BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

North and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2010-090

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Tapu Misa
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
Dated
Complainant
  • Harley North
Number
2010-090
Channel/Station
TV2

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Promo for The Vampire Diaries – broadcast during a G-rated programme at 4.55pm – contained shots of vampires and people kissing – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency, responsible programming, children’s interests, and violence standards

Findings
Standard 8 (responsible programming) – images in the promo very brief and dark – would not have left a lasting impression likely to disturb or alarm child viewers – correctly rated G – not upheld

Standard 9 (children’s interests) – promo unlikely to disturb or alarm children – broadcaster adequately considered children’s interests – not upheld

Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – promo was fleeting and inexplicit – not upheld

Standard 10 (violence) – promo did not contain any violence – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]   On Saturday 20 June 2010, a promo for an upcoming series The Vampire Diaries was broadcast on TV2 at approximately 4.55pm during America’s Funniest Home Videos, which was rated G. The Vampire Diaries was classified PGR and screened at 8.30pm on Thursday. The 25-second promo contained a rapid montage of dark, indistinct images including a clothed couple kissing on a bed, women in their underwear, a male vampire’s face, and a close-up of someone’s mouth being licked.

Complaint

[2]   Harley North made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the promo breached standards relating to good taste and decency, responsible programming, children’s interests, and violence.

[3]   The complainant considered that the promo contained “graphic fantasy/sexual/horror type scenes”, including “a vampire person with their tongue fully extended and licking the face or neck of another person, teeth, fangs and... blood were also present”. Further, the complainant said, “As with most vampire programmes there was a sense of sexual type behaviour”. Mr North argued that it was “extremely offensive” and in bad taste to broadcast this type of material at 4.55pm during America’s Funniest Home Videos when families and children would be watching. By contrast, he noted that a promo for Shrek was shown in the same advertisement break, which he considered demonstrated that TVNZ was aware that it was a family viewing timeslot.

Standards

[4]   Standards 1, 8, 9 and 10 and guidelines 1a, 8b and 9a of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice are relevant to the determination of this complaint. The complainant also nominated guideline 10c. These provide:

Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency

Broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency.

Guideline 1a

Broadcasters will take into account current norms of good taste and decency bearing in mind the context in which any content occurs and the wider context of the broadcast e.g. programme classification, target audience, type of programme and use of warnings etc.

Standard 8 Responsible Programming

Broadcasters should ensure programmes:

• are appropriately classified;

• display programme classification information;

• adhere to timebands in accordance with Appendix 1;

• are not presented in such a way as to cause panic, or unwarranted alarm or undue
 distress; and

• do not deceive or disadvantage the viewer.

Guideline 8b

All promos (including promos for news and current affairs) should be classified to comply with the “host programme” (the programme in which they screen).

Standard 9 Children’s Interests

During children’s normally accepted viewing times (see Appendix 1), broadcasters should consider the interests of child viewers.

Guideline 9a

Broadcasters should be mindful of the effect any programme or promo may have on children during their normally accepted viewing times – usually up to 8.30pm – and avoid screening material that would disturb or alarm them.

Standard 10 Violence

Broadcasters should exercise care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence.

Guideline 10c

Programmes in which rape or sexual violence is a theme should be treated with care.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[5]   TVNZ noted that the promo was screened during America’s Funniest Home Videos which was rated G, meaning it excluded material likely to be unsuitable for children. It argued that to constitute a breach of Standard 1, the broadcast material must be unacceptable in the context in which it was shown including the classification, the time of broadcast, the intended audience, and the use of warnings.

[6]   TVNZ considered there were a number of contextual factors relevant to the broadcast of the promo for The Vampire Diaries. First, it noted that the Authority had previously stated that Standard 1 was primarily aimed at broadcasts containing sexual material, nudity, violence or coarse language, and argued that the promo did not fall into any of these categories. However, it accepted that the Authority would also consider “any broadcast that portrays or discusses material in a way that is likely to cause offence or distress”. TVNZ said it did not consider that the promo would have caused offence or distress.

[7]   The broadcaster argued that there was “no footage of blood being licked” in the promo, but said there was footage of couples kissing and that “they were all clothed and this is appropriate in a G-rated promo”. TVNZ considered that “the ‘vampire’ element in the promo (fangs, red eyes) was very brief and there was no hint of threat in the promo regarding this footage i.e. the vampires were not hurting anyone.”

