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Duff and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2002-198

Members

  • P Cartwright (Chair)
  • R Bryant
  • J H McGregor

Complainant

  • Alastair Duff of Alexandra

Dated

17th December 2002

Number

2002-198

Programme

Willy Nilly

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint
Willy Nilly – comedy series – "shooting" endangered native birds – offensive – irresponsible behaviour

Findings
Standard 1 – not offensive in context – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

[1] An episode of Willy Nilly, a comedy series, was broadcast on TV One at 7pm on 14 September 2002. It portrayed a newly arrived Russian mail-order bride of the local shopkeeper shooting at, and presumably killing, a native kakapo while on a camping trip. A subsequent scene depicted a "kiwi" being spit-roasted over the campfire.

[2] Alastair Duff complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the sequences portrayed irresponsible behaviour.

[3] In declining to uphold the complaint TVNZ said, in context, the behaviour did not breach current norms of good taste and decency.

[4] Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s decision, Mr Duff referred his complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons below, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Decision

[5] The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the programme complained about and have read the correspondence, which is listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

The Programme

[6] An episode of Willy Nilly, a comedy series, was broadcast on TV One at 7pm on 14 September 2002. According to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, the programme portrayed a newly arrived Russian mail-order bride of the local shopkeeper shooting at native birds while on a camping trip.

The Complaint

[7] Mr Duff complained to TVNZ that the portrayal was irresponsible.

The Standards

[8] TVNZ assessed Mr Duff’s complaint against Standard 1, Guideline 1a of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. The Standard (and relevant Guideline) 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.

Guideline

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 (see Appendix 1). The examples are not exhaustive.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[9] In declining to uphold the complaint, TVNZ said that the sequences were "in keeping with the level of comic silliness exhibited throughout the series" and, in context, it was impossible to take the scenes seriously.

[10] In relation to Standard 1, TVNZ stated that the series was meant to be funny and the depictions complained about were not only ludicrous but displayed an abundance of slapstick humour and visual gags.

[11] Reflecting on the nature of comedy, and while it recognised that an appreciation of a particular style was very much a subjective matter, TVNZ concluded that, when taking into account the contextual matters stated above, the broadcast did not breach Standard 1.

 

The Referral to the Authority

[12] Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response in relation to the irresponsible behaviour referred to in his complaint, Mr Duff referred it to the Authority. He wrote:

I am of the belief that because the Kakapo is one of our most endangered birds, the question of its survival is an extremely serious matter…To depict the shooting of one was an absolute breach of good taste and decency and not justified.

[13] Mr Duff also commented that it was unnecessary to sight the dead Kakapo, because such an eventuality was implicit in the sequence.

The Complainant’s Final Comment

[14] Mr Duff reiterated his view that "it was entirely inappropriate and furthermore counter-productive to the massive conservation programme being undertaken on the kakapo’s behalf " to depict the shooting of one, with a promise to shoot another one, in order to make a pair of slippers. He stated that his complaint concerned only that scene.

[15] Timing was not relevant to Mr Duff’s complaint because in his view "anytime was inappropriate" for that particular item.

The Authority’s Determination

[16] When the Authority determines a complaint that a broadcast contravenes Standard 1 of the Television Code, it is required to determine whether the material complained about breaches currently accepted standards of good taste and decency, taking into account the context of the broadcast. The context is relevant, but does not determine whether the programme breached the standard. Accordingly the Authority has considered the context in which the material complained about was broadcast.

[17] The Authority accepts that the relevant contextual matters on this occasion include the story-line, the nature of the depiction and, in particular, the extremely slapstick nature of the programme. While the Authority concurs with the complainant that it is vital to protect New Zealand’s endangered species, it is of the view that neither the programme nor the depiction could possibly deflect the attitude of New Zealanders from responsible wildlife preservation. Accordingly, in the Authority’s view there is nothing in the programme that could warrant the complaint being upheld.

[18] The Authority observes that to find a breach of broadcasting standards on this occasion would be to apply the Broadcasting Act 1989 in such a way as to limit freedom of expression in a manner which is not reasonable or demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society (s.5 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990). As required by s.6 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, the Authority adopts an interpretation of the relevant standards and applies them in a manner which it considers is consistent with and gives full weight to the provisions of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

 

For the reasons given above, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
17 December 2002

Appendix

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

  1. Alastair Duff’s Formal Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – 19 September 2002
  2. TVNZ’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 10 October 2002
  3. Mr Duff’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 18 October 2002
  4. TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 31 October 2002
  5. Mr Duff’s Final Comment – 12 November 2002