BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Sta. Lucia and MediaWorks TV Ltd - 2019-048 (30 September 2019)

Members
  • Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
  • Paula Rose
  • Wendy Palmer
  • Susie Staley
Dated
Complainant
  • Lisa Sta. Lucia
Number
2019-048
Programme
Love Island UK
Broadcaster
MediaWorks TV Ltd
Channel/Station
Three

Summary

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

The Authority has not upheld a complaint that an episode of Love Island UK, aired at 5pm and classified G, breached the children’s interests standard. The Authority noted that the episode of Love Island UK was heavily edited to meet the G classification required for the 5pm timeslot and was not the same as the extended version of the programme available online on ThreeNow. The Authority found that in the context in which it was aired the broadcast did not cause harm at the level that justified intervention by the Authority. While the episode of Love Island UK contained some mature themes, and may not reflect values that all parents and caregivers would endorse for children in their care, it did not contain content that would alarm or distress children to the extent justifying intervention. The Authority identified that the name of the programme, the scheduling of it between news programmes targeted at a mature audience, the information about the programme provided in the electronic programme guide, and the likely and target audience were relevant contextual factors. The programme was not designed to attract children and screened between programmes that would not generally interest children. The Authority found that the audience would have had enough information to make an informed decision about their viewing or the viewing of children in their care.

Not Upheld: Children’s Interests


The broadcast

[1]  Love Island UK is a dating reality TV show available in unedited form on demand on ThreeNow, with edited episodes broadcast on channel Three at 5pm on weeknights. It involves a group of contestants living in a villa in Majorca where they must ‘couple up’ to avoid being eliminated from the show. The winning couple (chosen by public vote) receives £50,000. Contestants initially couple up based on first impressions in the first episode and are then required to ‘re-couple’ throughout the series.1

[2]  The episode considered by the broadcaster in relation to this complaint was the first of the 2019 series, in which the contestants were introduced and paired up, and started to get to know each other.

[3]  The episode was broadcast on 5 June 2019 on Three. As part of our consideration of this complaint, we have watched a recording of the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

The complaint

[4]  Lisa Sta. Lucia complained that Love Island UK breached the children’s interests standard as it was not appropriate for children and broadcasting it at 5pm was not in the best interests of children.

[5]  In her initial complaint, Ms Sta. Lucia raised both the good taste and decency and children’s interests standards, but only raised the children’s interests standard in her referral of the complaint to the Authority. Therefore the Authority has only considered the complaint under the children’s interests standard.

The broadcaster’s response

[6]  MediaWorks did not uphold the complaint, noting that each episode is carefully edited by MediaWorks to comply with the G classification time band for broadcast at 5pm, and ‘in some cases, significant material is removed or masked’.

[7]  MediaWorks argued that the appearance and clothing of the contestants and how their relationships are depicted are editorial and production considerations to which broadcasting standards do not apply. It provided some general comments regarding concerns about these aspects of the series:

  • ‘The appearance and body-types of the Islanders [contestants] is a casting matter which is outside the scope of the Broadcasting Standards.’
  • The contestants ‘may be considered conventionally attractive’ but this is not ‘inherently inappropriate for any programme, regardless of classification’.
  • Love Island UK does not contain nudity, and ‘there is an extensive appraising and editing process to ensure that any such material would be removed for the 5pm broadcast.’
  • The contestants wear swimsuits during the day ‘because the weather is hot and they spend most of their time by the pool’ and ‘in cooler temperatures, or when they are engaged in more formal activities, their clothing choices vary accordingly.’
  • The formation and development of relationships follows ‘a relatively orthodox or traditional pattern’, sometimes developing from initial physical attraction and sometimes developing from personality compatibility. It is this latter feature that ‘ultimately dictates whether their relationships succeed or fail’.
  • The competitive structure ‘rewards monogamy and stability’,2 and ‘a number of relationships formed on Love Island UK have endured in the real world. In some cases they have led to marriage.’

[8]  In relation to the children’s interests standard, MediaWorks submitted:

  • The 5pm broadcast was carefully edited to be appropriate for the G classification.
  • The show was ‘unlikely to hold significant appeal for children’. Children ‘would be more likely to choose to view programmes directed at them screening on other channels or online services’. This is evident from the ratings for the first five episodes; only 7% of the audience was aged 5-14 years, 2% aged 15-24 years, and 91% (‘the vast majority’) aged over 25.
  • The first episode did not contain offensive language, sexual material, nudity, violence or ‘other material likely to have caused widespread undue offence or distress’.
  • ‘Programmes that target adults or which feature adult situations and themes are not prohibited from broadcast in G time bands, provided they meet the expectations of the G classification. There are a number of well-known and popular programmes that contain material directed at adults but which air in G time bands. For example: Friends, The Simpsons and Home & Away.’

