BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Group Against Liquor Advertising and Television New Zealand Ltd - 1996-016

Members
  • J M Potter (Chair)
  • R McLeod
  • L M Loates
  • A Martin
Dated
Complainant
  • Group against Liquor Advertising (GALA)
Number
1996-016
Channel/Station
TV2


Summary

On nine specified occasions between November 21 and December 13 1995, liquor

advertisements were screened consecutively in commercial breaks broadcast on TV2.

On one of those occasions, a break contained three liquor advertisements.

On behalf of the Group Against Liquor Advertising (GALA), Mr Turner complained to

Television New Zealand Ltd that the broadcast of consecutive liquor advertisements,

and the broadcast of three advertisements in one break, breached the Programme

Standards for the Promotion of Liquor.

TVNZ upheld the complaint in regard to each of the nine nominated occasions. It

referred to teething problems involved with the installation of a new computer system

which had overridden the manually entered instructions to prevent such breaches.

Thanking GALA for drawing the matter to its attention, TVNZ assured it that the

problem would not recur. Dissatisfied as to the value of TVNZ's assurance, Mr Turner

on GALA's behalf referred the complaint 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 complaint.


Decision

As TVNZ accepted GALA's description of the alcohol advertisements screened in the

nine nominated commercial breaks, the Authority considers that it is unnecessary to

view the commercial breaks complained about. It has read the correspondence which is

summarised in the Appendix and, as is its practice, determines the complaint without a

formal hearing.

On behalf of the Group Against Liquor Advertising (GALA), its Complaints Secretary

(Cliff Turner) complained to TVNZ about nine specified commercial breaks broadcast

by TV2 between 9.00pm–midnight from 21 November to 13 December 1995. On each

occasion, Mr Turner wrote, liquor advertisements were broadcast consecutively.

Moreover, the break at about 11.37pm on 21 November contained three liquor

advertisements of which two were broadcast consecutively.

Pointing to Guideline 4 of the Programme Standards for the Promotion of Liquor, Mr

Turner maintained that each nominated occasion amounts to a breach of Standard A3.

Thanking Mr Turner for bringing the matter to its attention, TVNZ said it was unaware

that liquor commercials were being broadcast consecutively. Following an

investigation, the facts outlined by GALA were shown to be correct and, accordingly,

the complaint was upheld.

Standard A3 of the Programme Standards reads:

A3  Broadcasters will ensure that the incidental promotion of liquor is

minimised.


Guideline 4 in the accompanying commentary records(which refers to several

preceding standards):

4  With respect to commercial breaks broadcasters will avoid creating the

impression of saturation if they do not broadcast liquor advertisements

consecutively. In addition it is unlikely that an impression of saturation will

be created if no more than two liquor advertisements are broadcast in one

break.


TVNZ explained that a new air-time sales computer system had been recently installed

and there have been a number of teething problems. One such problem, it commented,

was the computer's overriding of the manual instructions that there are to be no more

than two alcohol commercials per break and that they are not be placed consecutively.

While TVNZ stated it has not ascertained what is causing the fault, it advised GALA:

You can be reassured that this incident has been treated with considerable

concern. You can be reassured that it will not reoccur.


On GALA's behalf, Mr Turner referred the complaint to the Authority on two grounds.

First, it did not appear that the complaint about the three commercials in one break was

considered and, secondly, he was dissatisfied with the action taken by TVNZ.

Observing that he had expected TVNZ to blame the computer, Mr Turner maintained

that TVNZ should have noted the fault before receiving the complaint. He added:

TVNZ has previously given assurances after offences of this kind. Those

assurances have been proven worthless. I believe that the Authority should

impose a penalty for these further breaches.


In its report to the Authority, TVNZ noted that it upheld in full the complaint about the

saturation of liquor advertising on the nine nominated occasions. Appreciation was

again expressed to GALA for noting the fault as the commercial logs were formatted

correctly. Reiterating that the fault would not recur, TVNZ observed:

There seems little more we can say except to emphasise that the breach happened

because of a computer fault; it was not a deliberate move by TVNZ to break the

rules and the lapse is sincerely regretted.


There appears to be some misunderstanding about the standard which GALA alleges,

and TVNZ acknowledges, was contravened on each of the nine nominated standards.

GALA cites standard A3 and TVNZ accepts that it is appropriate. However, as is

apparent from the standard quoted above, it refers to the incidental promotion of liquor.

There is nothing "incidental" in the broadcast of liquor commercials and, taking into

account the wording of Guideline 4, the Authority decides that it would be more

appropriate to cite standard A1. It provides:

A1  Saturation of liquor promotions, separately or in combination, must be

avoided.


