Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(ii) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Jono’s New Show promo – man said “Fucken oath, look at him, what a fuckwit. Goes for a run and gets shot in the arse” – “fucken” and “fuckwit” were partially bleeped but words could still be distinguished – broadcaster upheld complaint under two standards – action taken allegedly insufficient
Standards 1 (good taste and decency) and 9 (children’s interests) – broadcaster upheld complaint under two standards and changed appraisal process – action taken sufficient
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 A promo for Jono’s New Show was broadcast at approximately 6.14pm on Sunday 14 September 2008 on C4. It included a man saying “Fucken oath, look at him, what a fuckwit. Goes for a run and gets shot in the arse”. The words “fucken” and “fuckwit” were partially bleeped, but the words could still be distinguished.
 Malcolm Anderson made a formal complaint about the promo to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster. He noted that the promo had used the words “fuckwit” and “arse” at a time when children were likely to be watching television.
 Mr Anderson nominated Standards 1 and 9 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice in his 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.
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 noted that the words “fucken” and “fuckwit” had been “bleeped” but that the ‘f’ and ‘k’ sounds remained audible. It agreed with Mr Anderson that the steps taken to obscure the strong language were insufficient, as the “bleep” sound did not cover enough of each word.
 Noting that the complainant was also concerned about the word “arse”, TVWorks commented that research conducted by the Authority included a list of words for survey respondents to rate on a scale of acceptability. The word “arse” was not on this list, it noted, and this supported the broadcaster’s belief that most viewers would not find the word offensive in the context in which it was broadcast.
 However, TVWorks agreed that most viewers would have been surprised by the strong language in the promo, and it upheld Mr Anderson’s complaint under Standard 1 (good taste and decency).
 Turning to Standard 9 (children’s interests), the broadcaster noted that the promo was broadcast during a TV3 sports programme V8 Supercars which, given the special nature of sports programmes, was not classified. However, because the promo screened during children’s normally accepted viewing times, TVWorks said that the strong language was unacceptable. For this reason, it also upheld the complaint under Standard 9.
 TVWorks apologised to Mr Anderson for any distress the promo may have caused him or his family. It explained that a recent reorganisation of the C4 promo production team had left an “administrative gap that meant that promos for this particular show had failed to be correctly checked and classified”. TVWorks said that, as a result of the complaint being upheld, it had reassigned the responsibility for the production and classification of promos for Jono’s New Show to the experienced central promo production team.
 Dissatisfied with the action taken by TVWorks in upholding his complaint, Mr Anderson referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(ii) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He stated that a penalty should be imposed by the Authority for the breach of broadcasting standards.
 TVWorks said that it was satisfied that the steps taken to ensure promos were assessed with greater vigilance was an appropriate response to the complaint. It said that any further penalty would be “out of all proportion to the breach of standards that occurred here”.
 The broadcaster noted that there had been no flagrant or deliberate breach of standards; it was a result of inadequate technical masking of the strong language, and this had been remedied.
 Mr Anderson disagreed that a penalty was not required. He asked the broadcaster to donate $5,000 to a children’s charity.
 The broadcaster reiterated that this was not a deliberate or flagrant breach of standards, but a mistake which had been accepted and the complaint upheld.
 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.
 The task for the Authority on this occasion is to determine whether the action taken by TVWorks, having upheld Mr Anderson’s complaint, was sufficient. It notes that TVWorks upheld the complaint under Standard 1 and Standard 9. It apologised to the complainant, gave an explanation for the error, and transferred the responsibility for the promos for Jono’s New Show to a more experienced production team.
 In the Authority’s view, the action taken by the broadcaster was appropriate in all the circumstances. Imposing a further penalty on the broadcaster would not be reasonable or proportionate given that TVWorks has taken sufficient steps to ensure that similar breaches will not occur in the future. In these circumstances, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
19 December 2008
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1. Malcolm Anderson’s formal complaint – 15 September 2008
2. TVWorks’ decision on the formal complaint – 14 October 2008
3. Mr Anderson’s referral to the Authority – 10 November 2008
4. TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 24 November 2008
5. Mr Anderson’s final comment – 25 November 2008
6. TVWorks’ final comment – 27 November 2008