Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
One News Tonight – item about washing machine for dogs – at the end of the item the presenter said, “And then you hang them by their front paws on the washing line” – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – comment was intended to be humorous – contextual factors – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 An item on One News Tonight, broadcast on TV One at 11pm on Wednesday 17 March 2010, reported on the invention of a washing machine for dogs in Japan. A dog was shown being washed and then blow-dried in the machine. Following the story, the news reader said, holding up his hands, “And then you hang them by their front paws on the washing line.”
 Donald McDonald complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the news reader’s comment breached standards relating to good taste and decency because it referred to “cruel and unusual means of punishment with sickening glee”, and there had been a child murder trial with a similar scenario.
 Standard 1 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice is relevant to the determination of this complaint. It provides:
Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency
Broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency.
 TVNZ contended that to constitute a breach of Standard 1 the broadcast material must be unacceptable in the context in which it was shown, including the programme classification, time of broadcast, the target audience, and the use of warnings. It noted that on this occasion, the programme was screened at 11pm and aimed at adult viewers. TVNZ argued that the presenter intended to be humorous and “continued the dog washing idea with a light-hearted comment about then drying the animal on the line after being washed in the machine”. It maintained that neither the item nor the news reader was promoting animal cruelty, and noted that the item clearly stated that the machine was safe for animals. The broadcaster considered that adult viewers would have realised that the news reader was not advocating cruelty. It declined to uphold the complaint.
 Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr McDonald referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He argued that TVNZ considered that “pegging a kid or pet to a clothesline is a subject of humour” which he alleged was “unacceptable to 93% of all New Zealanders” as proven in a child murder case.
 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.
 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:
One News Tonight was broadcast at 11pm
it was an unclassified news programme
the programme’s adult target audience.
 In our view, the presenter’s comment that the dogs should be pegged on the washing line to dry after being in the washing machine was harmless and clearly intended to be a joke in relation to the subject matter of the item. He was not seriously suggesting that dogs should be hung on the washing line, and made no reference to pegging children to washing lines as a form of abuse.
 Taking into account the contextual factors, particularly the late time of broadcast and the programme’s adult target audience, we find that the presenter’s comment did not stray beyond current norms of good taste and decency in breach of Standard 1.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
6 July 2010
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1. Donald McDonald’s complaint – 18 March 2010
2. Email from TVNZ to Mr McDonald – 24 March 2010
3. Mr McDonald’s response to TVNZ – 24 March 2010
4. TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 13 April 2010
5. Mr McDonald’s referral to the Authority – 14 April 2010
6. TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 20 May 2010