BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Stranaghan and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2004-013, 2004-014

Members
  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
Dated
Complainant
  • Edwin Stranaghan
Number
2004-013–014
Programme
Coronation Street
Channel/Station
TV One

Complaint
Coronation Street – two episodes included domestic discord – males struck by females – unnecessary violence – gender discrimination

Findings
Standard 6 and Guideline 6g – characters treated unequally in fictional series – standard not applicable – not upheld

Standard 10 – violence displayed appropriate to dramatic storylines – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision


Summary

[1] Domestic incidents showing physical abuse of men by their women partners were included in episodes of Coronation Street broadcast on TV One at 7.30pm on 25 September and 7 October 2003.

[2] Edwin Stranaghan complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that each incident involved unnecessary violence and gender discrimination. He contended that it was discrimination to show women assaulting men, when it was unacceptable to show men assaulting women. He also argued that the programme should be broadcast later in the evening.

[3] Explaining that Coronation Street was fiction and included a long history of domestic discord, TVNZ declined to uphold the complaints.

[4] Dissatisfied with TVNZ's decision, Mr Stranaghan referred his complaints 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 complaints.

Decision

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

Programme

[6] Coronation Street is a long-running fictional series looking at families in a suburb of Manchester. Domestic discord has been a regular feature and at times has involved violence. The tempestuous relationship between “Karen” and “Steve McDonald” involved Karen striking Steve in the episode broadcast at 7.30pm on 25 September. The episode broadcast on 7 October showed “Lucy” striking her new husband “Peter” after discovering that Peter had not told his former fiancée that their relationship was over.

Complaint

[7] Edwin Stranaghan complained about the episodes on the basis that they involved violent spousal abuse at 7.30pm, and discrimination against men. TVNZ, he noted, guarded against showing items involving men striking women, but not against items showing women striking men. He described the practice as unacceptable discrimination.

Standards

[8] TVNZ assessed the complaints under Standards 6 and 10 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. The Standards and relevant Guidelines read:

Standard 6 Fairness

In the preparation and presentation of  programmes, broadcasters are required to deal justly and fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to.

Guideline

6g  Broadcasters should avoid portraying persons in programmes in a manner that encourages denigration of, or discrimination against, sections of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation , race, age, disability, or occupational status, or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religious, cultural or political beliefs. This requirement is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material which is:

i) factual, or

ii) the expression of genuinely held opinion in news, current affairs or other factual programmes, or

iii) in the legitimate context of a dramatic, humorous or satirical work.

Standard 10 Violence

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are required to exercise care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence.

 

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[9] TVNZ emphasised that Coronation Street was a work of fiction and described the incidents complained about as “storytelling”. It also noted that domestic discord and violence had featured regularly over the years. It declined to uphold the discrimination aspect of the complaint on the basis that the incidents indicated neither a discriminatory attitude within Coronation Street nor within TVNZ. Moreover, it noted the exception in Guideline 6g (iii) for dramatic works.

[10] As the programme was rated PGR and as the incidents involved well-known characters in long-running story lines displaying behaviour of which viewers would be aware, TVNZ considered the level of violence shown did not require a stricter classification. It declined to uphold that aspect as well.

Referral to the Authority

[11] Mr Stranaghan considered that TVNZ, with its reliance on Coronation Street's 40 year history, had not acknowledged that values changed over time. He considered first that TVNZ had not adequately dealt with his complaint about discrimination, and secondly, the series should be screened later in the evening in view of the violent incidents portrayed.

Broadcaster's Response to the Authority

[12] TVNZ again stressed that Coronation Street was a “work of fiction” and that what it described as “low-level violence” reflected conflict which was an “essential ingredient” in almost all fiction.

Authority's Determination

[13] Coronation Street is a long-running and well-known series and in the context of two of the then current story-lines, two domestic incidents were portrayed which included the use of violence by women against their male partners.

[14] The Authority does not agree with the complainant that the violence shown breached Standard 10. It considers that the outburst of violence on each occasion was not gratuitous in a drama involving high levels of frustration by the female characters at the unreasonable behaviour of the male characters. Further, each outburst was followed by some degree of contrition. The relatively low level of violence depicted, the Authority concludes, was appropriate in context.

[15] The complainant also argued that the portrayals amounted to discrimination on the basis of gender in that it discriminated against men to show them as victims of domestic violence when scenes of men abusing women were not broadcast. Guideline 6g refers to encouraging denigration of or discrimination against “sections of the community”. The Authority points out that the purpose of the Guideline is to avoid portrayals that encourage negative treatment of a section of the community on the basis of a supposedly different and/or inferior quality possessed by that group. Taking the purpose of the provision into account, the Authority concludes that it is not relevant to the situation complained about. In addition, Coronation Street is a fictional series and, therefore as there was no question about the legitimacy of the series, it observes that the Guideline is not applicable. The Authority finds that Standard 6 (fairness) was not breached.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
11 March 2004

Appendix

The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined these complaints:

1.    Edwin Stranaghan's Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd about the episode of
      Coronation Street broadcast on 25 September – 28 September – 2003

2.    Mr Stranaghan's Complaint about the episode broadcast on 7 October –
      10 October 2003.

3.    TVNZ's Response to the Formal Complaints – 29 October 2003

4.    Mr Stranaghan's Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 11 November 2003

5.    TVNZ's Response to the Authority – 24 November 2003