Group Against Liquor Advertising and Television New Zealand Ltd - 1996-050
- J M Potter (Chair)
- R McLeod
- L M Loates
- A Martin
- Group against Liquor Advertising (GALA)
ProgrammeAdvertisements after 9pm
BroadcasterTelevision New Zealand Ltd
Channel/StationTV One and TV2
Consecutive liquor advertisements were broadcast on three occasions after 9.00pm on
20 February 1996. The screenings occurred twice on TV2 and once on TV One.
On GALA's behalf, Mr Turner complained to Television New Zealand Ltd that the
broadcast of consecutive liquor advertisements breached the standard relating to the
saturation of liquor promotions.
Upholding the complaint and apologising for the error, TVNZ acknowledged that a
similar complaint from GALA had been upheld late in 1995. It reported that, on this
occasion, it intended to release a press statement acknowledging and apologising for the
error and to broadcast extra moderation messages - to the value of $30,000 - in April.
On the basis that this action was inadequate, Mr Turner on GALA's behalf referred the
complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting
For the following reasons the Authority upholds the complaint that the action was
insufficient and orders TVNZ to broadcast an explanation and apology.
The members of the Authority have read the correspondence relating to this complaint
which is summarised in the Appendix. As is its practice, the Authority determines the
complaint without a formal hearing.
On three occasions on 20 February 1996, during advertising breaks, TVNZ broadcast
consecutive liquor advertisements. This occurred on TV One at about 9.20pm and on
TV2 at about 9.24 and 10.45pm.
On behalf of GALA, Mr Cliff Turner complained to TVNZ that each broadcast breached
standard A1 of the Programme Standards for the Promotion of Liquor. It reads:
A1 Saturation of liquor promotions, separately or in combination, must be
TVNZ upheld the complaint that the broadcast of consecutive liquor advertisements
breached standard A1. When upholding a similar complaint in December 1995 about
nine occasions when consecutive liquor advertisements had been broadcast, TVNZ had
explained at the time that they had occurred because of teething problems with a new
computer system. It had written in a letter to GALA dated 22 December 1995:
You can be assured that it will not recur.
In view of that assurance, TVNZ described the current situation as one of "acute
embarrassment". The breaches had occurred, it said, due to a combination of human
error and a failure in the computer's checking system which, it believed, should have
prevented a recurrence of the problem which arose in late 1995. TVNZ advised that it
intended to take the following action on the current complaint. First, it intended to
release a press statement which would include a public apology to GALA. Secondly, it
proposed to broadcast, over Easter, a number of extra liquor moderation messages –
prepared by ALAC – to the value of $30,000.
On the basis that the proposed action was insufficient in view of the assurances given
recently, Mr Turner on GALA's behalf referred the complaint to the Authority.
In its report to the Authority, TVNZ acknowledged that it was culpable. It explained
that the system it operated was complex and argued that the action it had taken atoned
for the breaches. It enclosed a copy of the press release dated 3 April sent to all its
normal outlets and listed the ten occasions the extra moderation messages had been
screened. It concluded by asking, what more could it do?
As TVNZ upheld the complaint, the Authority's task on this occasion is to decide
whether TVNZ's action is sufficient.
In late 1995, GALA complained to the Authority about the adequacy of the action taken
by TVNZ after it upheld the complaint about the broadcast of consecutive liquor
advertisements on nine specific occasions in November and December 1995. The
Authority at that time (Decision No: 1996-016, 22.2.96) accepted TVNZ's assurance,
that such broadcasts would not recur. The Authority concluded:
... 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.
On this occasion, the Authority, while not dismissing as irrelevant the problems
described by TVNZ in establishing a computer system, considers that TVNZ must take
responsibility for its systems The current breaches merit "a substantial penalty". TVNZ
has taken the following action. It has issued a press release in which it apologised to
GALA and has broadcast ten extra moderation messages. TVNZ noted that the release
was carried by the "New Zealand Herald" in its television page.
The Authority has reviewed the penalties it imposes when a complaint is upheld. The
one appropriate step TVNZ has omitted on this occasion is the broadcast of an
apology. The Authority is of the view the action which it did take – the press release
and the extra moderation messages – was insufficient, particularly in view of
the assurances given as recently as December last year. Moreover, the Authority is
disappointed at the further contravention and considers that a broadcast apology is the
essential, albeit minimal, action which will go some way to compensate for the
For the above reasons, the Authority upholds the complaint that the
action taken by Television New Zealand Ltd, having upheld the
complaint, is insufficient.