[9]  MediaWorks also asked that the Authority recognise that:

  • The version of Love Island UK broadcast on Three is significantly different from the British and on-demand versions.
  • All broadcast episodes are ‘carefully edited’ to comply with the G classification.
  • More than three minutes of material was removed from this particular episode (5 June 2019).

Jurisdiction

[10]  Ms Sta. Lucia identified the broadcast date as 6 June 2019, but submitted her complaint to MediaWorks before that day’s episode was broadcast. MediaWorks nevertheless accepted the complaint and considered it in relation to the 5 June 2019 broadcast (the only episode that had aired at the time Ms Sta. Lucia submitted the complaint).

[11]  The Authority’s jurisdiction is limited to formal complaints about specific broadcast content that has already aired.3 On this basis the Authority has previously found that a broadcaster was entitled to reject a complaint that was made prior to the relevant broadcast going to air, and the Authority declined jurisdiction to accept and consider the complaint.4 However, in this case, as the complaint was about a series, and there was already an episode of Love Island UK which had been broadcast, MediaWorks accepted and responded to the complaint in the first instance with reference to that episode. Additionally, as the broadcaster has submitted to the Authority’s jurisdiction and has not objected to the complaint referral, there is nothing in the Broadcasting Act 1989 that precludes us from determining this complaint under section 21(1).

The children’s interests standard

[12]  The standard states that broadcasters should ensure children can be protected from broadcasts which might adversely affect them. This may include material that unduly disturbs them, is harmful or is likely to impair their development. The focus of the standard is on harm that may be unique to children (and which may not be harmful or unexpected when considering the audience in general). Context is an important consideration.

[13]  For the purposes of this complaint, material that may be considered under this standard includes sexual material or themes outside audience expectations. The broadcast did not contain offensive language or any of the other material likely to be considered under this standard.

Our findings: Freedom of expression and harm

[14]  The openness of our society and its liberal character is recognised in the fundamental concept of freedom of expression which is enshrined in our Bill of Rights. This means there should be a freedom to express and impart ideas or information, and a freedom to receive those ideas or information – a freedom which is fundamental in broadcasting. Therefore the inclination is towards freedom and away from restrictions and intrusions, which are only justifiable to avoid actual or potential harm that may be caused by a broadcast.

[15]  In determining this complaint, we acknowledge there has been some controversy around the Love Island UK 2019 series5 and MediaWorks’ decision to broadcast the series at 5pm.6 We recognise that parents and caregivers may be concerned about the premise and themes of Love Island UK as a series, including body image, partner swapping and possible references to sexual relationships.

[16]  Our responsibility is to consider the complaint about the programme that aired on free-to-air television in New Zealand on 5 June 2019. It is important that we record at the outset that the episode was heavily edited, and not the same as the unedited version which was made available on ThreeNow. We are advised that the edited episode we have considered is quite different from the unedited episodes of Love Island UK, which have typically been broadcast at a later time and with a higher classification. Our decision relates to the edited version of the episode that appeared on free-to-air television.

[17]  Having viewed the 5 June 2019 episode as it was broadcast on channel Three, and for the reasons we express below, we have reached the view that in the context in which it was aired the broadcast did not cause harm at the level that justifies intervention by the Authority.

[18]  From time to time the Authority receives complaints about broadcasts which challenge it to examine material that individual Authority members may dislike or disagree with, or may not choose to watch ordinarily. In determining a number of complaints about reality dating show Naked Attraction, the Authority described its role as follows:7

Our function is not to drive for different values or what some may say are ‘better’ values. We are required to judge what is before us against the values that our communities have and to this extent it is not appropriate for us to be the promoters of change to our societal values.

[19]  Audiences should have the freedom to make viewing and listening choices. It is not our role to denounce broadcasts which some may consider to be in poor taste or indecent, provided such broadcasts do not cause harm at a level requiring our intervention.

[20]  When we make a decision on a complaint that broadcasting standards have been breached, our task is to weigh the value of the programme, in terms of the right to freedom of expression, against the level of actual or potential harm that might be caused. In some instances a broadcast may be seen to raise issues of harm to an individual or to groups of persons. In other cases, such as the complaint before us, what is being said is that the harm may accrue to children generally. We have always been more ready to limit broadcasting freedom in circumstances where specific harm or potential harm to an individual can be identified, than where generalised harm is alleged.8

[21]  The Authority’s recently-published literature review on the impacts on children and young people of exposure to nudity on television and in other media, noted that ‘sexualised images and messages are increasingly visible for children and young people who may not have the maturity to critically analyse what they are seeing and put it into context.’9 The literature showed that children use media sources to learn about sexuality, and there can be positive and negative impacts from this. While one study found that watching sexualised media content led to sex being a less taboo subject, with young people more able to openly talk and think about what they had seen, other studies identified potential harms from sexualised media including how children’s attitudes and perceptions of sexual reality, and what is sexually attractive, can be shaped.10

