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Broadcasting Standards Authority Speech From Hobbs

EMBARGOED AGAINST DELIVERY 0900 TUESDAY MARCH 28

Speech notes Minister of Broadcasting Hon Marian Hobbs

Broadcasting Standards Authority Symposium on Protection of Children, Ilott Centre, Wellington Town Hall, Tuesday 28 March 2000, 9am

I am very pleased to have the opportunity today to open the Broadcasting Standards Authority’s symposium on the protection of children.

I congratulate the Broadcasting Standards Authority on this initiative, and on gathering together the range of speakers present today to discuss children and broadcasting.

You will be aware that the Government is committed to providing a high quality broadcasting environment, which puts audiences first. I see children as a priority audience, and I am very concerned to see that their need as an audience are being well served by broadcasters.

Radio and television are very powerful medium. They have the ability to inform, to influence and to educate. But we can only achieve these objectives if we insist on quality programming.

This involves both ensuring high quality programming is available, and ensuring that there is a robust standards regime that reflects community expectations on acceptable content.

I use this amorphous term "quality programming". What is it? Because quality is a value judgement. Everyone's quality standard is unique to them. But we can distinguish between quality and dross. Quality is the edge – you engage more, laugh more, sit back and question, carry around the impact of the programme past the time that it finishes.

We need that edge. As a young teacher I was advised that I could not expect to teach 27 top-rate, excellent, dynamic lessons a week, but I should aim for one a day, one lesson that engaged the students, that took them out of themselves.

So while our children might blob in front of TV after school, at some stage in the afternoon/evening they should be jolted out of their complacency. They should experience the unexpected – quality TV.

As you are aware, I am concerned that children see programmes that reflect our national identity and culture. New Zealand made children’s programming is an area that has been identified by NZ On Air as under-represented in our programme schedules.

For this reason, programming for children and young people has been one of NZ On Air’s priority funding targets. In the Statement of Intent for 1999/2000, NZ On Air has budgeted over $9 million for this year for children’s programmes such as Bumble II, Suzy’s World, The Big Chair, II, Mai Time, 2000, Ice TV, and Squirt. The very popular What Now is celebrating its 18th birthday this year.

Around 380 hours of New Zealand programmes for children and young people will be broadcast on television this year with support from NZ On Air.

While this is a laudable effort, the Government is looking to ensure that such programmes are not only maintained, but also increased in the future.

The Government will be looking at the establishment of a charter for Television New Zealand Limited. That charter is a tool for measuring performance against expectation, as expressed in the charter.

I have also recently set up an officials group, led by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, to look at a range of issues relating to public broadcasting. This will include advising me on measures for increasing local content and ensuring that NZ On Air is adequately funded to carry out its work.

I believe that the Broadcasting Standards Authority also plays an important role in helping to ensure that we have a high quality broadcasting environment. A standards regime that ensures community expectations on programme content standards are met is an essential ingredient for ensuring quality broadcasting.

Today’s symposium forms part of the Authority’s forthcoming review of the Code of Broadcasting Practice for free to air television. It recognises the importance of children as an audience, and the need to ensure that their interests in respect of broadcasting are protected.

I am pleased to see that the Broadcasting Standards Authority has been taking a very proactive stance on children’s interests. Last year the Authority initiated a wide ranging research programme into community attitudes to broadcasting standards issues.

As part of this ongoing research programme, the Authority has undertaken a research study on children and the media. This study looks at the media habits of New Zealand children aged 6 to 13.

The findings of the project are being released at today’s symposium. They will, no doubt, help to inform today’s discussions, as well as providing valuable input to the review of the free to air code itself.

When it comes to the protection of children, there are two key issues that the standards regime needs to address.

First, the standards regime needs to ensure that children, as an audience, are protected from unsuitable programmes.

The current code of practice for Free to Air broadcasters acknowledges that broadcasters must be mindful of the effect any programme may have on children during their normally accepted viewing times.

The code specifically addresses the effect that violence can have on children. Cartoons, which have always been especially popular with children, often contain a level of violence that would not be acceptable in "real life" programmes, and violence that is not acceptable in children's own behaviour.

My own experience (anecdotal, of course) is that young people do imitate the language at least of TV characters. "I hit her, miss, because she gave me 'the evils' ".

I will be interested to learn in due course how the current code will be refined in light if the Broadcasting Standards Authority’s research and ongoing consultations.

I said a moment ago that an effective standards regime needs to address two key issues. I’ve talked briefly about the needs of children as an audience. The second issue is that of children as subject matter. We need to ensure that when children become the subject of a programme, due regard is had for privacy concerns.

The Broadcasting Standards Authority has undertaken a great deal of work on privacy issues. Recently the Government passed legislation, the Broadcasting Amendment Act 2000, which will provide the Authority with better tools to address privacy concerns.

The Act enables the Authority to develop and approve a code of broadcasting practice on the privacy of the individual. Previously the Authority did not have the statutory power to develop a privacy code. It had to rely on issuing advisory opinions.

The ability to establish a code will enhance the standards regime, and, in particular, provide increased protection for children when they are the subject of media coverage.

There’s a further aspect about children and the media on which I have expressed concern in the past. This relates to advertising aimed at children.

I was, however, interested to learn recently that of the 3,500 complaints on advertising that the Advertising Standards Authority has received since 1991, only 24 related to breaches of the Authority’s Code of Practice on advertising to children.

I am further heartened by initiatives that the Advertising Standards Authority is currently undertaking in relation to children.

I am advised that last year the Children’s Television Foundation met with television broadcasters, advertisers and advertising agencies to discuss advertising and children. Following on from this meeting, the Advertising Standards Authority intends reviewing its Code of Practice relating to children this year.

I understand that a draft revised Code will be prepared shortly.

The review is timely, and coincides with the work that the Broadcasting Standards Authority is undertaking on programming. I would therefore encourage the two agencies to share views and experience as they work through their respective codes.

In conclusion, I would like to welcome you all here and again endorse the work being undertaken by the Broadcasting Standards Authority. I wish you a productive and thought-provoking symposium.

ENDS

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