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 - 1996-017

Members
  • J M Potter (Chair)
  • R McLeod
  • L M Loates
  • A Martin
Dated
Complainant
  • Group against Liquor Advertising (GALA)
Number
1996-017
Programme
Newsnight
Channel/Station
TV2
Standards Breached


Summary

Millbrook Resort was examined in an item on TV2's Newsnight broadcast after

11.00pm on 29 November 1995. In a light-hearted reply to the offer of champagne

during the item, the reporter expressed a preference for "a Speights". At the end of the

show, the presenters exchanged gifts and one was given a voucher which, when it was

read out, entitled the holder to $50 worth of conviviality. The voucher was shown on

the screen and it was clearly legible to the viewer that it would enable the recipient to

"Drown your sorrows".

On GALA's behalf, Mr Turner complained to Television New Zealand Ltd that the

comment about "a Speights" and the statement about drowning sorrows breached the

programme standards. The former was a reference to a brand of beer and the second

suggested approval or amusement at immoderate consumption.

Arguing first that the reference to "a Speights" was brief and did not refer to a beer and,

secondly, that drowning sorrows did not imply drunkenness, TVNZ declined to uphold

the complaint. Dissatisfied with TVNZ's response, on GALA's behalf, Mr Turner

referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the

Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons below, the Authority upholds the aspect of the complaint referring to the

broadcast of the phrase "Drown your sorrows".


Decision

The members of the Authority have viewed the item complained about and have read the

correspondence (summarised in the Appendix). As is its practice, the Authority

determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

The Millbrook Resort in Queenstown was examined in an item on TV2's Newsnight

broadcast shortly after 11.00pm on 29 November 1995. The plush facilities were

shown and, at the end of the item, the reporter was offered a drink by a waiter carrying

a jeroboam of champagne. The reporter declined and expressed a preference for "a

Speights".

TVNZ cancelled the daily Newsnight programme in November 1995 and the broadcast

on 29 November was the penultimate one. In view of the impending cancellation, at the

end of the show the presenters exchanged gifts. One was given a voucher for

conviviality to the value of $50 in a bar. As it was read by the recipient, the voucher

was shown on the screen. The heading of the voucher, although not read, was clearly

visible to viewers. It began "Drown your sorrows".

On behalf of GALA, Mr Cliff Turner (the Complaints Secretary) complained to TVNZ

about the reference to "a Speights" and the words "Drown your sorrows". He

considered that the broadcast of the brand name of a beer in that way constituted a

breach of standard A3 of the Programme Standards for the Promotion of Liquor.

Arguing that the expression "Drown your sorrows" invariably referred to alcoholic

drinks, he stated that its use contravened standards A3 and A5.

TVNZ assessed the complaints under the nominated standards which read:

A3  Broadcasters will ensure that the incidental promotion of liquor is

minimised.

A5  Broadcasters – including announcers, programme hosts and commentators –

will not make ad lib comments which refer directly or indirectly to the

use or consumption of liquor in any way prohibited by the Advertising

Standards Authority's Code for Advertising Liquor.


The intent of standard A5 is expanded on in Guideline 9 which accompanies the

standards. It provides:

9  Examples of ad lib comments prohibited in A5 are those which glamorise

liquor, imply it has special properties, or suggest or express approval of

amusement at immoderate consumption.


As for the first aspect of the complaint, TVNZ explained that the item had a "Lifestyles

of the Rich and Famous" theme and had ended with a light-hearted reference to a South

Island beer. It argued that the brief reference amounted to a breach of neither the spirit

nor the letter of the standard.

TVNZ said that the voucher for $50 worth of conviviality was "very much an Ôin joke'

to Newsnight's regular audience". It noted the on-going matters referred to and argued

that it neither glamorised liquor nor suggested immoderate consumption. Accordingly,

it had not breached the standards.

When he referred GALA's complaint to the Authority, Mr Turner maintained that the

reference to "a Speights" amounted to a free advertisement. With regard to the phrase

"Drown your sorrows", he wrote:

I believe that those words imply immoderate consumption; they mean that getting

drunk will cause a temporary respite from one's troubles.


In response, TVNZ maintained that the phrase was a colloquial one which meant no

more than having a drink. Drinking, it pointed out, did not imply drunkenness.

In its consideration of the complaint, the Authority agrees with TVNZ that the reference

to "a Speights" does not amount to a breach of standard A3. It accepts GALA's point

that brevity is not in itself a defence to an alleged breach of the standard. Nevertheless,

the standards require the minimisation of incidental liquor promotions – not their

elimination – and given the low-key way in which the phrase was said in passing during

the item, the Authority decides that the standard is not contravened.

The resolution of the other aspect of the complaint rests largely on the interpretation of

the phrase "Drown your sorrows". Does it mean a drink, as TVNZ maintained, or does

it imply immoderate consumption, as GALA argued? In reaching its decision, the

Authority observes that the voucher entitled the bearer to "$50 worth of conviviality". It

is an amount of money which provides a considerable quantity of liquid "conviviality".

