Channel 9 bans Greenpeace's controversial spot for a national cash for cans recycling scheme

Thumbnail image for StopTrashing.jpgIn an 11th hour decision, Channel 9 has banned Greenpeace's controversial spot in support of a national cash for cans recycling scheme. 

The ad - lampooning Coca-Cola's opposition to effective recycling - was created by Republic of Everyone, Sydney and directed by Sandy Widyanata from Film Construction. The spot has gone viral, being viewed over half a million times on YouTube since its release on Monday.

In less than 24 hours, individual Australians chipped in more than $20,000 to get the ad on Friday night football which is essential viewing for key decision-maker, NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell.  According to Greenpeace Channel 9 has already accepted payment for the ad. A representative refused to explain to them why the station was now pulling the plug.

"They took the money and now they've bottled it," said Greenpeace Campaigner Reece Turner. "There's something seriously wrong when TV networks are happy to show gambling, rape and pillage, but are too afraid to air an ad for recycling."

"Coke has been accused of bullying politicians into blocking cash for containers," said Turner. "It's a reasonable assumption their influence is behind Channel 9's last minute choking. Australians have a right to know what Coke is doing to our environment. It's just a pity Channel 9 don't have the guts to tell the truth."

Last month, NSW Nationals MP John Williams blamed vested interests for the failure to implement cash for containers. "Both Labor and Liberal governments have been supported by the Packaged Stewardship Forum which basically helps them with elections and helps with funds," says Williams. "I don't think that's in the best interests of getting the job done with container deposit legislation."

"Cash for containers is supported by over 80% of Australians because it is proven to be good policy," said Turner. "We expect that Channel 9 will return the cash, but it does not look like they will respect the right of Australians to be heard."


Feathered Friends said:

Shame on 9. No wonder they're struggling so desperately as a network with decisions like this.

Gutless said:

Clearly Coke has said to Channel 9 that they'll pull their advertising if they run the spot.

Jack Sparrow said:

Bad little TV network that no one watches anyway. It won't affect my choice to personally boycott Cocka-Cola.

swift said:

Banned ads have a habit of going viral online so will probably be seen by more people than on 9.

Groucho said:

How many pieces of silver?

Ugly BWOOCE said:

Listen up girly whirlie watermelons, cos yer Unca Bwoocie is only gunna tell yers this once.

No one important gives a rat's abut bloomin recycling and work-shy seabirds, OK?

Yers got that? Good.

The Cost said:

An ad from Greenpeace telling the truth about beverage plastic pollution, its threat to wildlife, and Coca Cola Amatil's resistance to a national recycling scheme is being called "offensive" by Channel 9, but Tom Waterhouse exposing kids to gambling with his odds updates and ads broadcast during the NRL games is just good family entertainment.

Let's see, $12 million from Waterhouse versus $20 thousand from Greenpeace. Morality comes at a very high price these days.

Just One Line said:

Imagining the conversation between Gonski, Chairman of Amatil and Gyngell, CEO of 9, just David to David.

"Don't ever take sides with anyone against the Family again."

Dah said:

Only an idiot bites the hand that feeds them. You want TV Networks with more independence with programming less dependent on advertising dollars? Introduce a TV license or change the model. So long as advertisers pay for the content to be made, this is how it is. It's like getting annoyed by pop up ads on the web. Who do you think pays for this wonderful and expensive to make and maintain free service? Dah.

@Dah said:

You're obviously confused about 'the model'. Networks pay for the license to broadcast from the Australian people, or the government if you prefer.

Yes, advertisers pay for the programming with their advertising dollars. but the networks are bound to a code of conduct which requires that there is fair competition for the air time and that no potential advertiser can be rejected arbitrarily, or without good cause.

Nine's labelling the Greenpeace ad "offensive" is essentially just a cover for the fact that a large advertiser like Coke forced their hand, which would contravene their license, if it could be proved. The offensive tag is arbitrary in this case, and should be seen by the regulator as such. Greenpeace should have the legal right to force 9 to air the work, unless they can prove its offensive nature by a standard that would be accepted in the general public, not simply by their making the claim.

Nine does not own the air ways, we all do. They're just renting them.

