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Gibb and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2008-012

Members

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Paul France
  • Tapu Misa
  • Diane Musgrave

Complainant

  • Angus Gibb of Lower Hutt

Dated

4th June 2008

Number

2008-012

Channel/Station

TV2

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Hell’s Kitchen: Served Raw – chef Gordon Ramsay said “fucking Jesus Christ” – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – contextual factors – not upheld

(This headnote does not form part of the decision.)


Broadcast

[1]   An episode of Hell’s Kitchen: Served Raw was broadcast on TV2 at 12.30am on 11 December 2007. The programme revolved around several aspiring chefs who competed against one another in a knock-out competition to win a restaurant. It was presented by Gordon Ramsay, a well-known and hot-tempered chef, who judged the competitors’ performances and sent a different person home each week. During the episode, Gordon Ramsay frequently used the word “fuck” to express his annoyance and frustration, and at one point he said “Fuck me, fucking Jesus Christ”. 

[2]   The programme was preceded by the following verbal and visual warning:

This programme is rated adults only. It contains frequent use of language that may offend some people.  

Complaint

[3]   Angus Gibb made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the programme had breached standards of good taste and decency.

[4]    The complainant argued that Mr Ramsay’s statement “fucking Jesus Christ” was extremely offensive, blasphemous and unacceptable. He appreciated the fact that Mr Ramsay had said it without malice and at a time when he was under pressure, but argued that those factors “did not excuse it”.

Standards

[5]   TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 1 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. It provides:

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.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[6]   TVNZ stated that to constitute a breach of Standard 1, the material shown must be unacceptable to a significant number of viewers in the context in which it was shown. It pointed out that Hell’s Kitchen was classified AO and that the episode complained about had been broadcast at 12.30am. It argued that the programme was preceded by a warning that “gave a precise indication of the type of material the programme would contain” and it believed that viewers had been given ample opportunity to decide if they wished to watch it. 

[7]    The broadcaster contended that there was a considerable expectation by the audience that Gordon Ramsay would use coarse language in the programme, as he was notorious for both his language and his temper when in the kitchen. It considered that Mr Ramsay saying “fuck me, fucking Jesus Christ” was “neither surprising nor out of context in the rest of the show”.

[8]   TVNZ believed that the statement was acceptable in the context of an AO classified programme broadcast at 12.30am that was preceded by a warning. The broadcaster declined to uphold the complaint that the programme breached Standard 1 (good taste and decency). 

Referral to the Authority

[9]   Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Mr Gibb referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

Complainant’s Further Submission

[10]   Mr Gibb made a further submission maintaining that the language contained in the programme was offensive and blasphemous.

Complainant’s Final Submission

[11]   The complainant reiterated his argument that Mr Ramsay’s language breached standards of good taste and decency.

Authority's Determination

[12]   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.

[13]   When the Authority considers a complaint that alleges a breach of good taste and decency, it is required to take into account the context of the broadcast. On this occasion the relevant contextual factors include:

  • the programme had an AO classification

  • the programme was preceded by a verbal and written warning

  • the programme was broadcast at 12.30am

  • the expectations of regular viewers.

[14]   The Authority notes that the definition of the word “Christ” in the Concise Oxford Dictionary includes “expressing surprise, anger, etc”. On this occasion, the Authority considers that the phrase “Fuck me, fucking Jesus Christ” was clearly used by Mr Ramsay as an exclamation of annoyance and frustration.

[15]   The Authority accepts that many people are offended by the profane use of the words "Christ", "Jesus" and "God".  It also notes that its surveys of public opinion disclose that the community's views on blasphemy are polarised. The Authority has in the past found that the use of "Jesus Christ" as an expression of dismay or anger was acceptable in context (see, for example, Decision Nos 2003-068 and 2005-141). On this occasion, while it is of the view that coupling the words "Jesus Christ" with "fucking" made the phrase more likely to be unacceptable to a greater number of people, the Authority finds that the 12.30am time of broadcast and warning were sufficient to avoid a breach of the standard.

[16]   Taking the above contextual factors into account, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint that the programme breached Standard 1 (good taste and decency).

 

For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
4 June 2008

Appendix

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

1.            Angus Gibb’s formal complaint to TVNZ – 12 December 2007
2.           TVNZ’s response to the formal complaint – 30 January 2008
3.           Mr Gibb’s referral to the Authority – 7 February 2008
4.           TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 17 April 2008
5.           Mr Gibb’s further submission – 5 May 2008
6.           Mr Gibb’s final submission – 25 May 2008