BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Group Opposed to Advertising of Liquor and Television New Zealand Ltd - 1995-031

Members
  • I W Gallaway (Chair)
  • W J Fraser
  • L M Loates
Dated
Complainant
  • Group Opposed to Advertising of Liquor (GOAL)
Number
1995-031
Programme
Sportsnight
Channel/Station
TV One


Summary

The decision of rugby player John Kirwan to join the Auckland Warriors rugby league

team was covered in an item on Sportsnight on TV1 at 10.40pm on 7 March.

Mr Turner, secretary of the Group Opposed to Advertising of Liquor (GOAL),

complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the broadcast

breached broadcasting standards on three accounts as the incidental promotion of

liquor was not minimised. First, Mr Kirwan was seen to hold aloft a Warriors' jersey

bearing a DB logo; secondly, a DB advertisement was seen on the wall to the side of

Mr Kirwan while he was being interviewed; and thirdly, the presenter was seen in

front of a backdrop promoting Dominion Breweries.

Upholding the second and third aspects of the complaint, TVNZ said the breaches had

been drawn to the attention of the appropriate staff who had been advised of the

seriousness with which such breaches were regarded. Dissatisfied both that the

complaint was not upheld in full and with the action taken by TVNZ on the aspects

upheld, Mr Turner, on behalf of GOAL referred his complaint to the Broadcasting

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

For the following reasons, the Authority declined to uphold the complaint.


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

has determined the complaint without a formal hearing.

The switch of rugby player John Kirwan to the Auckland Warriors rugby league team

was dealt with in an item on TV1's Sportsnight at 10.40pm on 7 March. On behalf of

GOAL, Mr Cliff Turner the secretary complained to TVNZ that there were three

breaches of the programme standards as the incidental promotion of liquor had not

been minimised.

The breaches occurred, first, when Mr Kirwan and another man held up a Warrior's

jersey bearing a large DB logo. Secondly, a DB advertisement was visible on the wall

for lengthy periods while Mr Kirwan was being interviewed. Thirdly, the presenter

was seen twice in front of a backdrop which promoted Dominion Breweries.

TVNZ assessed the complaint under the nominated standards which read:

A3  Broadcasters will ensure that the incidental promotion of liquor is

minimised.

A4  Broadcasters will ensure that backdrops and props for studio programmes

do not carry liquor promotions.


As for the aspect which showed Mr Kirwan and Mr Robson (manager of the

Warriors) unfurling a shirt carrying the sponsor's logo, TVNZ wrote:

We note that this shot was barely two seconds long, and was editorially

significant because it marked the definitive moment when one of New Zealand's

great rugby players exchanged his rugby union career for one in rugby league.


Had the shot been prolonged or in any way gratuitous, TVNZ would have been

inclined to agree with your objection. However, the brevity of the shot and its

relevance to the story has convinced us that this shot was not in breach of the

code.


Regarding the signage visible during the interview, TVNZ said that it could have been

eliminated by a small adjustment to the camera position without damaging the item's

content. That aspect was upheld as a breach of standard A3.

The third part of the complaint involved the presenter sitting in front of a "vidiwall"

on which DB sponsorship material was visible. TVNZ said some effort had been

made to eliminate the word "Bitter" by tightening the shot but as the appearance of

the DB logo was unacceptable, that aspect had been upheld as a breach of standard

A4.

TVNZ reported that the item's "flaws" raised in the second and third aspect of the

complaint had been recognised before the complaint had been received. Noting that

Sportsnight was a new programme which, like all new programmes, had had teething

troubles, TVNZ said Sportsnight staff had been spoken to about the breaches and the

seriousness with which they were viewed.

When he referred GOAL's complaint to the Authority, Mr Turner said that Mr

Kirwan's signature of the contract was the "definitive moment" of his transfer to

league and the shot of the jersey, although brief, was gratuitous.

With regard to the action taken, Mr Turner argued that the staff should have been

spoken to before the event, not afterwards. He continued:

The connection between sport and the liquor industry has been the source of

many complaints about incidental advertising and when this programme was

instituted staff should have been thoroughly briefed about the pitfalls inherent in

such a programme.


He concluded:

The news of Mr Kirwan's move to rugby league rang alarm bells for me and

caused me to tape Sportsnight. Similar bells should have been heard at TVNZ.


In its report to the Authority, TVNZ expressed the opinion that "contract signing"

was a visual cliche and the swapping of jerseys was more editorially noteworthy.


