to time to use care when preparing promos to ensure that any promo complies with the rating of the time band applicable when the programme is screened.

[28] The Authority also observes that to find a breach of broadcasting standards on this occasion would be to interpret the Broadcasting Act 1989 in such a way as to limit freedom of expression in a manner which is not reasonable or demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society (s.5 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990). As required by s.6 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights, the Authority adopts an interpretation of the relevant standards which it considers is consistent with the Bill of Rights.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Judy McGregor
Member
18 April 2002

Appendix

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

  1. Michael Hooker’s Complaint to TV3 Network Services Ltd – undated
  2. TV3’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 11 January 2002
  3. Mr Hooker’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 28 January 2002
  4. TV3’s Response to the Authority – 21 February 2002
  5. Mr Hooker’s Final Comment – 6 March 2002