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SBS One - ACMA Investigation Report 2768

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					Investigation Report No. 2768
ACMA file reference       2012/279

Broadcaster               Special Broadcasting Service

Station                   SBS One

Type of Service           National Broadcasting Service (Television)

Name of Program           Black Music: An American (R)evolution

Date of Broadcast         19 November 2011

Relevant Codes            Broadcasting Services Act 1992
                              Section 151
                          SBS Codes of Practice 2006
                              Code 4.5 (Classification Categories)
                              Code 4.7 (Time Zones)




Investigation conclusion
         No breach of code 4.7 (Time Zones) of the SBS Codes of Practice 2006.




ACMA Investigation Report 2768 – Black Music: An American (R)evolution broadcast by SBS
on 19 November 2011                                                                       1
The complaint
On 13 February 2012, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (the ACMA) received a
written complaint, via email, about the documentary Black Music: An American (R)evolution which
was broadcast by the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) on 19 November 2011.

The complaint alleged that the M-classified program contained inappropriate language and violence
for the time of broadcast – Saturday afternoon.

Not satisfied with the response provided by SBS, the complainant forwarded the matter to the ACMA
for investigation.


The program
Black Music: An American (R)evolution is a two-part documentary that examines the role
contemporary music played in shaping and reflecting the African American experience in the USA
                                th
during the second half of the 20 century. SBS describes the program in the following terms:

           The documentary traced the development of human rights for African Americans from the 1960’s to the
           election of Barack Obama as the first black [President] of the United States. It did this by mapping the
           trajectory of black music from the sounds of Motown to the present day. It is through tracing the
           changing types of music produced and performed by African Americans that the documentary provides
           a continuing perspective on the role music played and is playing to support equal rights for all
                       1
           Americans’.

The program uses a combination of narration, excerpts from songs and contemporaneous video
footage such as news and documentary reports.

The second episode of Black Music: An American (R)evolution was broadcast by SBS at 1.00 pm on
19 November 2011 with an M classification. The program was broadcast with two consumer advices.
The first advice was verbal and on screen and stated:

           SBS advises that the following program is transmitted outside its normal classification time zone under
           4.7 of the SBS Codes of Practice.

The second advice stated that the program was classified M and contained ‘coarse language, drug
use and some violence’.


Assessment
The assessment is based on a copy of the relevant broadcast provided to the ACMA by SBS, and
submissions by the complainant and SBS.




1
    As described in the broadcaster’s submission to the ACMA dated 8 March 2012.
ACMA Investigation Report 2768 – Black Music: An American (R)evolution broadcast by SBS
on 19 November 2011                                                                                              2
Relevant Provisions
The SBS Codes of Practice 2006 (the Code) contains the following provisions that are relevant in the
matter raised by the complainant:

        4 TELEVISION CLASSIFICTION CODE

        [...]

        4.5 CLASSIFICATION CATEGORIES

        [...]

        PG – Parental Guidance (parental guidance recommended for persons under 15 years of age)

        PG programs may contain adult themes and concepts which, when viewed by those under 15 years,
       may require the guidance of an adult. They may be shown:

                   between 8:30am and 4:00pm on weekdays; and

                   before 6:00am and from 7:00pm on weekdays; and

                   before 6:00am and after 10:00am on weekends

        [...]

        M – Mature Audience

        M, MA15+ and MAV 15+ programs are those which, because of the material they contain, or because of
        the way the material is treated, are recommended for viewing only by persons aged 15 years or over.
        While most adult themes may be dealt with, the degree of explicitness and intensity of treatment will
        determine what can be accommodated in the M, MA 15+ and MAV 15+ classification categories.

        M: The less explicit or less intense material will be included in the M classification. M programs may be
        shown between:

                   Noon and 3:00pm on weekdays that are school days; and

                   8:30pm and 5:00am on any day of the week.

        [...]

        4.6 CONSUMER ADVICE

        The reasons for a M, MA, MA 15+ and MAV 15+ classification will be shown before the program.

        [...]

        4.7 TIME ZONES

        The time zones indicated for each classification in Code 4.5 are guides to the most likely placement of
       programs within that classification. The recommended placements are not hard and fast rules and there
       will be occasions when programs or segments of programs will appear in other timeslots. For example,
       an arts program or a segment of an arts program classified M may appear during a weekend daytime
       schedule. SBS should have sound reasons for any departure from the time zone for a program
       classification.

        Programs that deal in a responsible manner with serious moral, social or cultural issues may appear
       outside their normal classification period provided a clear indication of the nature and content of the
       program, in the form of consumer advice for example, is given at the start of the program.

        [...]


ACMA Investigation Report 2768 – Black Music: An American (R)evolution broadcast by SBS
on 19 November 2011                                                                                              3
Complainant’s submissions
In correspondence to SBS, dated 19 November 2011, the complainant stated that they were
concerned about ‘bleating foul language and violence’ being broadcast at an inappropriate time when
young people may be watching. The complainant further described the broadcast of the program as
‘irresponsible programming’.

The complainant forwarded this correspondence to the ACMA on 13 February 2012 for investigation,
without further submissions.


Broadcaster’s submissions
In correspondence to the complainant, dated 14 December 2011, SBS outlined code 4.7 (Time
Zones) of the Code and also submitted the following:

       [...]

       The SBS Classifier submitted that:

                This two part series was purchased for the arts slot, and the first instalment conformed to the
                PG classification. The second episode warranted the M classification for coarse language.
                Ordinarily, such material would be excised from a program, but in this instance it was neither
                possible nor desirable to do so. The language was firmly enmeshed in the program, and it was
                an essential feature of the artistic and political expression. As such, there was a strong
                justification for broadcasting the program intact.