[22]  A key finding in the research was the important role that parents and caregivers play in monitoring their children’s viewing habits and having the capacity to talk to children about what they watch and listen to. With this in mind, the focus of our decision has been on whether the content itself caused harm and whether there was sufficient information provided by the broadcaster to enable parents and caregivers to make an informed choice about their children’s exposure to the programme.11

[23]  In reaching our decision on this complaint, we gave careful consideration to the possible harm from this broadcast, as distinct from making a value judgement on the premise or themes of the programme. Overall, we found that, while Love Island UK contained some mature themes, and may not reflect values that all parents and caregivers would endorse for children in their care, it did not contain content that would alarm or distress children to the extent justifying intervention. Therefore, taking into account the contextual factors discussed below, we did not see it as causing harm which would justify our intervention to restrict freedom of expression.

Our analysis under the children’s interests standard

[24]  The purpose of the children’s interests standard is to enable audiences to protect children from material that unduly disturbs them, is harmful or is likely to impair their development.12 The focus of the standard is on harm that may be unique to children (and which may not be harmful to the audience in general).13

[25]  Context is an important consideration when assessing complaints under this standard. Contextual factors include the time of broadcast, the programme’s classification, the target and likely audience, and audience expectations.

[26]  The level of choice and control that viewers and listeners have over the content to which they expose themselves and children in their care, also impacts on the application of the standards.14 The freedom and capacity of an audience to make viewing and listening choices and to be able to prevent children and young people from viewing or listening to inappropriate material are significant factors in determining what is, and what is not, acceptable. When audiences are adequately informed of the nature of a programme it follows that they are less likely to be surprised or offended by its content and therefore that the broadcast is less likely to breach the standards.

Classification and time of broadcast

[27]  The classification of a programme is an important consideration as the use of classifications is one of the primary ways that broadcasters enable audiences to make informed viewing choices and regulate their own, and their children’s, viewing. In determining this complaint, our focus was on whether the broadcaster enabled children to be protected from unsuitable content, in particular by assigning a G classification to this episode of Love Island UK and broadcasting it at 5pm.

[28]  We have carefully considered whether this episode of Love Island UK was correctly classified G or whether it warranted a higher rating of PGR, which would have alerted parents and caregivers to the need for supervision. The G and PGR classifications are defined as follows:15

 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.

PGR – Parental Guidance Recommended

Programmes containing material more suited for mature audiences but not necessarily unsuitable for child viewers when subject to the guidance of a parent or an adult.

[29]  While the classification of a programme signals to audiences whether a broadcast is likely to cause harm or require parental supervision, it is not determinative of the target audience of a programme. This means that while G content must not be unsuitable for an unsupervised child, it does not mean that it must be designed with the child viewer in mind.

[30]  The Authority has previously found that the G classification indicates that the nature of the programme means parents, caregivers and guardians can be confident in leaving children unsupervised in front of the television to watch programmes during a G-classified timeslot, and that there will be no content which will unduly disturb or upset children of any age.16 A child means a person under the age of 14.17

[31]  Looking first at the programme’s themes, we accept that Love Island UK was focused on adult romantic relationships and that aspects of the programme alluded to sexual relationships or contained sexual innuendo. For example, some of the male contestants described themselves as promiscuous and ‘players’, and the contestants discussed how they felt about sharing beds with their new partners.

[32]  Nevertheless, we all agreed that the general premise and themes of Love Island UK as they were presented in this broadcast did not exceed what is acceptable for the G classification. Although it was broadcast at a time when children may be watching, the programme was not designed to attract a child audience and the presentation of the more mature themes would not have alarmed or distressed any children who happened to be watching. In our view the programme was more likely to prompt curiosity than disturb children, and its themes, including around relationships and body image, are similar to those found in other G programmes such as The Big Bang Theory, Friends and Home and Away. Overall, while some parents may not like the premise of Love Island UK, we do not consider the presence of more mature themes, as they manifested in this particular episode, necessitated a PGR classification.

[33]  The level of specific content in the broadcast also supports our finding that the programme overall complied with its G classification:

  • The physical acts depicted between contestants in this episode were limited to hugs and kisses on the cheek; the episode did not contain any sexual acts.
  •  Any sexual references in the episode were generally inexplicit and mild or beyond a child’s understanding, and therefore not unsuitable for the G classification. In this respect we are satisfied that the broadcaster’s efforts to edit more sexually explicit or unsuitable content out of the episode were adequate.
  •  While there was no full-frontal nudity, we acknowledge that all of the contestants were scantily-clad in swimwear throughout the episode. The women’s bikinis were particularly revealing, including g-strings revealing buttocks at times. We also acknowledge that, while other G-rated programmes such as Home and Away, Friends, The Big Bang Theory and America’s Next Top Model on occasion include wardrobe choices that include revealing clothing, they do not have the same unrelenting focus on skin exposure as Love Island UK. Nevertheless, we consider the appearance of the contestants in revealing swimwear may arguably be an editorial decision, and in any event did not go beyond the G classification in the absence of any accompanying sexualised behaviour.

