Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Facelift – item featured a skit in which an actor pretending to be a TV presenter interviewed “Ray”, the stingray that killed prominent Australian Steve Irwin – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – skit clearly satirical – contextual factors – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 An episode of the comedy programme Facelift, broadcast on TV One at 10.10pm on 10 September 2007, featured a skit of the Campbell Live show in which an actor pretending to be a TV presenter interviewed “Ray”, the stingray that killed prominent Australian Steve Irwin. During the skit, the actor playing the stingray discussed how he had not meant to kill Mr Irwin, and coughed up a piece of khaki clothing (Mr Irwin’s regular attire).
 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.
 The complainant believed that it was “indecent to air and in bad taste to make a mockery of such an iconic figure just after the anniversary of his death”.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 The broadcaster considered that the skit satirised current affairs interviews. 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.
 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.
 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.
 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”.
 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 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 Authority considers that the programme’s intended adult audience would have understood that the skit was satirical and intended to be humorous rather than offensive.
 The Authority agrees with TVNZ that a broadcaster’s freedom of expression includes the right to satirise well-known situations, current events and celebrities. On this occasion, the purpose of the skit was not to ridicule Steve Irwin, but to parody interview situations in current affairs programmes.
 Taking into account the above contextual factors, the Authority finds that Standard 1 was not breached on this occasion. Accordingly, 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
19 February 2008
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