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Michington and TVWorks Ltd - 2010-047

Members

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Tapu Misa
  • Leigh Pearson

Complainant

  • Deborah Minchington of Christchurch

Dated

1st June 2010

Number

2010-047

Programme

Bro’ Town

Channel/Station

FOUR

Broadcaster

TVWorks Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Bro’ Town – characters talked about young boy being a “bastard” – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency and discrimination and denigration

Findings
Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration) – programme encouraged acceptance of children of single parent families rather than encouraging discrimination against them – legitimate humour and satire – not upheld

Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – “bastard” was not used as a swear word – material was acceptable for a PGR-rated comedy programme at 7.30pm – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]   An episode of Bro’ Town, an animated comedy chronicling the misadventures of five Auckland teenagers growing up in the imaginary suburb of Morningside, was broadcast on C4 at 7.30pm on Monday 15 March 2010. Some of the characters were shown talking in a backyard. A jeep pulled into the driveway, and a girl holding a baby boy tried to give him to a male character Sione to look after while she went to the beach. One of the males in the car yelled out, “Just take the little bastard and piss off Sione!” When the girl objected, he said, “But he is a little bastard, in the true sense of the word.” Sione responded, “‘Bastard’ means a dick or an egg”.

[2]   As the car pulled out of the driveway, Sione threw things at them. A male character said, “He won’t be calling Samson a bastard again in a hurry.” Another said, “He’s got a point though, just think who Samson’s dad is”, and then joked that Samson and their minister had the same hair. Sione replied that it was just “consequence”, and said, “Samson is a gift from God, everybody knows that.”

Complaint

[3]   Deborah Minchington made a complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the programme breached broadcasting standards because the use of the terms “illegitimate” and “bastard” was inappropriate at 7.30pm and encouraged discrimination against children from single parent families.

Standards

[4]   Standards 1 and 7 and guideline 7a of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice are relevant to the determination of this complaint. They provide:

Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency

Broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency.

Standard 7 Discrimination and Denigration

Broadcasters should not encourage discrimination against, or denigration of, any section of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, occupational status, or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religion, culture or political belief.

Guideline 7a

This standard is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material that is:

  • factual
  • a genuine expression of serious comment, analysis or opinion; or
  • legitimate humour, drama or satire.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[5]   TVWorks noted that Bro’ Town was rated PGR and screened at 7.30pm because it contained material that was more challenging than could be expected from a G-rated cartoon. It maintained that the intended audience would have readily understood the satire in the programme “of which the language is a vital part”. TVWorks also pointed out that the programme was preceded by a warning “because some of the ideas and themes of the programme required a higher level of sophistication and perhaps the guidance of an adult”.

[6]   TVWorks considered that the episode “actually focuses on the need to be tolerant of differences in people and their situations; it clearly does not poke fun at children who are born into single parent families.” It maintained that nothing in the programme discriminated against children from single parent families and that the low-level swearing and use of the word “bastard” was acceptable during PGR time. The broadcaster was of the view that it had considered the interests of child viewers.

[7]   The broadcaster concluded that none of the material in the programme was unacceptable in the context of a PGR-rated programme. The humour and content of this episode was consistent with audience expectations of the series, it said, and the language was consistent with other PGR-rated cartoons. TVWorks therefore declined to uphold Ms Minchington’s complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[8]   Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Ms Minchington referred her complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. She considered that discrimination was not humorous or satirical.

Authority's Determination

[9]   The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

Procedural Matters

[10]   We note that Ms Minchington did not nominate specific broadcasting standards in her complaint, and that the broadcaster did not address any particular standards in its response. We will therefore determine the complaint under the standards which we consider to be most relevant.

[11]   We also note that Ms Minchington complained about the use of the term “illegitimate”. Having viewed the programme, we are satisfied that the word “illegitimate” was not used during the broadcast. Our determination is therefore confined to the use of the term “bastard”.

Standard 1 (good taste and decency)

[12]   When we consider an alleged breach of good taste and decency, we take into account the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, the relevant contextual factors include:

  • Bro’ Town was broadcast at 7.30pm on C4

  • the programme was classified PGR

  • there was a warning advising parental guidance

  • the programme’s target audience

  • expectations of regular viewers

  • C4’s target audience.

[13]   The Authority has previously noted that standards relating to good taste and decency are primarily aimed at broadcasts that contain sexual material, nudity, violence or coarse language (e.g. Yeoman and TVNZ1). We note that on this occasion, the term “bastard” was not used as a swear word or in an abusive manner, but in a discussion about the fact that the characters did not know who Samson’s father was. We consider that viewers would have understood that as an accepted meaning of the term.

[14]   We acknowledge that Ms Minchington found the use of the word in that context offensive. However, we consider that it was acceptable within a PGR-rated comedy programme at 7.30pm, and that it would not have been unexpected for regular viewers, or inappropriate for child viewers in the company of an adult.

[15]   Taking into account the contextual factors, we decline to uphold the complaint that the programme breached Standard 1.

Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration)

[16]   We consider that Ms Minchington’s primary concern was that the programme’s use of the word “bastard” encouraged discrimination against children from single parent families. We note that the word “bastard” has historically been used to describe a person whose parents were not legally married at the time of their birth.

[17]   Standard 7 protects against denigration or discrimination on account of “race, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability, or occupational status”. Because the marital status of a person’s parents is not covered by any of these categories, Standard 7 does not apply.

[18]   For the record, however, we do not consider that the programme promoted discrimination against ex-nuptial children. We consider the message from the exchange was that, while there was some doubt about the identity of Samson's father, Samson was a much-loved "gift from God".

[18]   Accordingly, we decline to uphold the complaint under Standard 7.

Name Suppression

[19]   In her final comment on the complaint, Ms Minchington requested name suppression. Name suppression has traditionally been given only where the complainant’s privacy was breached, or where it was appropriate due to the circumstances or the nature of the complaint (e.g. WP and TVNZ2, RW and RadioWorks3).

[20]   On this occasion, we do not consider that any circumstances exist which would warrant excluding Ms Minchington’s details from the decision.

 

For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
1 June 2010

Appendix

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

1.           Peter Hind’s formal complaint – 1 March 2010

2.          TVWorks’ response to the complaint – 4 March 2010

3.          Mr Hind’s referral to the Authority – 7 March 2010

4.          TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 23 March 2010

5.          TVWorks’ response to the Authority’s request – 20 April 2010


1Decision No. 2008-087

2Decision No. 2009-092

3Decision No. 2008-111