Young and CanWest TVWorks Ltd - 2007-058
- Joanne Morris (Chair)
- Diane Musgrave
- Tapu Misa
- Paul France
- Angella Young
BroadcasterCanWest TVWorks Ltd
Channel/StationC4 # 2
Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Meaty – footage of Akon’s concert in Trinidad – Akon filmed simulating sexual intercourse on stage with a 14-year-old girl – allegedly in breach of law and order, accuracy, fairness, children’s interests and violence standards
Standard 2 (law and order) – item did not promote, condone or glamorise criminal activity – not upheld
Standard 5 (accuracy) – accuracy standard did not apply – not upheld
Standard 6 (fairness) – no specific individual identified by the complainant – not upheld
Standard 9 (children’s interests) – broadcaster failed to adequately consider the interests of child viewers – item lacked an appropriate warning – upheld
Standard 10 (violence) – broadcaster failed to exercise sufficient care and discretion – upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 An item on Meaty, broadcast on C4 at 8.25pm on 30 April 2007, showed footage from a concert held in Trinidad by the American rap music artist known as Akon. The footage showed Akon flinging a 14-year-old girl around the stage simulating sexual intercourse with her as she lay underneath him.
 Before the item was broadcast the host said the following:
I’m going to leave you now with a video of Akon at one of his concerts. It’s a little hard to see, but basically all you need to know is that there’s a 14-year-old girl under there. You may feel a little violated, I know that I did.
 Angella Young made a formal complaint to CanWest TV Works Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the footage was disturbing and inappropriate for broadcast. She argued that the warning which had preceded the item was insufficient as it “did not suggest it would be so disturbing…a man raping a 14-year-old girl as entertainment”.
 The complainant alleged that the standards relating to the protection of children, portrayal of violence, fairness and accuracy had been breached by the broadcast.
 The complainant nominated Standards 1, 2, 5, 6, 9 and 10 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice in her complaint. These provide:
Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency
In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.
Standard 2 Law and Order
In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards which are consistent with the maintenance of law and order.
Standard 5 Accuracy
News, current affairs and other factual programmes must be truthful and accurate on points of fact, and be impartial and objective at all times.
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.
Standard 9 Children’s Interests
During children’s normally accepted viewing times broadcasters are required, in the preparation and presentation of programmes, to consider the interests of child viewers.
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
 In response to Ms Young’s complaint, the broadcaster explained that the item had shown footage from Akon’s concert in Trinidad, during which he ran a dirty dancing competition. It said several young women had competed to “win a trip to Africa” and that the footage shown in Meaty “featured the competition winner…winning her trip to Africa, aka, dancing raunchily with Akon”.
 CanWest agreed that the footage of Akon dirty dancing with the 14-year-old girl was in breach of Standard 1 and stated:
…even though the footage shown was not rape or sex, but actually no more than dirty dancing and it is clear on viewing the footage carefully that both participants in the dirty dancing are clothed at all times, the way the item was framed in the programme led viewers to believe that they were seeing something far more disturbing.
 Having upheld a breach of Standard 1, the broadcaster apologised to the complainant and explained that it had spoken to the staff involved and that they had undergone retraining. It went on to say that its monitoring systems had been changed and that its new systems would monitor the programme’s compilers more closely.
 The broadcaster maintained that the presenter and the item had not actively encouraged rape in any way and it declined to uphold that the broadcast had breached Standard 2.
 CanWest argued that the accuracy standard did not apply in this case because the show was not a news or current affairs programme. It placed the programme in the category of “infotainment” and declined to uphold the accuracy complaint.'
 Regarding the fairness complaint, the broadcaster believed that because the programme was in the category of “infotainment”and not news and current affairs, the standard requiring fairness did not apply.
 CanWest believed that the complainant’s concerns about the footage in relation to children’s interests had been adequately addressed in its decision relating to Standard 1 and it subsumed this part of the complaint into its consideration of the good taste and decency standard.
