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Smith and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2007-121

Members

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

Complainant

  • Brintyn Smith of Tauranga

Dated

19th February 2008

Number

2007-121

Programme

Facelift.

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Facelift – item featured a skit in which an actor pretended to be Camilla Parker-Bowles singing a parody version of “Candle in the Wind” – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – content of programme clearly satirical – contextual factors – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]   An episode of the comedy programme Facelift, broadcast on TV One at 10.10pm on 3 September 2007, included a skit featuring a person acting as Camilla Parker-Bowles. She was shown singing a parody version of “Candle in the Wind”, supposedly in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Complaint

[2]   Brintyn Smith made a formal complaint about the episode to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the skit breached standards of good taste and decency.

[3]   The complainant stated that “the piece featuring an actor playing Camilla singing a disrespectful version of ‘Candle in the Wind’ was immoral and disgusting”.

Standards

[4]   TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 1 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. It 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 stated that to constitute a breach of Standard 1, the material shown in the item must be unacceptable to a significant number of viewers in the context in which it was shown. It pointed out that Facelift was classified AO and was broadcast after 10pm.

[6]   The broadcaster maintained that the programme’s intended adult audience was generally “au fait” with satire and understood that what they were viewing was not reality and was intended to be humorous.

[7]   TVNZ argued that the skit satirised the public’s perception of Camilla’s private feelings towards Princess Diana and that adult viewers would have understood they were watching a parody. It maintained that the humour in the skit was not particularly vicious or vitriolic or at a level where the skit should not have been screened.

[8]   TVNZ stated that the right to satirise well known situations involving celebrities fell squarely within a broadcaster’s freedom of expression. It declined to uphold the complaint that the skit breached standards of good taste and decency.  

Referral to the Authority

[9]   Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr Smith referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. The complainant maintained that the skit breached standards of good taste and decency.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[10]   TVNZ reiterated that it had considered Mr Smith’s complaint in terms of the expectations of the programme’s adult audience and the fact that the programme was rated AO and was broadcast after 10pm. It argued that “any consideration of Standard 1 and context must take into account the intended and likely audience – in this case adult viewers”.

Authority's Determination

[11]   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.

Standard 1 (good taste and decency)

[12]   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 the relevant contextual factors include:

  • the programme was broadcast at 10.10pm
  • the programme was classified AO
  • the programme has an adult target audience
  • the programme is well-known for satirising current events.

[13]   The Authority considers that the programme’s intended and likely audience would have understood that the skit was satirical and intended to be humorous rather than offensive.

[14]   The Authority agrees with TVNZ that the right to satirise public figures falls within a broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression. On this occasion, the skit was offering comment on the public outcry that followed Camilla’s invitation to a memorial concert for Diana. The purpose of the skit was not to make fun of Princess Diana, but to parody the public’s perception of Camilla’s feelings towards her.

[15]   Taking into account the above contextual factors, the Authority finds that Standard 1 was not breached on this occasion. 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

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
19 February 2008

Appendix

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

1.            Brintyn Smith’s formal complaint – 11 September 2007
2.           TVNZ’s response to the formal complaint – 28 September 2007
3.           Mr Smith’s referral to the Authority – 4 November 2007
4.           TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 11 December 2007