BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Watson and TV3 Network Services Ltd - 2001-210

Members
  • P Cartwright (Chair)
  • B Hayward
  • R Bryant
  • J H McGregor
Dated
Complainant
  • Bridget Watson
Number
2001-210
Channel/Station
TV3

Complaint
Comedy Season Promo – edited clips from nine comedy programmes – footage from Sex and the City unsuitable for broadcast during children’s programming – breach of good taste – broadcaster not mindful of children – explicit material unacceptable

Findings
Standard G2 – promo did not breach currently accepted norms of good taste and decency – no uphold

Standard G12 – not G material – broadcaster not mindful of promo’s effect on children – uphold

Standard G24 – not "explicit material" as envisaged by the standard – no uphold

No Order

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

1] TV3 promoted its Comedy Season with a montage of clips from various comedy programmes. The promo, which lasted 60 seconds, included clips from 3rd Rock from the Sun, Will and Grace and Sex and the City, edited together.

[2] Bridget Watson complained to the broadcaster, TV3 Network Services Ltd, that a screening of the promo on 21 May 2001 at approximately 4.05pm breached broadcasting standards. In particular, she said an image of a man with his head buried in a woman’s cleavage, taken from Sex and the City, was inappropriate for broadcast during children’s programming time.

[3] TV3 responded that the promo footage was acceptable for G time. It said the footage from Sex and the City was slapstick, rather than sexual, in the context of the promo, and declined to uphold the complaint.

[4] Dissatisfied with TV3’s response, Mrs Watson referred her complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons given below, a majority of the Authority upholds the aspect of the complaint that the promo breached standard G12.

Decision

[5] The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the promo complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines this complaint without a formal hearing.

The Promo

[6] "It’s funny what makes you laugh" was the title given to a montage of clips from nine different comedy programmes promoting TV3’s Comedy Season. The promo, which lasted 60 seconds, contained clips from programmes including 3rd Rock from the Sun, Will and Grace and Sex and the City, edited together.

The Complaint

[7] Bridget Watson complained to the broadcaster, TV3 Network Services Ltd, that a screening of the promo on 21 May 2001 at approximately 4.00pm breached standards G2, G12 and G24 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[8] Mrs Watson said her two young daughters had just finished watching Doug, a children’s programme, when the promo appeared. She said:

At one point there was an image of a man with his head buried in a woman’s cleavage. I have to say that I was extremely angry that such inappropriate images should be broadcast during children’s programming time.

[9] Mrs Watson said she believed it was not a one-off incident, and promoting inappropriate images during children’s programming time was "morally reprehensible" of TV3. Mrs Watson said:

I am sick of having to jump up to change channels every time an advertisement break comes on, for fear of what my children might be exposed to.

[10] She requested the broadcaster to stop "polluting [children’s] little minds and concern yourselves more with the preservation of the innocence of childhood".

The Standards

[11] In the preparation and presentation of programmes (including promos), the first two standards require broadcasters:

G2  To take into consideration currently accepted norms of decency and taste in language and behaviour, bearing in mind the context in which any language or behaviour occurs.

G12  To be mindful of the effect any programme may have on children during their normally accepted viewing times.

[12] The other standard reads:

G24  Broadcasters must be mindful that scenes containing incidents of violence or other explicit material may be acceptable when seen in the total context of a programme, but when extracted for promotion purposes such incidents will be seen out of context and may thereby be unacceptable, not only in terms of the codes but also for the time band during which the trailer is placed.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[13] In its response to the complainant, the broadcaster explained that the clips from the nine different programmes had been edited together to make a storyline within the promo itself, separate to the storylines of the actual programmes. In TV3’s view, while the programmes themselves were rated PGR and AO, the promo footage was acceptable for G time.

[14] TV3 said the particular footage Mrs Watson complained about (of the man with his head in the woman’s cleavage) was one second in duration. It said:

In the segment the woman is clothed. In the context of the promo, the scene shows the physical humour of the programmes (with segments from 3rd Rock from the Sun and Will and Grace also part of the slapstick montage). This context meant that the footage from Sex and the City does not appear to be sexual but in fact is more likely to be viewed as humorous.

[15] TV3 said it did not agree with the complainant that the "short, humorous images" would lead to the pollution of children’s minds.

[16] TV3 assessed the complaint under the standards nominated by the complainant. Under standard G2, TV3 agreed that care should be taken with material that is screened during children’s viewing times. In the broadcaster’s view, in the context of after-school programmes, the promo was at the "outer limits" of acceptability. However, the broadcaster continued:

The [Standards] Committee finds however that the footage about which you have complained is not sexual within the montage of the promo, where it is part of a much longer run of slapstick scenes and is therefore not inappropriate for a G rating.

