Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
A viewer of Outrageous Fortune complained about the "graphic naked sex acts", which were "bordering on pornography", and the line "I want your cock in me now", delivered by one of the female characters. The viewer said the programme breached standards of good taste and decency and was demeaning to women.
The Broadcaster’s Response
TVWorks argued that viewers expected material broadcast at 9.30pm to be "mature in nature". It said that the sex scenes and language were appropriate for the Adults Only (AO) classification, and maintained that none of the sex scenes contained explicit nudity.
The broadcaster said Outrageous Fortune often contained storylines revolving around sexual themes and there was considerable audience expectation of the type of material shown in the programme.
It pointed out that the programme was preceded by a warning which gave viewers the opportunity to make an informed decision about whether to watch it.
TVWorks did not agree that the show was demeaning to women, as the central female characters were depicted as "strong, single-minded women who care strongly for their family".
The Authority’s Decision
The Authority took account of the contextual factors, which included the 9.30pm broadcast time, the AO rating, the visual and verbal warning, and the expectations of regular viewers aware of the programme's ribald nature.
The Authority took the view that the sex scenes were relevant to the storyline, and were not included for erotic effect, or titillation. The Authority said the opening linked sex scenes, which showed three couples in three separate bedrooms, was comic in nature and involved characters in established relationships. The scenes reflected the lifestyle of the characters.
The Authority also noted that while the word "cock" was the sixth most offensive word in its national survey, the statement "I want your cock in me now" was delivered for comic effect and was acceptable in that context, and in view of the contextual factors noted above.
However, while it did not uphold the complaint, the Authority said that two of the scenes, in which the actors were depicted as naked and engaged in sex acts, were challenging and on the borderline of acceptability. If the scenes had been longer or not so relevant to the storyline, they could have breached the good taste and decency standard.
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 An episode of Outrageous Fortune, a comedy-drama series about a one-family crime wave trying to go straight, was broadcast on TV3 at 9.30pm on 17 July 2007. The episode had two segments that contained sex scenes and was preceded by a warning that said:
This programme is rated adults only and is recommended for a mature audience. It contains sexual material and language that may offend some people.
 The first sex scenes were at the beginning of the programme and showed three different couples in three separate bedrooms. The segment began with head and shoulder shots of the character Cheryl West and her partner in bed. Cheryl’s partner was on top of her and while it was apparent they were having sex, this was implied; both were laughing and breathing heavily. This scene was then inter-cut with a scene showing the character Van West and his girlfriend having sex in a variety of positions. While it was clear that Van West and his girlfriend were naked, the scene was shot in such a way that viewers were unable to see any breasts or genitalia.
 The next part of the same segment involved the third couple, Loretta West and her boyfriend, who were shown sitting up in bed. Loretta was wearing a singlet and was typing on a lap-top computer, working on a script for a porn movie. In an effort to distract her, her boyfriend began to caress her foot, moving his hand up her leg until it was under the shadow of the computer sitting on her lap. He appeared to fondle her under the lap-top until she responded by saying "I want your cock in me now". Confused, her boyfriend asked "is that in the script?" before they embraced and the scene ended.
 The second segment that contained a sex scene occurred later in the programme and involved the character Jethro West, who was shown kneeling on a bed having sex with another female character. No breasts or genitalia were visible.
 M McCready made a formal complaint to the broadcaster, TVWorks Ltd, alleging that standards of good taste and decency had been breached. The complainant stated that "it would be hard to find a more objectionable, vulgar and crass programme being screened at a time when teenagers were still up and viewing".
 The complainant argued that "the graphic naked sex acts depicted along with overly realistic sound effects left nothing to the imagination" and were bordering on pornography.
 M McCready believed that the dialogue from the female actress "I want your cock in me now" came across as crude and vulgar, and that the show was demeaning to women.
 TVWorks assessed the formal complaint under Standard 1 and guidelines 1a and 1b of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. 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.
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. 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.
 TVWorks argued that to constitute a breach of Standard 1, the material contained in the broadcast must be unacceptable to a significant number of viewers in the context in which it was shown. It pointed out that the show was broadcast at 9.30pm and that this was a time when viewers expected material that would be "mature in nature".
 The broadcaster maintained that the programme was rated AO, and that the sex scenes and language were appropriate for this classification. It stated that none of the sex scenes had contained explicit nudity and contended that they did not fall into the category of pornography.
 TVWorks argued that Outrageous Fortune was a well-known series and that it often contained storylines revolving around sexual themes. It said that there was a considerable audience expectation of the type of material contained in the show. The broadcaster also maintained that the central female characters were "depicted as strong single minded women who care strongly for their family", and as such the programme was not demeaning to women.
 The broadcaster pointed out that the show was preceded by a warning that indicated the type of material contained in the programme, and which gave viewers the opportunity to make an informed decision about whether to watch it. TVWorks declined to uphold the good taste and decency complaint.
 Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, M McCready referred the complaint to the Authority under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. The complainant reiterated the arguments contained in the formal complaint.
 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.
 When the Authority considers a complaint that alleges a breach of good taste and decency it is required to take into consideration the context of the broadcast. The relevant contextual factors on this occasion include:
 In respect of the first segment involving three inter-cut sex scenes, the Authority considers that it was not included for an erotic purpose or to titillate viewers. Rather, the segment reflected the lifestyle being led by the characters, and was relevant to the programme’s storyline. The Authority notes that the segment was comic in nature and involved characters in established relationships. Taking the above contextual factors into account, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint that the first segment breached Standard 1.
 In respect of the second segment showing a sex scene involving Jethro West, the Authority considers that the scene was inexplicit, relevant to the storyline and not designed to titillate. Taking the above contextual factors into account, it finds that the scene did not breach the good taste and decency standard.
 The Authority notes, however, that the part of the first sex scene involving the character Van West and his girlfriend, and the second sex scene involving Jethro West and a female character, were both challenging and on the borderline of acceptability. If the scenes had been shown for a longer duration or were not so relevant to the storyline, the Authority considers that they could have breached the good taste and decency standard.
 With respect to the statement "I want your cock in me now", the Authority acknowledges that the word "cock" was rated as the sixth most offensive word in the Authority’s national survey conducted in 20051. However, on this occasion the word was used in a statement which was delivered for comic effect, rather than as a swearword or expression of abuse. Loretta West was working on a script for a porn movie and her boyfriend became confused as to whether she was reading her script out loud or talking to him. The Authority finds that the statement was acceptable in that context, and taking into account the contextual factors above, it declines to uphold the complaint that the statement breached Standard 1.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
4 December 2007
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1. M McCready’s formal complaint to the broadcaster – 9 August 2007
2. TVWork’ response to the formal complaint – 6 September 2007
3. M McCready’s referral to the Authority – 12 September 2007
4. TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 23 September 2007
1Broadcasting Standards Authority and Dunmore Publishing Ltd (2006), Freedoms and Fetters: Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand (p. 97)