@dah said:

TV license, like in the UK paid by the consumer with funds going to the networks. Not broadcast license, which Im fully aware of. I was talking about the funding model of Australian content. Labeling it offensive, I agree is arbitrary but its also unnecessary. They can under the terms of their 'broadcast' license choose not to air content. In this case content that would be counter to their interests. In terms of takings the media money, that deal was likely done before the creative was even briefed let alone the ad made, so it's likely they may not of even known the content would be directly attacking one of their key customers. And make no mistake, the viewer is not the customer in this model, the advertiser is. The viewer is the product. The only way to change that is for viewers to becoming paying customers, but in a market the size of Australia that won't ever be sufficient to produce premium content. The alternative is legislated / regulated content like ABC and SBS. No where else in the world is TV both free and of such high quality, the flip side of that is we put up with the commercial interests of the people speculating on this content influencing what is broadcast.

@Dah said:

The industry is self regulated as you probably know, so the likelihood of the regulator doing anything is slim. It would probably be more about mitigating greenpeaces legal options. I don't disagree with you about the networks motives, it's no doubt a commercial decision not a moral decision, even saying that is laughably ironic. But my point is: why would you expect a commercial network depending 100% on advertisers for millions of dollars in revenue to do anything different ?! As I said before, Dah!

@Dah said:

"No where else in the world is TV both free and of such high quality"?

What are you smoking? Or more to the point, have you ever traveled outside of Australia? The US, where the majority of our program content comes from, France, Germany, all of the Scandinavian countries, Canada, Israel?

For the most part the quality of Australian produced television content is bad comedy, reality based, or soap operaesque.

You're also wrong on the terms of Nine's broadcast license and what rights they have with regard to accepting paid advertising, so long as it in itself does not breach the code of conduct.

@dah said:

The 'code of conduct' is voluntary and not legislation. In all those countries mentioned TV isn't free. Agreed the content may be better qaulity though, if you ignore the fact our population is a fraction of the size.

Bottom line is: advertisers pay for the content so they have power. TV networks don't owe viewers a damn thing. If they gamble on the wrong content or loose a major sponsor, they go broke. We very nearly lost two of our biggest networks this year. You don't like Aussie content? What do you think the landscape would be like if two of the major networks closed their doors? There's no more Kerry Packer at the ready to bail out his pet company. It needs to make money or its gone. Some of these networks are seriously few bad ratings periods or an over proced sport rights deal away from disaster. And this is all in a climate of diminishing budgets, global recession, high Aussie dollar and increased competition and consumer choice.

Are you're arguing Nine should fall on its sword over a green peace ad that's clearly designed to go viral anyway. It's so unrealistic. To be honest Im amazed the news even has a semblance of independence at any of te networks given the financial pressure theyre under.

@Dah said:

You continue to misinterpret the requirements of the broadcast license.

Nine or any other network is required to operate under the law, which means that they cannot use discriminatory policies, or act in restraint of trade by allowing one client/advertiser to monopolise their air time, or their policies, this or have their license revoked.

It is in restraint of trade to use different standards in accepting one advertiser's marketing over another's, all things being equal in price, and the time being available for purchase. The time was available and purchased at an agreed upon price, and if the content can be argued to be non-offensive, by the standards that other previous ads have been aired, then NIne can be forced by a court order to broadcast the ad from Greenpeace, irrespective of Coke's threat to pull their own sizeable work from the network. It's not been tested in the courts, but a strong compelling argument can be made that this is precisely the situation here. It would only take Greenpeace's will to take it forward.

On the issue of networks in Australia and their tenuous hold on solvency, if Coke were to withdraw their advertising under these circumstances, it's easy to imagine the backlash against the bottler in the marketplace, and the results would not be in their best interests from a marketing perspective, so a non-starter I think.

Lastly, regarding Aussie content and the world as a comparison, all of the countries mentioned, and some others, US, France, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Holland have free to air television without a site license. Just put up an aerial, and all have really amazing programming created by their networks. The later four all have populations less than Australia, and what does that matter really when the work is strong enough, as it is in all of these nations save perhaps Austria and Holland to make significant financial reward from exporting the content?