                The program was appropriately classified M and it was preceded by a notice to this effect
                accompanied by consumer advice. Given that it was a legitimate arts documentary where the
                classifiable element was essential to the content, it remained suitable for broadcast on a
                Saturday afternoon.

       [...]

       In this case, the warnings and advice combined prior to the broadcast provided sufficient information
       and time for parents and guardians of children to take whatever action they deemed necessary.

       SBS would note that the use of the arts program exemption is the exception rather than the rule. And in
       this case the coarse language used at times in the documentary was justified by the content, which was
       largely about urban black Americans and how they have struggled to achieve equal rights.

       [...]

In correspondence to the ACMA, dated 8 March 2012, SBS submitted the following:

       [...]

       The program was purchased for the Masterpiece/arts slot. SBS considers Saturday afternoon between
       1 pm and 4.30 pm to be the arts slot on its schedule.

       [...]

       The practise of showing arts documentaries in this time zone is well established, it has been occurring
       since 1995. Therefore regular SBS viewers are familiar with the genre of material they are likely to see
       on SBS at this time.

       [...]


ACMA Investigation Report 2768 – Black Music: An American (R)evolution broadcast by SBS
on 19 November 2011                                                                                          4
        SBS considered that Black Music: An American (R)evolution was a bona fide arts program which
        showed the influence music can have on the political landscape. It was an example of how the arts can
        lead the way to social reforms which in this case lifted an entire people from subservience to the highest
        office in the land.

        In considering the material, SBS was cognisant that the material which warranted the M classification
        was confined only to the later sections of the 2nd episode in the series. SBS decided that, provided
        suitable consumer advice was given, it was reasonable to broadcast the series in the arts slot on the
        SBS weekend schedule.

        [...]



Finding
The ACMA finds that SBS did not breach code 4.7 of the Code in broadcasting the M-classified
program Black Music: An American (R)evolution in a PG time zone at 1.00 pm on 19 November 2011.


Reasons
The complainant is concerned that the program was broadcast at an inappropriate time when young
children may be watching.
Code 4.5 of the Code provides classification time zones; times when the programs broadcast should
be no higher than a certain classification. These time zones are not, however, immutable and code
4.7 contains the mechanism for, and an example of the circumstances under which, a program of a
higher classification can be broadcast in a time zone allocated to a lower classification.

The M-classified program Black Music: An American (R)evolution was broadcast at 1.00 pm on a
weekend during a PG time zone. Therefore, the issue is whether SBS complied with the requirements
of code 4.7 in broadcasting the program at this time.

There are three elements that must be met in order for SBS to satisfy the requirements of code 4.7.
SBS must have ‘sound reasons for any departure from the time zone for a program classification’.
The program must be one that deals ‘in a responsible manner with serious moral, social or cultural
issues’. SBS must also provide ‘a clear indication of the nature and content of the program’, such as
consumer advice, at the start of the program.

SBS has submitted that the Saturday afternoon time zone between 1.00 pm and 4.30 pm is reserved
for arts themed programming, and has been since 1995. SBS has also submitted that it considered
the likely audience, the expectations built by previous programming decisions and the content of the
program when deciding to broadcast Black Music: An American (R)evolution in a PG time zone.

It is considered that the program was in keeping with the type of programming regularly provided by
SBS during the Saturday afternoon time zone and would meet the expectations of regular viewers in
that respect. It is also noted that the program is the second episode in a two-part series (with the first
episode classified PG). It is reasonable to broadcast the second episode of a series in the same time
zone as the first episode to provide continuity of viewing. It is considered that SBS had sound reasons
for departing from the time zone for the program classification.




ACMA Investigation Report 2768 – Black Music: An American (R)evolution broadcast by SBS
on 19 November 2011                                                                                            5
The program deals with issues such as civil rights, socio-economic change, politics, arts and
entertainment in a documentary format. These matters are considered to be serious social and
cultural issues. Further, the manner in which the issues are dealt with is responsible, being factual
and informative.

In particular, it is noted that the violence and coarse language appearing briefly in the program are not
presented for entertainment purposes. Rather, these elements are integral to the factual story being
told. The depictions of violence and examples of coarse language are used to illustrate and reinforce
the information provided by the narrator.
For example, at approximately 40:00 minutes the program focuses on the fraught relationship
between urban African American communities and law enforcement agencies in the late 1980s. The
narrator discusses the issues of police discrimination and media stereotyping of African American
males, along with the music written by African American artists in reaction to these issues. The
accompanying footage includes brief excerpts from the music video clips for the songs Straight Outta
Compton and Fuck Tha Police by the band N.W.A. These songs contain ‘fuck’ coarse language as
part of lyrics which relate to the issues being discussed by the narrator. The program subsequently
focuses on the reaction of other segments of society to the music of N.W.A. and similar artists, and
the narrator explains how this eventually led to the introduction of language warning labels on music
products.

In the subsequent segment, the narrator discusses the civil unrest caused by the ‘Rodney King
incident’. The narrator explains, ‘In 1992 an amateur cameraman filmed a black driver called Rodney
King being beaten by white police’. Part of the accompanying footage includes an eight second clip
depicting police officers beating Mr King while he is lying on the ground. It is noted that the footage
has been filmed by an amateur cameraman from a distance at night time, which reduces the level of
detail and the impact of the clip.

SBS provided appropriate consumer advice that Black Music: An American (R)evolution was being
broadcast out of its classification time zone. SBS also provided consumer advice prior to the
broadcast that informed viewers of the classifiable elements contained in the program.

It is therefore considered that SBS has not breached code 4.7 of the Code.




ACMA Investigation Report 2768 – Black Music: An American (R)evolution broadcast by SBS
on 19 November 2011                                                                                     6

				
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