[17] TV3 said although it understood the complainant’s concern at the segment "in isolation", the segment did not "overwhelm the innocent nature of the promo". It declined to uphold the complaint as a breach of standard G2.

[18] Under standard G12, the broadcaster said it took care when scheduling promos to ensure they conformed with the time zones in which they screened. Although TV3’s Standards Committee considered the promo complained about to be at the "outer limits" of acceptability for after-school programming, it agreed with the promo scheduler that the promo was still acceptable for screening during G time. It did not agree that the promo’s contents would have had any negative effect on a child viewer, and declined to uphold the complaint as a breach of standard G12.

[19] The broadcaster also declined to uphold the complaint as a breach of standard G24, stating that in its view the footage from Sex and the City was not explicit. The footage, in context, was not sexual but slapstick, it said.

The Referral to the Authority

[20] Dissatisfied with TV3’s response, Mrs Watson referred her complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

[21] She said she found the promotion of Sex and the City in general, and the footage of the man with his head buried in the woman’s cleavage in particular, "offensive and entirely inappropriate" for the time of day at which the promo screened. She said:

In general I feel that there is a serious decline in the standards of television "promos" allowed to be screened during general or children’s programming times.

[22] Mrs Watson asked the Authority to "make a stand to stop inappropriate promotional advertising" at these times.

The Authority’s Determination

[23] First the Authority notes that the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice does not prevent broadcasters promoting AO programmes during G time. However, if they choose to do so, broadcasters are required to make the promo in such a way that it can be classified as G rated.

[24] The promo complained about screened at approximately 4.05pm, during G time. To assist it in determining this complaint under standard G12, the Authority must consider whether the promo was correctly classified as G rated. A majority of the Authority is of the view that the promo was not G material. While acknowledging that it was slapstick in nature, the majority considers the promo’s theme of flirtatious adult sexuality, along with some of the language used (references to "arse" and "dick"), took it beyond the limits of acceptability for G time. In addition, the majority notes that the programme Sex and the City screens at 9.30pm, one hour after the AO watershed, and is very definitely AO material. Accordingly, promoting Sex and the City during children’s viewing times requires particular care. The majority considers the broadcaster was not mindful of the promo’s effect on children when screening it during G time, particularly as it was broadcast after Doug, a cartoon which would appeal to young children. As such, the majority upholds the complaint as a breach of standard G12.

[25] In reaching this decision, the majority records that it has considered whether the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression, as contained in s.14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, is unjustifiably infringed. The majority is satisfied that its decision to uphold this complaint is made under its empowering legislation. It is also satisfied that the exercise of its power on this occasion does not unduly restrict the broadcaster’s right to express itself freely. Indeed, it considers that the upholding of this complaint is reasonable and demonstrably justified owing to the time of broadcast, the majority’s view that the promo was not G material, and the inclusion of Sex and the City in the promo.

[26] The minority (Mr Rodney Bryant), however, considers the adult themes in the promo were so fleetingly presented as to have been beyond the understanding of children. In the minority’s view, the promo was pure slapstick and the broadcaster did not breach standard G12.

[27] The Authority unanimously declines to uphold the complaint as a breach of standard G2. It considers the promo did not breach currently accepted norms of good taste and decency, and that to uphold a breach would be to place too great a limit on the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.

[28] The Authority unanimously declines to uphold the complaint as a breach of standard G24. In its view, the promo did not contain the kind of "explicit material" envisaged by the standard.

[29] Finally, the Authority takes this opportunity to remind broadcasters of their obligations under standards G8 and G22 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. In the preparation and presentation of programmes, standard G8 requires broadcasters:

G8  To abide by the classification codes and their appropriate time bands as outlined in the agreed criteria for programme classifications.

[30] Standard G22 reads:

G22  Promotions (promos) for AO programmes may be screened during PGR or G time bands provided the promo is made in such a way that it can be classified as PGR or G, as appropriate. Promotions which carry an AO classification may only be screened within AO times bands.

 

For the reasons given, a majority of the Authority upholds the complaint that a promo broadcast by TV3 Network Services Ltd at approximately 4.05pm on 21 May 2001 breached standard G12 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

The Authority unanimously declines to uphold any other aspect of the complaint.

[31] Having upheld a complaint, the Authority may make orders under ss. 13 and 16 of the Broadcasting Act. On this occasion, the Authority considers the breach is not sufficiently serious to warrant a penalty.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
29 November 2001

Appendix

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

  1.  Bridget Watson’s Formal Complaint to TV3 Network Services Ltd – 12 June 2001
  2.  TV3’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 13 July 2001
  3. Mrs Watson’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 8 August 2001
  4. TV3’s Response to the Authority – 27 August 2001
  5.  Mrs Watson’s Final Comment – 5 September 2001