Referral to the Authority
 Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s decision, Ms Young referred those aspects of her complaint not upheld by the broadcaster to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
 The complainant reiterated her argument that the footage was inappropriate for television and that it had breached several broadcasting standards, not just Standard 1.
Further response requested by the Authority
 The Authority referred the complaint back to CanWest to give the broadcaster an opportunity to comment on Standard 9 (children’s interests) and Standard 10 (violence), which were not considered by the broadcaster in its original decision.
 While noting that the show’s presenter had referred to the disturbing nature of the footage “in an oblique way”, CanWest did not consider that the presenter’s warning was adequate to inform viewers of what they were going to see in the footage.
 Looking at Standard 9, the broadcaster believed that by allowing the footage to be screened at 8.25pm without an appropriate warning, it had “failed to adequately consider and be mindful of the interests of child viewers”.
 With respect to Standard 10, CanWest believed that it had not exercised the “requisite care and discretion when dealing with the apparent violence in the clip”. The broadcaster said it should have taken more care to present the item in an acceptable manner and it upheld the violence complaint.
 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 9 (children’s interests)
 The Authority agrees with the broadcaster that it failed to adequately consider the interests of child viewers on this occasion. The footage complained about was broadcast at 8.25pm during children’s normally accepted viewing times. The Authority considers that the presenter’s introduction and “warning” were not sufficient to alert parents that it contained material that could disturb child viewers. Accordingly, the Authority upholds the children’s interests complaint.
Standard 10 (violence)
 During the item, Akon flung a young girl around the stage simulating sexual intercourse with her as she lay underneath him. Because the item lacked an appropriate introduction and warning, and the footage was dark and grainy, some viewers may have believed something more disturbing was occurring than the simulation of sex. In the Authority’s view, the content of the item amounted to violence for the purposes of Standard 10.
 The Authority agrees with CanWest that the broadcaster failed to exercise sufficient care and discretion when dealing with the violence contained in the segment, given the lack of warning and the time of the broadcast. Accordingly, the Authority upholds the Standard 10 complaint.
Standard 2 (law and order)
 The Authority has stated on previous occasions (e.g. Decision No 2005-133) that the intent behind the law and order standard is to prevent broadcasts that encourage viewers to break the law or otherwise promote, condone or glamorise criminal activity.
 The Authority considers that the footage did not promote, glamorise or condone criminal activity or encourage viewers to break the law. Accordingly, it finds that Standard 2 was not breached.
Standard 5 (accuracy)
 The accuracy standard applies to news, current affairs and other factual programmes. Because Meaty does not fall within any of these categories, Standard 5 did not apply to the broadcast complained about. Accordingly, the Authority does not uphold the accuracy complaint.
Standard 6 (fairness)
 The fairness standard requires that broadcasters deal justly and fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to in a programme. The Authority notes that the complainant did not identify who she considered was treated unfairly by the broadcaster. In these circumstances, the Authority finds that Standard 6 was not breached.
Bill of Rights
 For the avoidance of doubt, the Authority records that it has given full weight to the provisions of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and taken into account all the circumstances of the complaint in reaching this determination. For the reasons given above, the Authority considers that its exercise of powers on this occasion is consistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.
For the above reasons the Authority upholds the complaint that the broadcast by CanWest TVWorks Ltd of Meaty on 30 April 2007 on C4 breached Standards 9 and 10 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.
 Having upheld the complaint, the Authority may make orders under sections 13 and 16 of the Broadcasting Act 1989. It does not intend to impose an order on this occasion. The Authority considers that the action taken by the broadcaster in retraining the staff involved, and introducing new monitoring systems, was appropriate and sufficient in all the circumstances.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
10 October 2007
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Angella Young’s formal complaint – 8 May 2007
2 CanWest’s decision on the formal complaint – 31 May 2007
3 Ms Young’s referral to the Authority – 12 June 2007
4 CanWest’s response to the Authority – 18 June 2007
5 CanWest’s further response to the Authority – 18 September 2007
6 CanWest’s further response to the Authority – 3 October 2007