BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Davenport and TV3 Network Services Ltd - 1996-092

Members
  • J M Potter (Chair)
  • R McLeod
  • L M Loates
  • A Martin
Dated
Complainant
  • Marie Davenport
Number
1996-092
Programme
The Key of David
Channel/Station
TV3


Summary

Biblical prophecies involving the world's destruction and subsequent salvation of

humankind were addressed in The Key of David, broadcast by TV3 at 7.30am on

Sunday 18 February 1996. The programme, filmed at the reputed site of the city of

Sodom, was made by the Philadelphia Church of God.

Mrs Davenport complained to TV3 Network Services Ltd that the programme, using a

nuclear explosion as a background picture, was full of doom and disaster. As it would

cause alarm and distress, she said it was not children's viewing.

Maintaining that the item was screened in an established religious time-slot, that it

would be of limited appeal to children and contained an anti-nuclear and anti-war

message, TV3 declined to uphold the complaint.

Dissatisfied with TV3's decision, Mrs Davenport referred the complaint to the

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

For the reasons below, a majority of the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.


Decision

The members of the Authority have viewed the programme complained about and

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

Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

A religious programme sponsored by the Philadelphia Church of God, entitled The

Key of David, is broadcast on Sunday mornings at 7.15am on TV3. The programme

on 18 February 1996 was set in Sodom and it focused on Old Testament texts which

prophesied the destruction of the earth by a nuclear war.

Mrs Davenport complained to TV3 that the excerpts used from the Bible would cause

alarm and distress to children. She accepted the right to freedom of religious

expression but considered it important to help children have a positive view of the

future. In her view, the programme, which suggested that the wrath of God would

decimate most of the world's population in a nuclear war, was unsuitable for

broadcast at a time when children would be watching because its message was so

disturbing. She pointed out that Sunday morning was a time when children's viewing

was unsupervised because it was a favourite time for parents to lie in, and she was

concerned that the message – of retribution, damnation and destruction – was

frightening for children in the 8–12 year old age group or those not attracted to the

offering on other channels which catered to a younger age group. Mrs Davenport

appended some literature published by the Philadelphians which explained their

philosophy. The literature, like the programme, warned that the worst ever world

catastrophe was imminent, in the form of a totally devastating nuclear blast which

would kill most people on earth.

Mrs Davenport suggested that the programme be screened at 10.00pm and not with a

G rating.

TV3 advised that it had assessed the complaint under standard V16 of the Television

Code of Broadcasting Practice which reads:

V16 Broadcasters must be mindful of the effect any programme, including

trailers, may have on children during their generally accepted viewing

periods, usually up to 8.30pm, and avoid screening material which

could unnecessarily disturb or alarm children.


TV3 emphasised that The Key of David was not a programme aimed at children and

that it required a mature understanding of language and an appreciation of religion and

philosophy more likely to be found in an adult than a child. It regarded the

programme as having limited appeal to a child, although it did not believe it was

unsuitable for children. TV3 described the programme's message as being anti-nuclear

and anti-war.

In response to the complaint about the images of nuclear explosions which were used

to illustrate the predictions about the end of the world, TV3 observed that the footage

was probably familiar to viewers, having been used in various documentary

programmes over the years and showed nuclear tests, not war footage.

As for the biblical texts, TV3 responded that it was not required to be party to

censorship of the Bible. It observed that not all of the texts quoted were negative, and

that some were a sign of the imminent return of Christ. It concluded that while the

message of The Key of David, with its anti-war stance, complex language and historical

footage was serious, it was not unsuitable for children and would not have caused

unnecessary alarm to child viewers. It declined to uphold the complaint.

In its consideration of the complaint, the Authority observes that the 30 minute long

programme contained difficult language and complex concepts including those of

retribution, wrath of God, and eternal damnation. It was also visually uninspiring For

these reasons, the Authority considers the programme was lacking in appeal to

children and therefore assumes its audience to be predominantly an adult one, with the

likelihood of appealing to those who are familiar with the biblical texts and some of the

philosophy upon which the Philadelphia Church of God bases its teachings.

A majority of the Authority does not believe that children who viewed the programme

would be adversely affected by what they saw and heard. However it does not agree

with TV3 that the programme contained an anti-war and anti-nuclear stance. On the

contrary, its theme was that the world would be destroyed by a cataclysmic event, as

predicted in the Scriptures, and file footage of nuclear explosions was used to illustrate

the prophesies and to highlight the extent of the devastation which would ensue. It

also however, offered some hope of salvation for those who repent. The majority

observes that the teachings of the Bible are available to all children, and they do not

need to be protected from what is written. It concludes that the programme was

therefore not necessarily unsuitable in that time slot and declines to uphold the

complaint.

