Group Against Liquor Advertising and Television New Zealand Ltd - 1996-074
- J M Potter (Chair)
- R McLeod
- L M Loates
- A Martin
- Group against Liquor Advertising (GALA)
ProgrammeX-Files commercial break
BroadcasterTelevision New Zealand Ltd
Two liquor advertisements, one of 90 seconds in duration and the other of 30 seconds,
were broadcast in a commercial break on TV2 at about 9.20pm on 25 April 1996 during
the screening of X-Files.
On behalf of GALA, Dr Viola Palmer complained to Television New Zealand Ltd that 2
minutes of liquor advertisements in a break of 3 minutes 20 seconds amounted to
saturation of liquor promotion in contravention of the standards.
Pointing out that the commercial break comprised six commercials and two programme
trailers and lasted 3 minutes 45 seconds in total, TVNZ denied that two liquor
advertisements amounted to saturation.
Dissatisfied with TVNZ's decision, Dr Palmer 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 upholds the complaint.
The members of the Authority have viewed the commercial break complained about and
have read the correspondence (summarised in the Appendix). As is its practice, the
Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.
Dr Viola Palmer of GALA complained to TVNZ about the contents of a commercial
break broadcast on TV2 at about 9.20pm on 25 April 1996. She maintained that as two
liquor advertisements included in the break amounted to 120 seconds of a 200 second-
long break, it involved the saturation of liquor promotion.
TVNZ assessed the complaint under the nominated standard. Standard A1 of the
Programme Standards for the Promotion of Liquor reads:
A1 Saturation of liquor promotions, separately or in combination, must be
Acknowledging that the commercial break contained two liquor commercials which
totalled 120 seconds, TVNZ pointed out that the break was 225 seconds in length taking
two promos into account. The first liquor commercial, it noted, was 30 seconds long
and the second was a 90 second spot. Explaining that the break contained four other
commercials and two programme trailers, TVNZ did not accept that in that context the
amount of liquor advertising contravened the saturation prohibition.
In its assessment of the complaint, the Authority refers to Decision No: 156/93 (dated
18.11.93). On that occasion, it upheld a complaint from GOAL that two liquor
advertisements which totalled 90 seconds in a commercial break of 165 seconds
duration constituted saturation in contravention of standard A1 (as it was then written).
It reached that conclusion following Decision Nos: 141/93–143/93 (dated 4.11.93)
when it upheld a complaint that four liquor advertisements (out of seven in total) which
amounted to 90 seconds, or one half, of a three minute break constituted saturation.
Although these earlier decisions have focussed on some specific quantitative matters –
either the number of commercials in a break or the proportion of the break which
involved liquor advertisements – the Authority stresses that standard A1 does not deal
solely with quantitative measures. The number, and the duration, of the liquor
commercials are an indication but, in the final instance, the standard is contravened only
when the commercial break gives the impression of saturation of liquor promotions.
The Authority approaches the present complaint on that basis. It also notes that an
impression of saturation may be minimised, or magnified, should liquor promotions
feature irregularly, or regularly, in successive commercial breaks. However, on this
occasion, it is dealing with one commercial break.. Taking into account the quantitative
criteria, first, it notes that there were only two liquor commercials but that they
comprised more than half the duration of the length of the break. Secondly, the
Authority observes that the liquor commercial of 90 seconds duration could not be
described as being of the "hard sell variety". Nevertheless, the length in itself -
especially in comparison with the relative brevity of the other commercials - meant that it
tended to dominate the break.
Finally, focussing on the qualitative criterion – the impression – left by the broadcast of
the entire commercial break, the Authority concludes that on this occasion the break left
an impression of saturation in contravention of standard A1.
For the above reasons, the Authority upholds the complaint that the
broadcast by Television New Zealand Ltd of an advertising break on
TV2 at about 9.20pm on 25 April 1995 breached standard A1 of the
Programme Standards for the Promotion of Liquor.
Having upheld a complaint, the Authority may impose an order under s.13(1) of the
Broadcasting Act. Although the complaint was upheld, the Authority does not consider
the breach to be a blatant contravention of the standards. In these circumstances, it does
not consider an order appropriate.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
18 July 1996
GALA's Complaint to Television New Zealand Limited - 2 May 1996
Dr Viola Palmer, Chairperson of the Group Against Liquor Advertising (GALA),
complained to Television New Zealand Ltd about the amount of liquor advertising
broadcast in one commercial break on TV2 on 25 April 1996 during the screening of X-
At about 9.20pm, she wrote, advertisements for DB Export and Steinlager occupied 2
minutes of a commercial break of 3 minutes 20 seconds. As a commercial break was
accepted as a viewing period, Dr Palmer argued that the two advertisements, which
comprised 60% of the break, amounted to a breach of the standard prohibiting the
saturation of liquor promotions.
TVNZ's Response to the Formal Complaint - 20 May 1996
Assessing the complaint under standard A1 of the Programme Standards, TVNZ
acknowledged that the two liquor advertisements screened amounted to two minutes
in duration. It expressed surprise at the complaint, pointing out that it had consistently
taken the position that "the total duration of liquor advertisements within a break must
not be more than 120 seconds".
TVNZ also disagreed that the commercial break was 3 minutes 20 seconds in duration,
observing that promos were broadcast at the beginning and end of the break which thus
amounted, in total, to 3 minutes 45 seconds.
Pointing out that the contents of commercial breaks could vary by region, TVNZ said
that the one it was using for the purposes of assessing the complaint had included two
liquor advertisements, four other commercials and two programme trailers. It
TVNZ does not believe that in this context the amount of liquor advertising
amounted to a saturation of liquor promotions.
GALA's Complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority - 25 May
Dissatisfied that TVNZ had not upheld the complaint, Dr Palmer on GALA's behalf
referred it to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting
TVNZ's Response to the Authority - 31 May 1996
As GALA had not elaborated on its complaint in the referral, TVNZ said it did not want
to comment further.