Editorial: Advertisers Hijack Your Right To Watch What You Want To

Thursday, 02 February 2017

We watch ads because we have to.  They're the price we pay for the opportunity to watch the programmes we want to.

Recently, many of us have discovered the set-top box, which allows us to pre-record programmes and then watch them at our leisure, and skip the commercials.

Now, however, the broadcasters have decided to force us to watch the commercial trash which precedes the programmes.  They have done this by doing away with a convention established when television was first established in NZ more than 50 years ago, called the FADE TO BLACK.  This constitutes a blank space between the programme proper and the commercial "break" (note the term BREAK, which indicates an interval of time between the programme proper and the blare of the huckster's voice. 

The broadcasters have done away with this interval, forcing us to watch the commercials, whether we want to or not.  There is no longer any physical space between the two, no opportunity to switch.

What happened to Freedom of Choice? 

WE ARE NOW BEING FORCED TO WATCH COMMERCIALS EVEN IF WE DON'T WANT TO. 

There is no longer a time interval to allow set-top box owners to click off the commercials and spin through to get back to the programme.

The advertisers on those channels which are supposedly free-to-air (they're not actually free because advertisers pay big bucks to yell their messages at us, which costs us in terms of hearing loss as well as time) are now making it impossible to differentiate their pitches from the programmes we want to watch.

Our organisation, which is an Incorporated Society and the only viewer advocacy group in NZ, has become concerned about the increasing encroachment of commercial material into your programmes, without consultation with the users of your service, the viewers of NZ, who own the airwaves.

We are also concerned about the following breaches of your right to switch away:

  1. The insertion of trailers into credit rolls, making the latter unreadable, and thus breaching the copyright of the creators of the programme.  This does nothing to enhance the viewer's experience and appears to be for the purpose of retaining audiences.
  2. The insertion of commercials into the programme content itself - as in the case of Hyundai ads in the middle of Country Calendar; another example being Lighting Plus ads on TV3 in the middle of Graham Norton's show.

We, as an organisation representing viewers, have complained about this practice to The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA), The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and The Human Rights Commission. 

ALL HAVE REFUSED TO EVEN CONSIDER OUR COMPLAINT.

PLEASE HELP US TO FIGHT THIS INTRUSION ON YOUR RIGHTS

  1. Viewers have a right to be able to refuse to watch advertising content if they choose, and indeed audience research shows most of us don't want commercials at all.  We will instead make tea, go to the loo, or record the programme and watch it later.
  2. It is a viewer's right not to have advertising material forced upon them if they choose otherwise.  Most of the intrusions identified above, appear without warning, or with only subliminal separation from the programme content.  Just as we all have freedom of speech, so we are free to choose or not, to watch paid-for material.  Many would regard TVNZ's current practices as essentially force-feeding us with commercial material which we don't want.
  3. The way that the commercial breaks have been eliminated, by removing the traditional ad break, subjects viewers to subliminal imagery, which is prohibited by law.
  4. The commercial channels in NZ already have the highest ratio of commercial to programme content per hour, in the Western world.  The response of the viewer is in many cases to invest in set-top boxes, which allow them to record and play back the programme, excising the ads as they go.
  5. TVNZ is a state-owned entity and is therefore accountable to tax-payers.

We, after trying every other avenue of Complaint, feel obliged to take this matter to the High Court, where we have a good record of winning against this kind of repression of Viewers' Rights.  We have taken both TVNZ and the BSA to the Courts in the past, and won.

WE CAN ONLY DO SO AGAIN, WITH YOUR HELP.

Please and Help Us Represent Your Interests and Stop This Flagrant Breach of Your Right to Watch What You Want To Watch, and Not Be Forced to Sit Helplessly in Front of Endless Commercials.


John Terris

John Terris is National President for Media Matters in NZ, and is a former Deputy Speaker, NZ House of Representatives.

Tel: (04) 566 3175