The minority disagrees. It considers that the Sunday morning time slot is a preferred

viewing time for children and, although it recognises that the format of this programme

would have little appeal for children, it decides that children who might inadvertently

watch the programme could very easily be affected by its unmitigatingly alarmist

propaganda.

 

For the reasons set forth above, a majority of the Authority declines to uphold

the complaint.


Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Judith Potter
Chairperson
22 August 1996


Appendix

Mrs Davenport's Complaint to TV3 Network Services Ltd - 2 March 1996

Marie Davenport of Auckland complained to TV3 Network Services Ltd, through the

Broadcasting Standards Authority, about the programme The Key of David, broadcast

at 7.30am on Sunday 18 February 1996.

Looking for a programme that her grandchildren could watch, Mrs Davenport said that

she was horrified to find a preacher using excerpts from the Bible that would cause

alarm and distress for children. She gave some examples of these extracts and noted

that the preacher was set in front of a backdrop of a nuclear explosion. Pointing out

that 10.00pm would be a better time-slot for such a programme, Mrs Davenport

commented:

Freedom of religious expression is fine, but I believe that as adults one of our

primary functions is to help our children have a positive view of the future.

Programmes such as this, that encourage the belief that most of the world

population will be decimated in a Nuclear war through the wrath of God,

hardly promotes in children a belief in humanity and its future.

Appending an excerpt from the magazine published by the group which produced the

programme (Philadelphia Church of God), Mrs Davenport suggested that TV3 should

review the programme and its suitability for that time-slot.

TV3's Response to the Formal Complaint - 15 May 1996

After a correspondence with Mrs Davenport to determine under which standard the

complaint should be assessed, TV3 considered the complaint under standard V16 of

the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

TV3 started by pointing out:

The Key of David is not a programme which is aimed at children. It screens in

an established religious time-slot on a Sunday morning - religious programmes

have been playing in this slot since April 1995. Concurrent to this TV3

programme TV2 offers programmes targeted directly at children, which is

clearly their preferred viewing option.

Stating that the programme required an appreciation of religion and a mature

understanding of language, and that it was unlikely to appeal to children, TV3

maintained that the programme was not necessarily unsuitable for children. It stressed

that the message was strongly anti-nuclear and anti-war, and that the item had

contained the statement:

God is not going to leave the world totally desolate.

TV3 explained that the brief images of nuclear tests were black and white standard

documentary footage. It noted that none of the footage showed humans being hurt in

any way. Repeating the point that the programme had an anti-nuclear message, TV3

said that the programme did not resort to graphic violence.

Observing that the scripture cited came from the Bible, TV3 pointed out that, as such,

it was accessible to all age groups. TV3 emphasised that it did not believe it should be

a party to censorship of the Bible and stressed that not all the scripture which was

quoted was negative.

In declining to uphold the complaint, TV3 concluded:

The Complaints Committee believes that while the message of The Key of

David is serious in nature, with it's anti-war stance, complex language and

historical footage, it is not unsuitable for children and would not cause

unnecessary alarm to any child watching.

Mrs Davenport's Referral to the Authority - 30 May 1996

Dissatisfied with TV3's response, the Mrs Davenport referred the complaint to the

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

Noting that The Key of David was shown during a time-slot which was reserved for

children on other days, Mrs Davenport pointed out that TV2 reserved this timeslot

for children on a Sunday. She suggested that, considering its context, The Key of

David should be shown at 5.40am which was the timeslot used by TV2 for its daily

religious programme.

Explaining that she had taught in both Anglican and Presbyterian churches for 20

years, Mrs Davenport assured the Authority:

... children are spared these disturbing and alarming quotes from the bible

(they censor them if you want to call it that).

She asserted that the basic message of the programme was not anti-nuclear or anti-war.

She enclosed excerpts from the programme maker's magazine which explained which

people would be damned if they did not repent, and what God's retribution would be.

She suggested that this would be quite frightening for 8-12 year olds.

Mrs Davenport noted that, on Sunday mornings, most parents slept in, leaving their

children unsupervised and concluded:

Children should be able to grow up believing they have a future. This program

denies them this.

TV3's Response to the Authority - 18 June 1996

TV3 replied that it had nothing further to add.