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High Time to tighten broadcasting standards

23 February 2006

High Time to tighten broadcasting standards

The television viewers’ organisation VoTE (‘Viewers for Television Excellence Inc.), says the South Park controversy highlights the urgent need to overhaul New Zealand’s broadcasting standards. The broadcaster (C4), blatantly disregarded strong public opinion, including that of the Prime Minister, and screened a programme that was offensive to many New Zealanders.

“Currently, the Broadcasting Standards Authority has no authority prior to a programme being screened,” says VoTE secretary Glenyss Barker. It cannot caution a TV channel about the likely consequences of running a programme.

“And it doesn’t even have any powers after a programme has been aired, unless there are complaints from viewers, who will have, by that stage, have had their complaint rejected by the broadcaster. VoTE contends that the legislation is toothless.”

Mrs Barker says BSA rulings on complaints over the last couple of years have shown that the government-funded body is not upholding the standards that ordinary viewers would expect. They are only upholding about one in five complaints – so they support the broadcaster. Then when a complaint is upheld, either a penalty is not imposed, or it is laughable.

“It is no wonder that the channels are thumbing their noses at the BSA and the public. They know they will either get away with impunity, or else the penalty will be minimal.”

VoTE has begun a campaign to have the time at which adult programmes can be shown on television pushed back from the current 8.30pm to 9.30pm. It also wants a similar code for adult programmes to that used by the BBC.

“Not only are the guidelines for what is acceptable frequently abused – particularly in cartoons, trailers and news – but come 8.30pm the broadcasters push a button labelled: ‘anything goes’.

“New Zealand allows free-to-air television to show material which other countries won’t permit, and it’s way past time that the government called a halt to this terrible downward spiral,” Mrs Barker says.


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