As will be apparent from the above discussion, the Authority considers that a broadcast
acknowledgment of the error and apology is appropriate. In reaching this conclusion, it
accepts that the breach occurred as a result of a genuine mistake and notes the steps
which TVNZ has already carried out. Nevertheless, it is of the view that the breach
merited a "substantial penalty". The following Order is imposed:
The Authority orders Television New Zealand Ltd to broadcast within
one month of the date of this decision a statement, approved by the
Authority, which explains and apologises for the breach of the
Programme Standards on 20 February 1996. The statement, covering
the points dealt with in the Media Release dated 3 April 1996, will be
broadcast between 9.00–10.00pm on one occasion each on TV One and
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
16 May 1996
GALA's Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd - 29 February 1996
Mr Cliff Turner, Complaints Secretary for the Group Against Liquor Advertising
(GALA), complained to Television New Zealand Ltd about the broadcast of consecutive
liquor advertisements on the following occasions on 20 February 1996. He considered
each broadcast to be in breach of the Programme Standard A1.
1. At 9.20pm on TV1 there were consecutive advertisements for Robbie Burns
and Birds LiquorSave
2. At 9.24pm on TV2, a Birds LiquorSave advertisement was followed by one
for Flame beer.
3. At 10.45pm on TV2, advertisements for DB Bitter and Robbie Burns were
TVNZ's Response to the Formal Complaint - 27 March 1996
Assessing the complaint under the nominated standard, TVNZ wrote:
TVNZ acknowledges with regret that the consecutive advertisements you list in
your letter dated 29 February were in fact broadcast.
The matter is one of acute embarrassment to TVNZ given the assurances we gave
you and the Broadcasting Standards Authority in the case of the previous breach
identified as a consequence of your letter dated 14 December 1995.
We could outline in detail the operational and technical reasons why commercials
which were never intended to play consecutively ended up back-to-back. I
believe it sufficient to say that original logs show that the commercials were to
play with other advertisements separating them. That they did not was due to a
combination of human error and the failure of a checking system in the computer
which we had (erroneously it seems) believed would prevent a recurrence of the
problem which arose at the end of last year.
Apologising for the error and assuring GALA that efforts would be redoubled to
prevent the broadcast of consecutive liquor advertisements in the future, TVNZ
acknowledged that there had been an earlier decision from the Authority on the same
issue (1996-016). It set out the action which it intended on this occasion to take.
Meanwhile TVNZ proposes to release a press statement next week - once you
have had time to receive and digest this letter - in which it will acknowledge a
breach of the standards as a result of the complaint from GALA. The press
statement will include a public apology to your organisation. I will send you a
copy when it is released.
We also propose, during the month of April to run a number of extra liquor
moderation messages - those prepared for ALAC. The committee has determined
that the on air value of the extra moderation messages will be $30,000. Some of
these messages will be shown during the high-viewing Easter period.
GALA's Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority - 29 March
On the basis that the action proposed by TVNZ was inadequate in view of the
assurances given recently, Mr Turner on GALA's behalf referred the complaint to the
Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
TVNZ's Response to the Authority - 16 April 1996
TVNZ acknowledged fault and was of the view that it had taken all reasonable action to
atone for the breach. It attached a media release which had been sent to all its normal
outlets and reported that the New Zealand Herald had carried the item on the television
page. It also listed the times that the extra liquor moderation messages (to the value of
$30,000) have been screened on TV One and TV2.
While we can understand GALA being perplexed by TVNZ again broadcasting
consecutive liquor advertisements, its concerns are matched by this company's
staff and management.
We think perhaps that GALA does not fully appreciate the complexity of this
business. Not only are we trying to cope with a new computerised system, but
the requirements of advertisers and the shuffling needed to comply with the
various price zones means that some advertisements are shown only in some parts
of the country, while others are screening elsewhere. Very often, for instance, a
local breakout will have a liquor outlet advertisement screening in Mr Turner's
Hamilton viewing area, and we have to be sure that when Hamilton then cuts back
into the network there is not a networked liquor ad running (even though
Hamilton may have been the only part of the country seeing the previous ad!).
In the last few days we have done a spot check on out output since the day the
breach occurred and we have found no indication that the error has been repeated.
As we indicated to GALA we are redoubling our efforts to avoid the broadcast of
consecutive advertisements for liquor companies or outlets.
What more can we do?
GALA's Final Comment - 22 April 1996
On GALA's behalf, Mr Turner acknowledged TVNZ's point that newspapers could not
be forced to run press statements. He pointed out that the release had not been carried
by the Waikato Times or either of Wellington's papers. The "Herald" coverage had
been on page 20.
Mr Turner maintained:
If TVNZ had genuinely wanted its statement to have been seen by a large number
of people it could have made statements on TV One and TV 2.