Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
My Wife and Kids – adult character made references to sex life – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency and children’s interests
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) and Standard 9 (children’s interests) – programme contained oblique and light-hearted sexual innuendo – mild sexual banter would have gone over the heads of younger viewers – contextual factors – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 An episode of My Wife and Kids was broadcast on TV2 at 5.30pm on Wednesday 11 February 2009. At the beginning of the programme, a family were shown sitting around their kitchen table eating when the mother announced that she wanted to open her own restaurant. The children left the room and the mother and father were left sitting at the table.
 The wife stated, “Michael, you said yourself that if a restaurant served this kind of food you would eat there every night.” The husband replied, “I know I said that, but that was just foreplay. You really think I mean all those nice things I say to you? I’m just trying to cut down on some begging time up in the bedroom.”
 Jenni Boulton made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the programme breached standards relating to good taste and decency and children’s interests.
 The complainant considered that it was inappropriate to have the details of the adult characters’ sex lives included in a programme broadcast at 5.30pm, because children would have been watching. She said, “I also believe that this particular reference taught nothing to young minds – other than how to be manipulative in order to gain sensual pleasure”. Ms Boulton argued that the timeslot should be devoted to family-friendly shows that did not include details of the characters’ sex lives.
 Standards 1 and 9 and guideline 1a of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice are relevant to the determination of this complaint. These provide:
Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency
In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.
Broadcasters must take into consideration current norms of decency and taste in language and behaviour bearing in mind the context in which any language or behaviour occurs. Examples of context are the time of the broadcast, the type of programme, the target audience, the use of warnings and the programme’s classification (see Appendix 1). The examples are not exhaustive.
Standard 9 Children’s Interests
During children’s normally accepted viewing times (see Appendix 1), broadcasters are required, in the preparation and presentation of programmes, to consider the interests of child viewers.
 The broadcaster argued that to constitute a breach of Standard 1, the broadcast material must be unacceptable to a significant number of viewers in the context in which it was shown. It stated that regular viewers of the series would recognise the references as typical of the husband character’s throwaway lines. It argued that to the “sexually innocent young, such lines gave no clues or indications about what the words might refer to”. The broadcaster contended that the episode did not contain any verbally or visually explicit sexual material.
 TVNZ stated the programme was a sitcom and that, like many other sitcoms, the humour was delivered on several levels. It said the programme’s target audience was broad and that the series included child and teenage characters to provide entertainment for the young, while adult characters provided material that went over the heads of children and captured the interest of an older group.
 The broadcaster maintained that the details of the adults’ sexual lives contained in the episode were not explicit, were included as comedy and did not stray beyond the bounds of good taste and decency. It declined to uphold the complaint that the programme breached Standard 1 (good taste and decency).
 With respect to Standard 9 (children’s interests), TVNZ argued that it had sufficiently considered the interests of child viewers and that the programme’s G (General) rating was appropriate. It considered that the inexplicit sexual material would have gone over the heads of younger viewers and that My Wife and Kids did not contain any material that would have disturbed or alarmed them. The broadcaster declined to uphold the complaint that the episode breached Standard 9.
 Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Ms Boulton referred her complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
 The complainant argued that the programme was more suited to a later time slot and that children did not deserve to be exposed to adult conversations involving sexual themes.
 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 the Authority considers an alleged breach of Standard 1 (good taste and decency), it is required to take into account the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, the relevant contextual factors include:
 In the Authority’s view, the sexual innuendo in the comment complained about was oblique and good-natured. The comment was consistent with the nature of the parents’ relationship, which was portrayed as caring and loving.
 The Authority agrees with the broadcaster that the programme’s humour was delivered on several levels and that the character’s comment would have gone over the heads of younger viewers. Accordingly, the Authority finds that the comment complained about did not breach standards of good taste and decency.
 Looking at Standard 9 (children’s interests), for the same reasons outlined above the Authority concludes that the broadcaster adequately considered the interests of child viewers.
 The Authority declines to uphold the complaint that the item breached Standards 1 and 9.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
10 June 2009
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1. Jenni Boulton’s formal complaint – 12 February 2009
2. TVNZ’s decision on the formal complaint – 13 March 2009
3. Ms Boulton’s referral to the Authority – 31 March 2009
4. TVNZ’s response to the formal complaint – 21 April 2009