As for the aspects upheld, TVNZ maintained the "alarm bells" comment overlooked

the environment in which live programmes went to air. It observed:

We do not excuse the mistake – but neither do we claim infallibility.


Moreover, TVNZ reported, it had decided to include the revised liquor standards in

every journalist's manual as soon as possible so that they would be easily and readily

available.

In his final comment on GOAL's behalf, Mr Turner said that, in view of other

Authority decisions, brevity could not be a valid defence and he asked:

If the shirt had not been shown would the NZ public really have been deprived

of a moment of editorial significance?


He also questioned TVNZ's commitment in complying with the standards and he

referred to a recent Sportsnight item where an event was shown in front of a wall

covered with liquor advertising.

The Authority dealt first with the aspect of the complaint not upheld. It agreed with

GOAL that the DB logo was visible as the jersey was unfurled and it concurred with

TVNZ that the shot was brief. The decision to which GOAL referred in which

brevity was not considered an appropriate defence involved a shot in which the liquor

advertising was the feature of the shot and the person carrying the advertising turned

around to make it clearly visible to the camera. In other words, it was gratuitous. On

this occasion, the jersey and the two men unfurling it were the focus - not the logo.

Therefore, the Authority accepted that these factors – together with the shot's brevity

– were sufficient for it to decide that standard A3 had not been contravened.


As for the aspects upheld, the Authority agreed with, and endorsed, TVNZ's decision

to uphold them. The Authority also appreciated Mr Turner's concern that despite

TVNZ's efforts to comply with the standards, breaches continued to occur and,

consequently, he felt justified in questioning the degree of TVNZ's commitment to the

standards.

Whereas Mr Turner was sceptical about TVNZ's efforts, the Authority believed that

they do reflect a conscientious commitment to the standards. It agreed with Mr

Turner that, because of liquor company sponsorship of sport, breaches of the

standards concerned were more likely to occur during items of sports news or the

broadcast of sporting events. GOAL, TVNZ and the Authority, have a long and

extensive involvement in complaints involving the incidental promotion of liquor and

as a result have an appreciation of each others' points of view in these areas. Taking

into account this history and its belief that TVNZ over recent years has been

conscientious in complying with the standards, the Authority decided that TVNZ's

actions on this occasion were appropriate and sufficient. Whereas aspects of the item

broadcast on 7 March unquestionably breached the standards, the Authority is aware

that TVNZ is undoubtedly making an effort to comply with them.

Should the Authority decide that TVNZ's efforts to comply fall away, it will

unhesitatingly use its powers to impose penalties. However, while such efforts

remain conscientious (and breaches minimal), it will refrain from doing so.

 

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

aspect not upheld or that the action taken on the aspects upheld was

insufficient.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority.

 

Iain Gallaway
Chairperson
11 May 1995


Appendix

GOAL's Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd - 8 March 1995

Mr Cliff Turner, secretary of the Group Opposed to Advertising of Liquor (GOAL)

complained to Television New Zealand Ltd about an item broadcast on TV1's

Sportsnight at 10.40pm on 7 March.

The item reported the switch of rugby player John Kirwan to the Auckland Warriors

league team and as the incidental promotion of liquor was not minimised, Mr Turner

wrote, it contained three breaches (of standards A3 and A4) of the recently revised

Programme Standards for the Promotion of Liquor.

First, Mr Turner said, Mr Kirwan and another man held up a Warriors' jersey

carrying a large DB logo. Secondly, while Mr Kirwan was being interviewed by Mr

Deaker a DB advertisement on a wall was seen for lengthy periods. Thirdly, twice

during the item presenter Jeremy Coney was seen in front of a backdrop which

promoted Dominion Breweries.

TVNZ's Response to the Formal Complaint - 30 March 1995

TVNZ said that the three aspects of the complaint had been assessed under the

nominated standards. It also noted that the item had been the subject of review and

action before the complaint was received.

As for the first aspect, Mr Kirwan and the Warriors' manager were seen unfurling a

shirt on which the sponsor's logo could be seen. TVNZ wrote:

We note that this shot was barely two seconds long, and was editorially

significant because it marked the definitive moment when one of New Zealand's

great rugby players exchanged his rugby union career for one in rugby league.

As the shot was brief and not in any way gratuitous, TVNZ declined to uphold that

aspect of the complaint.

As for the second aspect which focussed on the "DB Bitter" signage visible to the left

of the screen for a lengthy period, TVNZ agreed that the signage could have been

eliminated by a small adjustment to the camera position. That matter was upheld as a

breach of standard A3.