Target and likely audience, and audience expectations

[34]  We also considered the likely and target audience and audience expectations of Love Island UK in determining whether the programme breached the children’s interests standard. In our view, adults were the likely and target audience of this programme, and the nature and content of the show would have been clear to parents and caregivers who have a responsibility to be live to the individual needs of children in their care. In reaching this view we took into account the following:

Target and likely audience

  • Love Island UK is a reality TV show18 targeted at adults aged 16 to 34.19
  • The name of the show indicates that it is about love, relationships and activities on an island.
  • The show depicts a number of scenes of young adults sitting around discussing their relationships. We do not consider that the storyline or activities would hold significant appeal for children (being those under the age of 14).
  • This episode aired at 4.30pm after Newshub Live and before Newshub Live at 6pm, both of which have an adult target audience.

Audience expectations

  • The nature of the programme and that it would usually be broadcast at 5pm was well-publicised before the first episode was shown on 5 June 2019.20
  • This is the fifth series of Love Island UK and its format and premise were established in previous seasons.
  • The audience could reasonably expect that this is a reality show based around adults creating and breaking relationships.
  • The electronic programme guide for this programme gave an indication of the nature of the programme, describing the programme as follows:

‘The world’s hottest TV show is here! Hosted by Caroline Flack, watch as a cast of hot young singles embark on a summer of romance in Majorca. But with money on the line, the road to love isn’t easy. Today: Premiere. New Episode. Caroline Flack welcomes a brand new cast to a luxury villa in Majorca, Spain. Watch as the first wave of Islanders couple up and get to know each other. S5 Ep1.’

[35]  In these circumstances, we find that the broadcaster adequately enabled child viewers to be protected and that audiences were able to make an informed decision to choose not to watch. We therefore find no breach of the children’s interests standard.

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.


Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

 

 

Judge Bill Hastings

Chair

30 September 2019

 

 

Appendix

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

1                 Lisa Sta. Lucia’s formal complaint – 6 June 2019

2                 MediaWorks’ response to the complaint – 3 July 2019

3                 Ms Sta. Lucia’s referral to the Authority – 5 July 2019

4                 MediaWorks’ further comments – 19 July 2019

 


1 https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4770018/
2 We note that in the 2018 season of Love Island UK, contestants with more partners lasted longer on the show – see ‘Love Island 2018 in seven charts’, BBC News, 31 July 2018 (final chart).
3 Section 6(2), Broadcasting Act 1989. Also see Crow and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2017-010 at [13]
4 Crow and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2017-010 at [5]
5 See ‘Love Island returns amid debate about contestants’ mental health’, NZ Herald, 6 June 2019
6 See ‘Love Island at 5pm is “pornification of our culture”, says Family First’, Stuff, 5 June 2019; ‘Kids shouldn’t be watching Love Island (and not because of the bikinis and sex)’, The Spinoff, 5 June 2019; ‘Principal issues warning as children play ‘Love Island’ in the playground’, NZ Herald, 12 June 2019; and ‘Love Island isn’t suitable for 5pm time slot, says child development expert’, Stuff, 16 July 2019
7 13 Complainants and Television New Zealand, Decision No. 2017-101 at [44]
8 As above, at [47]
9 Literature Review: Impacts on Children and Young People of Exposure to Nudity on Television and Other Media, page 9
10 Summary, Literature Review: Impacts on Children and Young People of Exposure to Nudity on Television and Other Media
11 See Guideline 3c
12 Commentary: Children’s Interests, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 13
13 As above, page 14
14 Choice and Control, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 7
15 Definitions, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 9
16 Johns and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2016-049 at [17]
17 Definitions, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 9
18 https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/reality_tv
19 See ‘CBS Took a Big Gamble on Love Island This Summer. Did It Pay Off?’, Vulture, 7 August 2019; ‘Charlotte Rogers: Love Island may be a ratings hit, but it’s a brand risk’, Marketing Week, 5 June 2019; and ‘Love Island success boosts younger audience for ITV’, Campaign Live UK, 20 July 2017
20 See ‘Love Island NZ is Three betting its house on epic reality TV’ The Spinoff, 3 March 2019; ‘Love Island NZ is Coming’, NZ Herald, 3 March 2019; ‘Prepare yourself, Love Island will be on every single day’, Stuff, 21 May 2019; and ‘Here are the singles heading into the villa for season five of Love Island UK’, Stuff, 28 May 2019