Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Build a New Life in the Country – contained coarse language – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency, programme classification and children’s interests standards
Action Taken – broadcaster upheld the complaint, apologised and took steps to prevent future mistakes – action taken sufficient – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 An episode of Build a New Life in the Country (rated G) was broadcast on TV One at 7.30pm on Saturday 7 June 2008. The series followed British couples as they pursued their dream homes and lifestyles. In the 7 June episode, Jason and Phillipa had bought a chateau in France and planned to renovate it and open it as a bed and breakfast. The episode tracked their progress over nine months.
 At approximately 7.48pm, the narrator informed viewers that after eight weeks, Jason had started many jobs but finished only one doorway, and “the strain is beginning to tell”. Jason was shown struggling with some timber and saying in a subdued tone, “Would you fucking look at that? Now it’s wrong”.
 At 7.55pm, the narrator reported that Jason was months behind schedule and had spent four weeks trying to re-wire the house. Jason was shown up a ladder struggling with electrical wires and saying quietly, “oh for fuck’s sake”. Phillipa called in a French electrician, and Jason said to him in a matter-of-fact tone, “We are, how do you say, fucked”.
 Peter Hind made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the programme breached standards of good taste and decency, programme classification and children’s interests standards, because of the inclusion of “for fuck’s sake” and “we are... fucked”.
 Mr Hind argued that Standard 1 had been breached because the programme was rated G and there was no warning that the episode would contain potentially offensive language, or “to indicate that some of the language might be unsuitable for children”. The complainant maintained that Standard 7 had also been breached because the offensive language in the programme was incorrectly classified G.
 Referring to Standard 9 and guideline 9c, Mr Hind contended that the broadcaster had not considered children’s interests because parents could not have relied on the programme’s classification to inform them whether it was suitable for children. He said that Build a New Life in the Country was a programme that had been screening for some time and that it was a “family-friendly” programme which was “shown at a family-friendly time on a Saturday evening, a prime family viewing night”. For that reason, TVNZ should have realised, he said, that the use of offensive language in this particular episode was “wholly inappropriate”. He argued that TVNZ should have reclassified the episode, broadcast a warning before the programme, or edited out the offensive language.
 TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standards 1, 7 and 9 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. Mr Hind also nominated guideline 9c. 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.
Standard 7 Programme Classification
Broadcasters are responsible for ensuring that programmes are appropriately classified; adequately display programme classification information; and adhere to time-bands in accordance with Appendix 1.
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.
Broadcasters should have regard to the fact that children tend to stay up later than usual on Friday and Saturday nights and during school and public holidays and, accordingly, special attention should be given to providing appropriate warnings during these periods.
 TVNZ considered that the comments complained about by Mr Hind would have offended a significant number of viewers at the time of screening and in an episode rated G. It upheld the complaint that Standard 1 was breached.
 The broadcaster also found that the programme was incorrectly classified G. It said, “The three instances of language should have been cut/bleeped for transmission in a 7.30pm timeslot”. TVNZ upheld the Standard 7 complaint.
 Because the programme was rated G and screened at 7.30pm when it included three instances of coarse language, the broadcaster agreed with Mr Hind that the interests of children were not adequately considered. It upheld the complaint that Standard 9 was breached.
 TVNZ apologised to Mr Hind and his family for any offence caused. It said that the error in classification was due to the inexperience of a new appraiser. That person had been made aware of the mistake and learned from it, and steps had been taken by TVNZ to ensure that similar errors would not occur in future, it said.
 Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Mr Hind referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He said that he found “neither the apology nor the explanation given acceptable”, and asked the Authority to acknowledge the breach of three standards by TVNZ and to impose a penalty “that reflects the seriousness of these breaches”.
 TVNZ elaborated on its explanation for how the mistake had occurred. It said that the 7 June episode was the fourth episode of Build a New Life in the Country. The new appraiser who viewed it had watched the first three episodes of the series in their entirety, none of which contained coarse language. The appraiser then incorrectly assumed that the fourth episode would be the same and did not watch the entire episode, awarding it a G classification.
 TVNZ said that following Mr Hind’s complaint, the appraiser concerned had been appropriately counselled about the need to watch all prime time material in its entirety and to be careful to not make such assumptions again. The appraiser was diligent in his role, it said, and “the seriousness of this mistake has been a significant learning experience for him”.
 The broadcaster maintained that its apology to the complainant was sincere, and thanked him for bringing this matter to its attention. It said that “maintaining broadcasting standards is a priority to TVNZ and we believe appropriate steps have been taken to ensure this sort of mistake does not recur”.
 Mr Hind did not accept TVNZ’s apology. He emphasised again that TVNZ had breached three standards of the code, and that the Authority should impose a penalty so that TVNZ was publicly reprimanded.
 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.
 This complaint is about the adequacy of the action taken by TVNZ after it upheld Mr Hind’s complaint. TVNZ apologised to Mr Hind and his family for its mistake, counselled the appraiser involved and took steps to ensure similar mistakes do not occur in future.
 In the Authority’s view, the impact of the language was minimised due to the subdued, non-aggressive tone in which it was uttered. TVNZ’s explanation for the error was plausible, and it took sufficient action in highlighting the error to the appraiser rather than broadcasting an apology on air.
 Accordingly, the Authority considers that TVNZ dealt with the matter responsibly and that further action is unnecessary. It declines to uphold the complaint.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
21 October 2008
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1. Peter Hind’s formal complaint – 8 June 2008
2. TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 8 July 2008
3. Mr Hind’s referral to the Authority – 14 July 2008
4. TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 22 August 2008
5. Further comments from Mr Hind – 31 August 2008