Lastly, the news has to be independent or the ACCC and the various watchdogs would be at their heels, which could also trigger a legal rebuke from governing bodies, or another revocation of their license. Stop spreading misinformation. The legalities exist, now whether they are enforced by weaker and weaker regulatory bodies is open to question, but they can and should be used, for just these sorts of cases, or they will be lost.

@dah said:

You're obviously not a lawyer.

'Restraints of trade' refer to a clause between two entities that were in a relationship, stating terms for restraint of trade upon the ending of that relationship. Eg. I sell my corner store a retraint of trade clause may prevent me from opening another one next door. It has nothing to do with fair competition or the Broadcast License and isn't applicable under the Consumer and Competition Act in this scenario. There is a provision regarding monoply and anti-competitive behavior but they do not apply here and the action would need to be made against coke not nine, which is a long now to draw because Greenpeace and Coke don't directly compete.

Secondly all things clearly wouldn't 'be equal', coke would offer far more revenue than Greenpeace. Nine has a right under both its license, the Code of Practice and the Competition and Consumer Act to act in its commercial interest.

The discrimination act does not apply to this scenario either and it's primary function is to protect individuals and focuses on age, gender, race, disability and sexual orientation base discrimation - nothing to do with choosing to do business with one company over another Organisation.

The Broadcasting Services Act 1992 mandates licenses to service particular areas, broadcast licenses, determined by the ACMA. The ACMAs mandate states:

(2) The Parliament also intends that broadcasting services and datacasting services in Australia be regulated in a manner that, in the opinion of the ACMA:

(a) enables public interest considerations to be addressed in a way that does not impose unnecessary financial and administrative burdens on providers of broadcasting services and datacasting services; and

"Does not impose unnecessary financial ... Burdens"

ie. it's very likely even if this did somehow constitute a breach, which it doesn't, that breach would not be enforced because there is a very strong burden arguement.

Further the Broadcasting Sevices Act 1992, Part 9, Standards does not regulate practices relating to non-program content, ads. It's concerned with children's programming, local content, news etc

So that's the Discrimation Act, the ACCC and the Broadcast License Act taken care of. That leaves the Television Code of Practice 2010. This document is a self regulatory document drafted by the broadcasters and regulated by FreeTV. The Broadcast Act requires that the code exist, but a breach of the code does not represent a breach of license itself - its a 'self regulated' system.

Moreover, The Code of Practices does not obligate broadcasters to broadcast non-program content that is not in their financial interest and it is not concerned with fair competition. In fact the code cant conpell broadcasters to broadcast specific content, thry can only request that briadcast content be altered or disclaimered to adhere to guidelines. There are guidelines relating to News and A Current Affair and discloser of agreements, but nothing regarding the right to choose between advertisers.

And even then:"a failure to comply will not be held to breach the code (note code not license) if..." See section 1.5 of the code for a list of loopholes including 'acting on advice from an individual' eg. Our internal classifier thought the content was 'offensive' or it compromised the 'artistic integrity of the program content'. Both valid reason under the code for non-breach.

And even then they have 21 days to respond, in which case it can be escalated to the ACMA, at which point they can dismiss the claim as being part of normal operation in the broadcasters financial interst. Not that it would even get that far, because FreeTV is a complaints based system that classifies by placement code prior to broadcast and only responds to complaints after broadcast. Furthermore non-program content that a network has never broadcast cant breach the code of practice because it hasn't been broadcast!

So no, there's no case. There's not even grounds for an angry letter.

@dah said:

Oh I forgot to mention. Assume everything I've said above is completely wrong and Greenpeace are success and Nine are somehow found to of breached the act. The ACMA can't compel Nine to broadcast the ad. All they can do is issue a fine that would be a fraction of Coke's total media spend. It would be written off as the cost of doing business.

My advice to Greenpeace, take the free publicity as a win and use the spot as a viral. They've probably got way more coverage now than their $20k would of got them anyway. Which buys a handful of off peaks spots at best. $20k clearly was never intended to be a serious media plan, the agency knew exactly what it was doing and what would happen. When it got "banned" they would have been high fiveing each other.

Anonymous said:

I'll never buy Coke or watch channel 9 again. What goes around, comes around, God don't like ugly!!

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