Taking into account the use of the word "drowning", together with the sum of money

involved, the Authority concludes that the phrase suggests more than a modest amount

of alcohol. It is not unreasonable, as GALA claimed, to conclude that the phrase

implies immoderate consumption. Consequently, the Authority upholds that aspect of

the complaint as a breach of standard A5. In view of the focus on the voucher which

was read in full during the broadcast, which included a reference to the consumption of

alcohol in a yard glass in a named bar, the Authority is also of the view that the standard

A3 requirement to minimise the incidental promotion of alcohol is also contravened.

 

For the above reasons, the Authority upholds the complaint that the broadcast

by Television New Zealand Ltd of the exchange between presenters on

Newsnight at about 11.15pm on 29 November 1995 breached standards

 A3 and A5 of the Programme Standards for the Promotion of Liquor.


It declines to uphold the other aspect of the complaint.


Having upheld a complaint, the Authority may impose an order under s.13(1) of the

Broadcasting Act 1989. The Authority does not consider the breach to be a major one

and, taking into account the fact that TVNZ has ceased broadcasting Newsnight, it

considers that the imposition of an order is not necessary.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

Judith Potter
Chairperson
22 February 1996


Appendix

GALA's Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd - 1 December 1995

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

(Cliff Turner) complained to Television New Zealand Ltd about items on Newsnight

broadcast by TV2 between 11.05 - 11.17pm on 29 November 1995.

One item had dealt with the Millbrook Resort and the reporter, offered a bottle of

champagne, replied, "I'll just have a Speights". Mr Turner believed that the use of a

brand name in that situation amounted to a breach of standard A3.

At the end of the item, Mr Turner continued, the presenter was given a voucher for $50

worth of conviviality. As the voucher contained three prominent words "drown your

sorrows", and as that was a phrase associated with alcoholic drinks, Mr Turner

maintained that this aspect of the broadcast breached standards A3 and A5.

TVNZ's Response to the Formal Complaint - 21 December 1995

TVNZ assessed the complaint about the two incidents under the nominated standards.

TVNZ explained that the item's look at Millbrook Resort had a "Lifestyles of the Rich

and Famous" theme. It ended on a light-hearted note when the reporter declined a

jeroboam of champagne in preference for "a Speights" - a local beer. TVNZ

commented:

We do not consider that this was in breach of either the two standards referred to

above. The remark occupied less than three seconds and there was no reference

to the fact that Speights was a brand of beer. Accordingly, we do not consider

that the spirit or practical aspect of these standards was breached.

TVNZ reported that at the end of the show there was a light-hearted exchange of gifts

between the presenters. One (Marcus Lush) received a voucher which he read out:

This voucher entitles the bearer to $50 worth of conviviality (preferably several in

a yard glass) in the salubrious surroundings of Brownies (the bar - not the girls

club, tho you do like them young)!

TVNZ explained:

This was very much an "in joke" to Newsnight's regular audience. It referred

back to a visit by Marcus Lush earlier in the year to the South Island and an item

on drinking a yard of ale. He also has made reference during the programme

from time to time, to the Brownies establishment.

The Guidelines to the Code prohibited ad lib comments which, in some way,

glamorised liquor which TVNZ maintained, was not infringed by the statement.

GALA's Complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority - 28

December 1995

Dissatisfied with TVNZ's response, Mr Turner on GALA's behalf referred the

complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting

Act 1989.

Dealing first with the reference to Speights, he said it was in effect free advertising and

its brevity was irrelevant.

As for the second aspect, Mr Turner argued that the phrase "drown your sorrows"

implied immoderate consumption and:

To tell a man to drown his sorrows is to tell him to get drunk and this seems to be

against the spirit of Guideline 9 to the Programme Standards for the Promotion of

Liquor.

He added:

Although I did not mention it my original complaint it is apparent that there exists

a liquor outlet called Brownies. This outlet got a free plug which was quite

unnecessary and thus the incidental promotion of liquor could not be said to have

been minimised.

TVNZ's Response to the Authority - 18 January 1996

In its report to the Authority, TVNZ maintained that the reference to "a Speights" was

an off-the-cuff comment in the circumstances and did not amount to a free

advertisement.

Furthermore, TVNZ disagreed that the phrase "drown your sorrows" implied getting

drunk. Rather it was a colloquial figure of speech which meant no more than having a

drink.

As for the reference to Brownies, TVNZ said it was part of a joke - which was

explained to viewers - and that there was no rule which forbade the mention on air of a

bar or any other business.

GALA's Final Comment - 24 January 1996

On GALA's behalf, Mr Turner maintained his argument that to drown one's sorrows

meant to over-indulge in alcoholic liquor.