[8]   TVNZ concluded that the promo was appropriately screened during America’s Funniest Home Videos and it declined to uphold the Standard 1 complaint.

[9]   Turning to consider Standard 8 (responsible programming), TVNZ stated that there were many different versions of the promo for The Vampire Diaries which were given different ratings according to their content. It said that the version subject to complaint was rated G for the reasons discussed under Standard 1.

[10]   TVNZ concluded that the promo was correctly rated and screened in an appropriate host programme and it declined to uphold the Standard 8 complaint.

[11]   With regard to children’s interests, TVNZ maintained that the promo did not contain the material referred to by the complainant, although other PGR or AO versions of the promo may have. It said it reviewed the on-air recording from the day that was specified and it was confident that the promo described in its decision did screen at 4.53pm during America’s Funniest Home Videos. The broadcaster therefore considered that the promo did not contain any material that would disturb or alarm child viewers and that it had adequately considered children’s interests. It declined to uphold the Standard 9 complaint.

[12]   Finally, looking at Standard 10, TVNZ again maintained that the promo did not contain the material referred to by the complainant, such as a vampire licking someone’s face, teeth, fangs, or blood, and it did not consider that any of the footage amounted to sexual violence under guideline 10c. It declined to uphold this part of the complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[13]   Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Harley North referred the complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. The complainant said that while the descriptions of the promo’s content in the formal complaint may not have been entirely accurate, he still believed that, “when viewed in its entirety and considering the other programming before and after the promo,” the promo still breached broadcasting standards.

Authority's Determination

[14]   The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

Standard 8 (responsible programming)

[15]   Standard 8 requires programmes to be correctly classified and screened in appropriate time-bands. Guideline 8b to that standard requires that promos are classified to comply with the programme in which they screen.

[16]   The promo subject to complaint was screened at 4.55pm during America’s Funniest Home Videos which was rated G. The G classification is defined as follows in Appendix 1 of the Code:

G – General

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.

G programmes may be screened at any time.

[17]   In our view, while some adult viewers may have discerned subtle sexual and menacing undertones in the images, we consider that the promo was relatively innocuous. The images were shown in rapid succession, and any images which might have warranted a PGR rating were dark and visually inexplicit. We consider that most viewers seeing the promo only once would have found it difficult to distinguish any single image.

[18]   Given that the images in the promo were so fleeting and visually indistinct, we are of the view that they would not have created any impression that was likely to alarm or distress child viewers. We therefore find that the promo was appropriately screened during a G-rated programme, and we decline to uphold this part of the complaint.

Standard 9 (children’s interests)

[19]   Standard 9 requires broadcasters to consider the interests of child viewers during their normally accepted viewing times – usually up to 8.30pm. Guideline 9a states that broadcasters should be mindful of the effect any programme or promo may have on children during these times and avoid screening material that would disturb or alarm them.

[20]   We have found above under Standard 8 that, as the images in the promo were extremely brief and inexplicit, the promo was unlikely to disturb or alarm children, and was appropriately classified G. Accordingly, we are satisfied that the broadcaster adequately considered the interests of child viewers in screening the promo at 4.55pm during America’s Funniest Home Videos, and we decline to uphold the children’s interests complaint.

Standard 1 (good taste and decency)

[21]   When the Authority considers an alleged breach of good taste and decency, it takes into account the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, the relevant contextual factors include:

  • the promo was broadcast at 4.55pm on a Sunday during children’s normally accepted viewing times
  • it was screened during America’s Funniest Home Videos which was rated G
  • episodes of The Vampire Diaries were classified PGR or AO and broadcast at 8.30pm on Thursday.

[22]   For the reasons outlined in paragraphs [17], [18] and [20] above, and taking into account the relevant contextual factors, we find that the promo’s content did not breach standards of of good taste and decency.

Standard 10 (violence)

[23]   Standard 10 states that broadcasters should exercise care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence. In our view, while it may have alluded to vampires, the promo did not contain any explicit or implicit violence. We therefore decline to uphold this part of the complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
26 October 2010

Appendix

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

1.           Harley North’s formal complaint – 20 June 2010

2.          TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 19 July 2010

3.          Mr North’s referral to the Authority – 20 July 2010

4.          TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 1 September 2010