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Wasley and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2007-086

Members

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

Complainant

  • Sarah Wasley of Leeton

Dated

4th December 2007

Number

2007-086

Programme

Nip/Tuck

Channel/Station

TV2

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989

The Complaint
A viewer complained that a sex scene in Nip/Tuck in which one of the lead characters had sex with a patient after asking her to place a paper bag over her head was offensive, and should not have been shown at 10pm during the school holidays.

The Broadcaster’s Response
TVNZ said the sex scene was relatively discreet, and had showed a side view with no nudity.  The broadcaster noted that Nip/Tuckwas rated Adults Only and had been restricted to a 9.30pm showing because it contained a greater degree of sexual activity, potentially offensive language and realistic violence.

The broadcaster argued that 9.30pm was adults only time even during the school holidays.

The Authority’s Decision
The Authority said the scene was important to the storyline as it illustrated the central character's decline into sexual dysfunction. In its view, the scene was not erotic or titillating, and the act of making the woman wear a paper bag over her head during sex was not portrayed as exciting or pleasurable.

The Authority also took into account the contextual factors, which included the AO rating, the 9.30pm time of broadcast, the visual and verbal warning about sexual content, the brevity of the scene, and the lack of nudity. It noted that the scene occurred close to 10.15pm.

Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]   An episode of Nip/Tuck, a fictional series about the lives of two plastic surgeons, was broadcast on 11 July 2007 at 9.30pm on TV2. The episode contained a scene where Christian, one of the main characters, had invited a female patient to his apartment. Christian asked the woman, whom he found unattractive, to place a paper bag over her head before they had sex, and she agreed. The couple were briefly shown having sex in side profile and no nudity was shown. The woman cried afterwards.

[2]   Later in the episode, the woman approached Christian and told him that she did not mind that he hated her. She said that her tears the previous evening were not tears of humiliation but "tears of joy", and she gave her telephone number to Christian saying "any time you want me, just let me know. And I’ll wear the bag again, I don’t mind". Christian, with his back to the woman, was shown crying.

Complaint

[3]   Sarah Wasley made a formal complaint about the programme to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, describing the sex scene as the "epitome of female degradation". Ms Wasley said that the scene had occurred at 10pm during the school holidays, adding:

I cannot express strongly enough how offensive I found this particular scene and cannot believe I was the only person watching that was horrified.

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.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[5]  TVNZ disputed that the scene had occurred at 10pm, stating that it had occurred towards the end of the episode after 10.15pm. The broadcaster noted that Nip/Tuck was rated Adults Only (AO) and had been restricted to a 9.30pm timeslot because it contained a greater degree of sexual activity, potentially offensive language and realistic violence than could be expected from an AO programme screened at 8.30pm. It contended that 9.30pm at night was adults only time even during the school holidays.

[6]  In TVNZ’s view, because the programme was in its third series there was considerable audience expectation for the type of material it would contain. Further, it noted that the episode had been preceded by the following visual and verbal warning:

This programme is rated Adults Only. It contains violence that may disturb and sex scenes that may offend some people.

[7]  The broadcaster maintained that the footage of the sex scene was relatively discreet, and had showed a side view of the couple with no nudity. It pointed to a previous decision by the Authority (Decision No. 2005-005) where, TVNZ said, the Authority had decided that two relatively explicit sex scenes were acceptable in an AO-rated programme screened at 9.30pm.

[8]  In the broadcaster’s view, the sex scene was acceptable in the context of the broadcast and would not have offended a significant number of viewers. It found that Standard 1 had not been breached.

Referral to the Authority

[9]   Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Ms Wasley referred her complaint to the Authority under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. She maintained that, irrespective of the contextual factors noted by TVNZ, the sex scene was not appropriate for broadcast television.

[10]  Ms Wasley contended that the scene had been broadcast at 10pm, not at 10.15pm as suggested by TVNZ.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[11]  TVNZ maintained that the scene complained about was broadcast at 10.15pm or slightly later.

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 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 programme began at 9.30pm, an hour after the Adult Only watershed
  • the programme was rated AO
  • the scene was brief
  • no nudity was shown
  • a visual and verbal warning, which referred to sexual content, preceded the programme
  • Nip/Tuck is well known for its challenging content.

[14]  Having viewed a recording of the programme, the Authority notes that the scene complained about occurred close to 10.15pm, not at 10pm as the complainant suggested. Further, the Authority considers that the scene was integral to the continuing storyline as it indicated a central character’s decline into sexual dysfunction. It notes that the scene was not erotic or intended to titillate, and the act of making the woman wear a paper bag over her head was not portrayed as exciting or pleasurable, but as sad and demeaning. In the Authority’s view, it was clear that both Christian and the woman were degraded by the encounter, and this was emphasised by Christian’s tears at the end.

[15]  The Authority acknowledges that the sex scene would have been challenging for some viewers. However, taking into account the contextual factors outlined above the Authority finds that the scene did not breach 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 December 2007

Appendix

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

1.            Sarah Wasley’s formal complaint – 12 July 2007
2.           TVNZ’s decision on the formal complaint – 13 August 2007
3.           Ms Wasley’s referral to the Authority – 17 August 2007
4.           TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 25 September 2007