Accordingly, the Authority is of the opinion that TVNZ should have upheld a breach of

standard A1 and that TVNZ's decisions involved both the consecutive broadcast of

liquor advertisements and the broadcast of three such commercials in one break.

The Authority is now required by the referral to decide whether TVNZ's action, having

upheld the complaint, is sufficient. It finds itself with some degree of sympathy for

both parties. As GALA suggests, a case can be made to the effect that TVNZ should

have checked for itself and located the problem highlighted by the complaint. On the

other hand, bringing a new computer system into operation can cause totally unexpected

problems which no amount of planning can anticipate.

The Authority is required to balance GALA's scepticism against TVNZ's gratitude for

drawing its attention to the problem and the assurance that it will not recur. As it has

remarked in some recent decisions involving alleged breaches of the Programme

Standards for the Promotion of Liquor, the Authority accepts that TVNZ's efforts to

comply with the standards over the past year or so reflects a genuine commitment, not

only to the letter of the standards but also to their spirit. For that reason, the Authority

accepts that TVNZ's advice to GALA – "You can be reassured that it will not reoccur" –

is sufficient.

Moreover, it is an undertaking that GALA will no doubt police carefully. Should it be

found wanting, TVNZ must expect the Authority to give considerable weight at that

stage to a demand for a substantial penalty.

 

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


Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Judith Potter
Chairperson
22 January 1996


Appendix

GALA's Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd - 14 December 1995

On behalf of the Group Against Liquor Advertising (GALA), Mr Cliff Turner, the

Complaints Secretary, complained to Television New Zealand Ltd about the number of

liquor advertisements included in specified commercial breaks on TV2. He listed nine

occasions between 21 November 1995 and 13 December 1995 when, he said, two

liquor advertisements were broadcast consecutively in commercial breaks between

9.00pm - midnight. One of those breaks, he added, contained three liquor

advertisements.

Pointing to Guideline 4 attached to the standards, Mr Turner maintained that showing

more than two liquor advertisements in one commercial break or the showing of two

liquor advertisements consecutively constituted a breach of standard A3 of the

Programme Standards for the Promotion of Liquor.

TVNZ's Response to the Formal Complaint - 22 December 1995

Assessing the complaint under the nominated standard, TVNZ acknowledged that each

of the nominated nine commercial breaks included consecutive alcohol commercials.

Accordingly, it upheld the complaint.

Thanking Mr Turner for bringing the matter to its attention, TVNZ explained:

In September this year, we installed a new air-time sales computer system which

books commercials into our scheduled breaks and takes them through the

transmission process. This has been a very significant change for the Company.

A number of teething problems have been faced with the system's transition

period.

While manual checks were carried out to ensure compliance with standard A3, TVNZ

said it had been unable to ascertain why the computer had overridden the manual

sequence. Testing continued and, it concluded:

You can be assured that this incident has been treated with considerable concern.

You can be reassured that it will not recur.

GALA's Complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority - 27

December 1995

Dissatisfied both that TVNZ had not dealt with the complaint fully, and with the action

taken on the aspect upheld, Mr Turner on GALA's behalf referred the complaint to the

Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

While TVNZ had upheld the complaint about broadcasting consecutive alcohol

advertisements, Mr Turner said it had not responded to the complaint that the standard

had been breached by the broadcast of three such advertisements on TV2 in a

commercial break at 11.37pm on 21 November 1995.

As for the aspects upheld, Mr Turner commented:

As I expected, TVNZ blamed the computer. What is the use of having

commercials manually sequenced if this manual sequencing can be overridden?

TVNZ says it was unaware that liquor commercials were being broadcast

consecutively. TVNZ speaks of "teething problems"; such problems should have

given TVNZ a warning that the results of the new system needed careful scrutiny.

TVNZ has previously given assurances after offences of this kind. Those

assurances have been proven worthless. I believe that the Authority should

impose a penalty for these further breaches.

TVNZ's Response to the Authority - 16 January 1996

Expressing gratitude that GALA had drawn the matter to its attention as its commercial

logs had shown that the advertisements were formatted to ensure that liquor

commercials were not played back-to-back and that no more than two appeared in any

one break, TVNZ acknowledged the breach on the nine occasions nominated. The

commercial scheduling programme within the computer, it wrote, had been revised to

prevent the problem arising again.

Observing that there seemed little value in sending the Authority videotapes in

connection with the complaint as each break had been correctly described by Mr Turner,

TVNZ wrote:

There seems little more we can say except to emphasise that the breach happened

because of a computer fault; it was not a deliberate move by TVNZ to break the

rules and the lapse is sincerely regretted.

GALA's Final Comment - 24 January 1966

On GALA's behalf, Mr Turner had no comment to make on TVNZ's reply.