Rhythm City slammed for shocking woman abuse scene

2016-03-11 23:00

Cape Town – The Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA) has slammed e.tv and the channel's local soap Rhythm City for broadcasting a "shockingly inappropriate" strangulation scene with woman abuse too early without adequate warning.

The BCCSA ruled that a Rhythm City episode depicting domestic violence and violence against a woman was too extreme for the timeslot and failed to give viewers adequate warning during a time when children could be watching.

Following a viewer complaint about Rhythm City in which a woman was strangled in the context of extensive verbal abuse, the BCCSA ruled that e.tv failed to properly warn viewers and that the Rhythm City content isn't appropriate for the timeslot before the so-called "watershed period" when large numbers of children could be watching.

e.tv argued that Rhythm City, produced by Quizzical Pictures, is "mainly targeted at a mature audience" in which the character of Lerato was strangled from behind with a piano wire by Jim Jam.

"Contextually speaking, the episode presents an educational narrative about the trajectories of patriarchy," e.tv argued, saying that the constitution guarantees the right to freedom of expression and that it includes the right to offend, shock and disturb.

The broadcaster said the violence depicted "only lasted for a seconds" and was within reasonable bounds.

e.tv said "the episode had a PG13 rating and it neither contained violence nor grossly offensive language".

The BCCSA ruled there's no objection to the episode being shown to mature audiences and that the graphic scenes of woman abuse portrayed are violent and that the strangling interaction around it amounts to scenes of torture in a domestic violence context. 

The BCCSA said the Rhythm City scenes would be disturbing for children. "Parents do not expect their children to be exposed to such violence under the advisory of PG13".

The BCCSA said the visual advisory of PG13 for the Rhythm City episode "was entirely inadequate". "Even if parents or caregivers were present, the material would still have been harmful".

"e.tv transgressed the Broadcasting Code by broadcasting strangulation scenes in Rhythm City at a time when large numbers of children were likely to be among the audience. According to the broadcaster Rhythm City always bears a PG13 visual advisory."

"The fact that all episodes have this advisory – combined with the fact that PG is routinely used for innocuous material by all broadcasters – makes the broadcast more shockingly inappropriate and more unexpected for caregivers," the BCCSA found.

"The advisory is unsuitable for this material and in practice the advisory would have been completely ineffective".

The broadcaster wasn't fined but e.tv was ordered to broadcast an on-screen message during Rhythm City stating the transgression with a voice-over that it violated the Broadcasting Code and that the audience advisory of PG13 was insufficient for the episode.

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