BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Swadling and TVWorks Ltd - 2012-062

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
Dated
Complainant
  • Jonathan Swadling
Number
2012-062
Programme
The GC
Broadcaster
TVWorks Ltd
Channel/Station
TV3 # 3

Te Raumawhitu Kupenga declared a conflict of interest and did not participate in the determination of this complaint.


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
The GC – reality series following young Māori living on the Gold Coast – allegedly in breach of law and order, and children’s interests standards

Findings
Standard 9 (children’s interests) – programme correctly rated PGR – classification was sufficient to advise parental supervision so no additional warning required – sexual references were sufficiently inexplicit – presence of liquor and consumption of liquor not excessive – programme would not have disturbed or alarmed child viewers – content did not warrant a higher classification of Adults Only – broadcaster adequately considered children’s interests – not upheld

Standard 2 (law and order) – programme included some alcohol consumption but not excessive, and participants were of legal age to drink – programme did not encourage viewers to break the law or otherwise promote, glamorise or condone criminal activity – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision. 


Introduction

[1]  The first episode of The GC, a reality television series following a group of young Māori living on the Gold Coast in Australia, was broadcast on TV3 at 8pm on 2 May 2012. The programme was introduced as follows, by a voiceover and visually onscreen:

Nearly 130,000 Māori now reside in Australia. This show is about a bunch of them living the good life on the Gold Coast. Some live together, some work together, but they’re all chasing the dream of… money, sex and fame on the GC.

[2]  Jonathan Swadling made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the programme glamorised heavy drinking and promiscuity, which was inappropriate for broadcast at 8pm during children’s viewing times.

[3]  The issue is whether the programme breached Standards 2 (law and order) and 9 (children’s interests) of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Did the broadcaster adequately consider the interests of child viewers?

[5]  Standard 9 requires broadcasters to consider the interests of child viewers during their normally accepted viewing times – usually up to 8.30pm. The purpose of the children’s interests standard is to protect children from broadcasts which might adversely affect them.1

[6]  Mr Swadling argued that “a programme screened at 8pm should not be holding up heavy drinking and promiscuity as goals to work towards when becoming adults. The role models presented are people who very few parents would be happy with their children becoming.” He referred to guideline 9a, which states that broadcasters should be mindful of the effect any programme or promo may have on children during their normally accepted viewing times and avoid screening material that would disturb or alarm them.

[7]  TVWorks argued that no sexual activity was shown in the episode and sex was discussed in very general and euphemistic terms. It contended that general references to sex without any detail were acceptable in PGR programmes. TVWorks disagreed that the programme promoted promiscuity, noting that some members of the cast were happily in relationships. The programme did not present the cast’s values and attitudes as prescriptive, it said, and parents were able to provide guidance or make an alternative viewing choice on behalf of their children. In any case, the broadcaster considered it unlikely that the programme would have harmed or disturbed supervised child viewers.

[8]  When we consider a children’s interests complaint, we have regard to the context of the broadcast, which here includes:

  • The GC was screened at 8pm during children’s viewing times
  • it was rated PGR
  • it was not preceded by a warning
  • the premise of the programme (as described in the introduction)
  • the programme’s target audience
  • publicity surrounding the programme
  • audience expectations.

[9]  We accept that sex and alcohol consumption were themes present in this episode of The GC. Nevertheless, we are satisfied that the depiction of these themes in the programme was consistent with its PGR rating and would not have disturbed or alarmed child viewers. The PGR classification is defined as follows in Appendix 1 to the Code:

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.

[10]  While there were brief sexual references, we agree with the broadcaster that these were sufficiently inexplicit for broadcast in a PGR timeslot, and that no sexual activity was shown. Similarly, the presence of liquor in the programme was not excessive; while it was evident that alcohol was being consumed, none of the cast appeared intoxicated and they were all of the legal age to consume liquor.

[11]  In these circumstances, we find that the PGR classification – in addition to the extensive publicity surrounding the series – was adequate to alert viewers to the programme’s likely content, giving parents an opportunity to exercise discretion with regard to their children’s viewing, or to provide guidance to younger viewers if they were concerned about the programme’s themes. The level of content in this episode did not warrant a higher classification of Adults Only or a restriction to a later time of broadcast.

[12]  Accordingly, we are satisfied that the broadcaster adequately considered children’s interests in broadcasting the episode at 8pm during the PGR time-band, and that upholding this part of the complaint would unjustifiably restrict the right to freedom of expression.

[13]  We therefore decline to uphold the Standard 9 complaint.

Did the broadcast encourage viewers to break the law or promote, glamorise or condone criminal activity?

[14]  The intent behind the law and order standard is to prevent broadcasts that encourage listeners to break the law, or otherwise promote, glamorise or condone criminal activity.2 The standard exists to ensure that broadcasters refrain from broadcasting material which does not respect the laws which sustain our society.3

[15]  Mr Swadling argued that “heavy drinking is clearly glamorised by this programme and indeed seems to be one half of the dream The GC seems to think young people should be working toward, with the other half being one night stands”. He referred to guideline 2d, which states, “The realistic portrayal of anti-social behaviour, including violent and serious crime and the abuse of liquor and drugs, should not be shown in a way that glamorises these activities.”

[16]  TVWorks noted that all of the programme participants were of legal drinking age and said, “All of the drinking shown in the programme was legal, and no serious misconduct or criminal behaviour as a result of drinking was glamorised.”

[17]  As noted in our discussion of Standard 9, while alcohol was present in the programme, it was incidental to the focus of the episode, rather than dominating the programme. Liquor consumption was not excessive, the participants were all over the legal drinking age, and none of them was visibly drunk. While one of the participants had apparently acted out and broken some glasses, this behaviour was clearly condemned by the other cast members.

[18]  We do not consider that this amounted to the glamorisation of anti-social behaviour as envisaged by guideline 2d. The episode did not encourage viewers to break the law or otherwise promote or condone criminal activity.

[19]  Giving full weight to the importance of freedom of expression, we decline to uphold the complaint that the programme breached Standard 2.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
25 September 2012

Appendix

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

1                  Jonathan Swadling’s formal complaint – 10 May 2012

2                 TVWorks’ response to the complaint – 1 June 2012

3                 Mr Swadling’s referral to the Authority – 1 June 2012

4                 TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 12 July 2012


1E.g. Harrison and TVNZ, Decision No. 2008-066

2See, for example, Keane and TVNZ, Decision No. 2010-082

3See, for example, Hunt and Māori Television, Decision No. 2009-010