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Schwabe and TV3 Network Services Ltd - 2000-083

Members

  • L M Loates
  • R McLeod
  • J Withers

Complainant

  • Paul Schwabe of Auckland

Dated

6th July 2000

Number

2000-083

Channel/Station

TV4

Broadcaster

TV3 Network Services Ltd


Complaint
Queer as Folk – promo – offensive language – shagged

Findings
Standard G2 – acceptable in context – no uphold

Cross References
Decision No: 1999-163, Decision No: 2000-056 and Decision No: 2000-075

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

A promo for the programme Queer as Folk was broadcast on TV4 at approximately 10pm on 23 February 2000. During the promo, the word "shag" was used twice.

Paul Schwabe complained to TV3 Network Services Ltd, the broadcaster, that the word "shag" was "plainly offensive" and "akin to the ‘F’ word".

In its response, TV3 said it did not consider that the average viewer would consider the word "shag" to be a swear word or an offensive term. It also noted that the promo was broadcast at 10pm within an AO programme. It declined to uphold the complaint.

Dissatisfied with TV3’s decision, Mr Schwabe referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons given below, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Decision

The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the item complained about and have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. On this occasion, the Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

A promo for the programme Queer as Folk was broadcast on TV4 at approximately 10pm on 23 February 2000. During the promo, the word "shag" was used twice.

Paul Schwabe complained to TV3 Network Services Ltd, the broadcaster, that the word "shag" was "plainly offensive" and "akin to the ‘F’ word".

TV3 assessed the complaint under standard G2 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. Standard G2 requires broadcasters:

G2  To take into consideration currently accepted norms of decency and taste in language and behaviour bearing in mind the context in which any language or behaviour occurs.

TV3 maintained:

the word "shag" is a slang expression for the act of sexual intercourse and is a softer alternative for other similarly related expressions. It is not considered a swear word or "offensive" term by the average viewer.

In conclusion, TV3 found that the inclusion of the expression in a promo broadcast at 10pm within an AO programme did not contravene standard G2. It declined to uphold the complaint.

In his referral to the Authority, Mr Schwabe said he was not convinced that the word "shag" had "suddenly and conveniently become sanitised". He added:

The apathy with which some television viewers regard this and worse language also appears to have been misinterpreted by the broadcaster as confirmation that our society regards it as language which is decent and in good taste.

In its response to the referral, TV3 reiterated its view that, given the broad context of the broadcast, standard G2 was not breached.

As it is required to do, the Authority considers alleged breaches of standard G2 in the context in which the language or behaviour occurs. In this case, the relevant contextual factors include the promo’s late evening time of broadcast, its broadcast within an AO programme and that the language was used by an actor in character within the context of a drama series. In this context, the Authority finds that standard G2 was not threatened. It therefore declines to uphold the complaint.

 

For the reasons set forth above, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Rosemary McLeod
Member
6 July 2000

Appendix

The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:

1.    Paul Schwabe’s Complaint to TV3 Network Services Ltd – 16 March 2000

2.    TV3’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 10 April 2000

3.    Mr Schwabe’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 9 May 2000

4.    TV3’s Response to the Authority – 26 May 2000