Hurrell and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2016-086 (8 March 2017)
- Peter Radich (Chair)
- Leigh Pearson
- Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
- Paula Rose
- Wayne Hurrell
BroadcasterTelevision New Zealand Ltd
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
Promos for South Park, Tosh.O and Bombshell: The Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior screened during the wildlife programme Africa’s Fishing Leopards, which was classified G. The promos contained potentially offensive language, which was censored, and verbal references to an ‘act of terror’ and ‘murder’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that it was inappropriate to broadcast promos for AO-classified programmes during G-programmes, as they contained adult themes. The Authority noted that it is acceptable to screen promos for AO programmes during G programmes, provided that the promo complies with the classification of the host programme. It found that in this case, the use of censored coarse language did not breach standards, but noted that in order to maintain a G classification, broadcasters must take care to adequately edit any AO or PGR content. The promos did not contain any other material which was adult in nature or would have adversely affected child viewers. The balance standard does not apply to the promotion of fictional or comedy programmes (only news, current affairs and factual programmes).
Not Upheld: Children’s Interests, Balance
 A promo for South Park and Tosh.O, and a separate promo for Bombshell: The Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior, were screened during the wildlife programme Africa’s Fishing Leopards, which was classified General (G). The first promo contained potentially offensive language, which was censored, and the second contained verbal references to an ‘act of terror’ and ‘murder’.
 Wayne Hurrell complained that it was inappropriate to broadcast promos for Adults Only-classified (AO) programmes during G-classified programmes, as they contained adult themes.
 The issue raised in Mr Hurrell’s complaint is whether the broadcast breached the children’s interests and balance standards as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.
 The promos were broadcast on TVNZ 1 between 4.55pm and 6pm on 9 October 2016. The members of the Authority have viewed recordings of the broadcasts complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
Did the broadcaster ensure that children could be protected from broadcasts which may adversely affect them?
 The children’s interests standard (Standard 3) states that broadcasters should ensure children can be protected from broadcasts which might adversely affect them.
The parties’ submissions
 Mr Hurrell submitted that:
- Promos for AO and PGR programmes should not be screened during G programmes or earlier in the day than the time of broadcast of the programme being promoted.
- The promos contained disturbing adult content: South Park ‘is a twisted AO cartoon’, the Tosh.O promo showed a ‘very upset face-painted man crying in the shower’ and Bombshell: The Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior was ‘clearly an AO programme with adult themes’.
- ‘Children are very impressionable and should not have inappropriate content placed in front of them’, and their interests should be put first.
 TVNZ submitted that:
- The host programme Africa’s Fishing Leopards was aimed at family and adult viewers and screened as part of a programme line-up aimed at this age group. It was not solely aimed at children in the way that, for example, a children’s cartoon slot is, and it was screened on a channel targeted at adult viewers.
- The content of the promos was not AO in nature; the promos were acceptable in the context of the G classification, and consistent with audience expectations of a wildlife programme which was not solely aimed at children.
- The coarse language used by the South Park characters was censored and the footage from Tosh.O was not graphic or inappropriate. The references in the promo were intended to be humorous, and were not explicit.
- Overall the broadcaster adequately considered the interests of child viewers in screening the promos.
 We understand Mr Hurrell’s primary concern to be the promotion of AO programmes during G programmes, or before the time of broadcast of the programme being promoted. A programme’s classification is an important factor in our consideration of the children’s interests standard, as classifications are one of the primary ways broadcasters inform viewers about whether or not a programme is suitable for children, and enable parents and caregivers to exercise discretion.
 The programme information standard (Standard 2) in the Free-to-Air Television Code explicitly recognises that broadcasters are permitted to broadcast promos for PGR or AO programmes outside of the designated PGR and AO timebands, so long as any promo complies with the classification of the programme during which it screens (the ‘host programme’).1 In other words, broadcasters are able to promote AO programmes during G programmes, provided the content of the promo meets the requirements of the G classification. The G classification is defined as:2
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.
 The question for this Authority is whether the editing of the promos in question was sufficient to bring the programme content within the bounds of the G classification, and therefore ensured the promos would not adversely affect child viewers.
 We do not consider the content of the Tosh.O and Bombshell: The Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior promos would have adversely affected child viewers. The Tosh.O promo, while perhaps not to everyone’s liking, was not disturbing or adult in nature. In the Bombshell promo, any sinister or violent activity was implied only and unlikely to be fully understood by younger viewers. No violence or other adult content was explicitly described or shown.
 In our view the only questionable aspect of the promos was the use of what could be discerned as ‘Fuck you’, despite the censoring used, during the South Park promo. We have carefully considered whether the use of language which requires censoring was suitable for a G classification, or whether this more properly fell within the PGR classification.
 Taking into account the effect of the promo as a whole, we have concluded that on this occasion standards were not breached. The use of ‘bleeping out’ technology to censor the potentially offensive language mitigated the impact of the language, and the remainder of the promo did not contain any other instances of adult or explicit material. For these reasons, we find that the broadcaster adequately considered children’s interests, and we do not uphold this part of the complaint.
 Nevertheless, we take this opportunity to remind broadcasters that in order to maintain a G classification, they must take care to adequately edit any AO or PGR content intended for inclusion in a promo.
Did the item discuss a controversial issue of public importance which required the presentation of alternative viewpoints?
 The balance standard (Standard 8) states that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed in news, current affairs and factual programmes, broadcasters should make reasonable efforts, or give reasonable opportunities, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.
 Mr Hurrell did not make any submissions under this standard, beyond stating that South Park is ‘controversial’.
 The balance standard only applies to news, current affairs or factual programming. The promos in question were for a variety of comedy and/or fictional programmes. Therefore this standard is not applicable and we do not uphold this aspect of the complaint.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
8 March 2017
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Wayne Hurrell’s formal complaint – 13 October 2016
2 TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 11 November 2016
3 Mr Hurrell’s referral to the Authority – 17 November 2016
4 TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 9 December 2016
1 Guideline 2e to Standard 2 (Programme Information)
2 Guideline 2a to Standard 2 (Programme Information)