Investigation Report No. 2842ACMA file reference / 2012/909
Licensee / Austar Entertainment Pty Ltd
Channel / [V] HITS
Type of Service / Subscription Broadcasting Service (Television)
Name of Program / Born This Way (Lady Gaga music video)
Date of Broadcast / 19 June 2012
Relevant Legislation/Code / Broadcasting Services Act 1992
- Section 149
- Code 3.1 (Program Classifications – M Mature)
- No breach of Code 3.1 (Program Classifications – M Mature) of the ASTRA Codes of Practice 2007 (Subscription Broadcast Television).
On 4 July 2012, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (the ACMA) received a written complaint about a music video broadcast by Austar Entertainment Pty Ltd (AUSTAR). The complainant was unable to provide details of the artist or song title but was able to provide a description and broadcast time and date. Based on this description, AUSTAR identified Born This Way by Lady Gaga as the relevant music video. AUSTAR was also able to confirm that the music video was broadcast on its [V] HITS channel at approximately 6.15 pm on 19 June 2012.
The complaint alleged that the M classified video clip contained inappropriate depictions of nudity and sexual themes.
Not satisfied with the response provided on behalf of the licensee, the complainant forwarded the matter to the ACMA for investigation.
The music video
Lady Gaga’s music video for Born This Way is approximately 4:46 minutes in duration and was broadcast by the licensee on 19 June 2012 with an M classification.
The music video contains visual depictions of Lady Gaga dancing in a range of scenarios, in which she is depicted wearing different costumes, against various backgrounds and, at times, with other dancers. The accompanying audio consists of the song.
The music video was broadcast by AUSTAR on its [V] HITS channel:
[V] HITS lives up to its name by playing wall-to-wall clips of the biggest hits from all the music genres. No hosts, no interviews, no talk. Nothing but countdowns and music you love! [V] HITS is home to the biggest stars, from Beyonce, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas and Rhianna to our newest stars on the block Ke$ha, Jason Derulo and Justin Bieber. For the best mix of pop, dance, urban and rock music it has to be [V] HITS, Australia's #1 Hit Music Channel.
The assessment is based on a copy of the relevant broadcast provided to the ACMA by the licensee and submissions from the complainant and the licensee.
Code 3 of the ASTRA Codes of Practice 2007 (Subscription Broadcast Television) (the Codes) states that:
Licensees will classify films and drama programs, applying the program classification system contained in the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games (‘Guidelines’) [...]
Licensees will use their best endeavours to ensure that, where other programs are classified they will carry only classification symbols (identified below in the Classification Categories). This classification will have particular regard to the protection of children and will take into account relevant aspects of Guidelines.
In a letter to the ACMA, dated 23 July 2012, the licensee stated that:
[...] the Music Video was classified ‘M’ and a classification warning was provided at the commencement of the program.
As the content was classified M by the licensee, the following provisions of the Codes are relevant to the matter raised by the complainant:
The impact of the classifiable elements for material classified M should be no higher than moderate.
Note: Material classified M is not recommended for persons under 15 years of age. There are no legal restrictions on access.
The treatment of themes may have a moderate sense of threat or menace, if justified by context.
In correspondence to the ACMA, received on 4 July 2012, the complainant alleged that the music video contained material that was ‘clearly pornographic’, specifically describing the footage as follows:
There were young females wearing nothing more than three short strips of electricians tape. There was a shot of a young female lying on her back with her legs wide apart while a male placed his face within centimetres of her vulva.
In a letter to the ACMA, dated 23 July 2012, the licensee stated:
The ‘M’ classification recommends viewing only by persons aged 15 years or over. Music videos classified ‘M’ may contain sexual references.
The Music Video depicts Lady Gaga performing in various outfits including a black bikini, black tuxedo with skeleton facepaint, and a skin-coloured bodysuit with black zippers running down the arms and covering the breasts and groin – apparently the outfit subject of the complaint. The Music Video contains no nudity.
The Music Video, which largely consists of Lady Gaga dancing with a troupe of performers in front of a black backdrop, contains several shots which suggest she births a ball of blue light. These visual allusions to birth are very brief and non-sexual in context. The visuals occur in the context of a song whose lyrics address themes of empowerment and self-acceptance.
It is therefore considered that this Music Video can be accommodated with the ‘M’ classification.
The ACMA finds that Austar Entertainment Pty Ltd, in broadcasting the music video for Born This way on 19 June 2012, did not breach Code 3.1 of the ASTRA Codes of Practice 2007 (Subscription Broadcast Television).
The Codes state that themes, at an M classification, may have a moderate sense of threat or menace, if justified by context. The overall impact of the classifiable elements should be no higher than moderate.
The music video titled Born This Way, broadcast at approximately 6.15 pm on 19 June 2012, contained depictions of sexual themes. The following appear to relate to the scenes referred to in the complaint:
- From 2.12 minutes, the music video includes scenes featuring Lady Gaga wearing a bodysuit that has black zippers on the chest and crotch. These scenes are brief and are interspersed with other scenes. In the scenes featuring the bodysuit, Lady Gaga is positioned in a reflective box that contains images of semi-transparent distorted faces. Each part of the scene is displayed very briefly and intercut with other stylised clips that comprise the music video.
- From 2.58 minutes, the music video includes scenes featuring Lady Gaga wearing a black bikini and dancing in a writhing style, surrounded by other performers. As this scene progresses, interspersed with other scenes, the surrounding performers are depicted grabbing and reaching toward Lady Gaga, eventually lifting her up above their heads.
The music video contains stylised dance performances that include some sexually suggestive movements, which may be considered sexual references. The overall impact of the sexual references is mitigated by the brevity and rapid editing, which limits the level of detail visible in individual scenes. Further, the treatment of this theme, as part of a highly stylised dance routine accompanying a pop song, is considered to have a sense of threat or menace that is below moderate, and is justified within the context of a music video.
For the above reasons, the music video is considered to comply with the requirement that themes – in this instance, sexual references – may have a moderate sense of threat or menace, if justified by context, at an M classification. Therefore, the broadcast has complied with the overall requirement that M classified programs do not exceed a moderate impact.
ACMA Investigation Report – Born This Way (music video) broadcast by [V] HITS on 19 June 2012 1
 [accessed 15 August 2012]
 As a result of AUSTAR’s merger with FOXTEL, the submissions have been made by FOXTEL - FOXTEL Press Release 10 April 2012 [accessed 15 August 2012]