Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Celebrity Treasure Island – question posed to contestant concerning “famous lesbian” – complainant alleged use of word in this context was breach of good taste and decency, privacy, fairness and children’s interests
Declined to determine – section 11(a) Broadcasting Act 1989 – isolated use of word “lesbian” does not raise issue of broadcasting standards – complaint trivial
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 Celebrity Treasure Island is a show in which New Zealand celebrities are “castaways” on a tropical island and vie for prizes for their nominated charities.
 In an episode screened on 8 August 2004 at 7:30 pm, one of the contests was a quiz based around a “fishy” theme. One of the questions, which presenter Louise Wallace asked to Simon Barnett, was:
In Finding Nemo, which famous lesbian was the voice of Nemo’s absent-minded friend Dory? [The answer being Ellen DeGeneres.]
 Steven Mowat complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the broadcast breached Standards 1 (good taste and decency), 3 (privacy), 6 (fairness – safeguard against discrimination) and 9 (children’s interests)
 His reasons were as follows:
 As noted above, the complainant referred to the following standards in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice:
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.
Standard 3 Privacy
In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards consistent with the privacy of the individual.
Standard 6 Fairness
In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are required to deal justly and fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to.Guidelines
6g Broadcasters should avoid portraying persons in programmes in a manner that encourages denigration of, or discrimination against, sections of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, or occupational status, or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religious, cultural or political beliefs. This requirement is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material which is:
- factual, or
- the expression of genuinely held opinion in news, current affairs or other factual programmes, or
- in the legitimate context of a dramatic, humorous or satirical work.
Standard 9 Children’s Interests
During children’s normally accepted viewing times (see Appendix 1), broadcasters are required, in the preparation and presentation of programmes, to consider the interests of child viewers.
 TVNZ did not uphold the complaint. It stated:
 Mr Mowat was dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response and referred his complaint to the Authority, noting the following matters:
 In response to the referral, TVNZ noted:
 In his final comment Mr Mowat stated that his criticism of the programme did not denigrate “lesbians or heterosexuals or anybody else for their sexual preferences”. He instead noted that it was intended to ensure that “standards for protecting the community at large are maintained; in this instance, that children (and adults) should not be subjected to gratuitous, unexpected and explicit reference to things of a sexual nature.”
 In relation to the points made by TVNZ in its response to the referral of his complaint, Mr Mowat replied as follows:
 In summary, Mr Mowat noted:
 The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.
 The Authority considers that an isolated use of the word “lesbian”, in a PGR-rated programme, does not raise any issue of broadcasting standards. This is especially so where the person referred to is famous not only as a comedienne and actress, but also as one of the first popular entertainers to publicly – and repetitively – proclaim her lesbianism.
 Under section 11 of the Broadcasting Act 1989, the Authority has a discretion to decline to determine a complaint referred to it. There are two grounds on which the Authority may so decline:
 As noted above, the use of the word complained of does not raise any issue of broadcasting standards and thus, in the view of the Authority, the complaint is trivial within the meaning of section 11(a). While it is apparent that Mr Mowat holds genuine concerns surrounding the use of the word “lesbian” in this context, there is nothing in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice to support his concerns. The Authority accordingly declines to determine the complaint.
 For the avoidance of doubt, the Authority rejects Mr Mowat’s assertion that his privacy could have been breached because he was told something that he did not want to hear. Privacy principles concern the public disclosure of private facts relating to identified individuals; the right to privacy belongs to the persons referred to, not the listeners.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to determine the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
15 October 2004
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint: