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Le Cren and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2007-038

Members

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

Complainant

  • Beth Le Cren of Christchurch

Dated

27th June 2007

Number

2007-038

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
The Unauthorised History of New Zealand – skit called “Dr Rangi” – doctor examined female patient’s breasts – became visibly sexually aroused as the female patient responded coyly – 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]   The Unauthorised History of New Zealand was a satirical series lampooning certain trends and incidents in New Zealand history. An episode broadcast on TV One at 10.10pm on 12 March 2007 contained a skit called “Dr Rangi”, which was a send-up of 1970’s sitcoms, involving a Maori doctor.

[2]   The skit involved Dr Rangi examining a female patient’s breasts and becoming visibly sexually aroused as the female patient responded coyly.

Complaint

[3]   Beth Le Cren made a formal complaint about the programme to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster. She complained that, in real life, the scene between doctor and patient would “constitute a court case for sexual abuse”.

Standards

[4]   TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 1 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which 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.

Guidelines

1a   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.

1b   Broadcasters should consider – and if appropriate require – the use of on-air visual and verbal warnings when programmes contain violent material, material of a sexual nature, coarse language or other content likely to disturb children or offend a significant number of adult viewers. Warnings should be specific in nature, while avoiding detail which may itself distress or offend viewers.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[5]   In its response, the broadcaster noted that the “Dr Rangi” skit was a send-up of 1970 cinema comedies which were full of what was then considered to be humorous sexual innuendo, but would now be frowned upon as sexist. These films would often use something like a breast examination to imply an opportunistic grope, it said, and would make light of it. TVNZ wrote:

In your letter you say that “in real life this would constitute a court case for sexual abuse…but this was not “real life”. It was fantasy presented in the context of a programme which, transparently, is a satire on New Zealand history. This skit highlighted in fantasy terms popular entertainment in New Zealand at a time before many residents became fully aware of terms such as sexism.

[6]   Looking at Standard 1 (good taste and decency), TVNZ considered the context in which the skit was shown. It noted that the programme began at 10.10pm, and the segment complained about was shown at approximately 10.30pm. The programme was not out of place in a late evening slot, it wrote. The broadcaster noted that it had been classified AO, and had been preceded by a warning which had concentrated on the presence of offensive language.

[7]   Taking into account the context described above, TVNZ concluded that Standard 1 had not been breached.

Referral to the Authority

[8]   Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s decision, Ms Le Cren referred her complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. Referring to the high profile Morgan Fahey case (a doctor convicted of sexually assaulting patients), the complainant wrote:

Women do not need reminding of such depravity. A doctor-patient trust is so absolutely needed when a woman has examinations. It is embarrassing enough, without having thoughts of suspicion, fear and mistrust of their doctor. It is also unfair to doctors who historically have always been totally trustworthy and professional. I doubt that any woman would find this skit at all funny.

[9]   The complainant maintained that Standard 1 was breached.

Authority's Determination

[10]   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.

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

  • the time of the broadcast, at approximately 10.30pm
  • the AO classification of the programme
  • the adult target audience
  • the satirical nature of the programme.

[12]   The Authority notes that the skit was satirising historical attitudes with regard to contact between patients and doctors; it did not condone or promote the behaviour that was being lampooned. Taking into account the above contextual factors, the Authority considers that the scene did not breach the requirement for 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
27 June 2007

Appendix

The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1            Beth Le Cren’s formal complaint – 20 March 2007
2           TVNZ’s decision on the formal complaint – 11 April 2007
3           Ms Le Cren’s referral to the Authority – 30 April 2007
4           TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 7 May 2007