The third aspect referred to the studio component in which presenter Jeremy Coney

was seen sitting in front of a "vidiwall" on which DB sponsorship material was

visible. TVNZ reported:

Again, TVNZ agrees that - while there is some evidence that the producer made

an effort to remove the word "Bitter" by tightening the shot - the appearance of

the "DB" logo was not acceptable. Your complaint in this regard was upheld as

a breach of Standard A4.

In explanation of the breaches, TVNZ stated:

While in no way wishing to excuse the breach, we do note that "Sportsnight" is

a new programme and like all new programmes has undergone teething troubles.

A failure to adhere to the standards required concerning the promotion of liquor

has been one of those troubles.

It recorded that the following action had been taken:

TVNZ can assure you that the producer had been spoken to concerning this

matter - which has also been drawn to the attention of the Director of News and

Current Affairs.

The Chief Assistant to the Director of News and Current Affairs has spoken

directly to "Sportsnight" staff reaffirming the content of the liquor codes and the

seriousness with which TVNZ views breaches of them.

GOAL's Complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority - 3 April 1995

Dissatisfied both with the aspect not upheld and the action taken by TVNZ having

upheld parts of the complaint, on GOAL's behalf Mr Turner referred the complaint

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

1989.

As for the aspect not upheld, Mr Turner pointed out that the definitive moment of

Mr Kirwan's switch from rugby to league had occurred when he had signed the

contract. The shot which displayed the Warrior's jersey, Mr Turner added, although

brief was gratuitous.

With regard to the action taken by TVNZ on the aspects upheld, Mr Turner argued

that the time for talking to staff was before the event, not afterwards. He continued:

The connection between sport and the liquor industry has been the source of

many complaints about incidental advertising and when this programme was

instituted staff should have been thoroughly briefed about the pitfalls inherent in

such a programme.

The rule about studio backdrops is brief and should be easily understood. If, as

TVNZ claims, the "producer made an effort to remove the "Bitter" by

tightening the shot", he or she must have been aware of the rule. Instead of

"tightening the shot" he or she should have removed the vidiwall.

The news of Mr Kirwan's move to rugby league rang alarm bells for me and

caused me to tape Sportsnight. Similar bells should have been heard at TVNZ.

TVNZ's Response to the Authority - 12 April 1995

Dealing first with the aspect not upheld, TVNZ maintained that the shot of John

Kirwan and Ian Robson was not in breach taking into account its brevity and editorial

significance. Describing the "contract signing" as a visual cliche, TVNZ maintained

that the swapping of shirts was, editorially, a much more significant moment.

As for the aspects upheld, TVNZ emphasised that standards breaches were regarded

seriously and that efforts had been made to ensure that the standards were widely

known. It added:

We note Mr Turner's view that because the Kirwan move "rang alarm bells"

for him, similar "bells" should also have been heard by TVNZ. This remark

betrays ignorance of the environment in which live programmes go to air.

While exposure of liquor promotion is the one and only consideration Mr

Turner as a viewer had in mind as the broadcast went to air, the production

crew had literally to make hundreds of decisions on a wide variety of matters,

under extreme pressure. The item was written, shot and edited in a very short

space of time and had Mr Turner been in TVNZ's newsroom on that or any

other night he might have some inkling as to how mistakes can sometimes

occur.

Repeating the description of the action which had been taken as a consequence of the

breach, TVNZ noted that it had recently been decided that an enlarged section on the

revised liquor standards should be inserted into every journalist's manual which, in the

near future, would be available on computer disc.

GOAL's Final Comment to the Authority - 21 April 1955

Dealing first with the aspect not upheld, on GOAL's behalf Mr Turner referred to an

earlier decision (No: 123/94) when the Authority had declined to accept the brevity of

an appearance by a "DB can-man" as a valid defence. He added:

If the shirt had not been shown would the NZ public really have been deprived

of a moment of editorial significance?

Moreover, he noted, in response to TVNZ's comment that he was ignorant of the

environment in which live programmes went to air, TVNZ nevertheless acknowledged

that the item had been edited.

Insisting that alarm bells should have rung for TVNZ over the matter before the

broadcast, Mr Turner said that coverage of liquor-related sport events was a minefield

and that observing standards should have been TVNZ's first decision. As a way for

the Authority to assess TVNZ's assurances, he concluded by referring to a recent

item on Sportsnight which, although it originated in Australia, showed people in front

to a wall covered with advertising for Toohey's beer.