One News – images of Kerry Fox and male actor both nude in award winning film "Intimacy" – nudity not decent at 6pm when children watching
Standard G2 – visuals acceptable in context – no uphold
Standard G2 – visuals restrained – mindful of children – no uphold
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
An item broadcast on One News at 6pm on 19 February 2001 advised that New Zealand actress Kerry Fox had won the coveted Silver Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival for her acting in the film "Intimacy". The item showed an extract from the film in which she and a male actor appeared naked.
Stephen Cotterall, Anne Chitty, and Wayne Curham, complained to the broadcaster, Television New Zealand Ltd, that showing the two nude figures on One News at 6pm breached standards of good taste and decency, particularly as it was a viewing time for children.
TVNZ advised that the scenes had been used to illustrate the film in which Kerry Fox’s performance was recognised. The film, it said, explored the "mystery of sexual desire". The broadcaster did not consider that nudity was intrinsically offensive and asserted that, in this case, there was "nothing dirty or unhealthy" about the images used. It declined to uphold the complaints.
Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s decision, the complainants referred their complaints to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
For the reasons given below, the Authority declines to uphold the complaints .
The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the item complained about, and have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendices. The Authority determines these complaints without a formal hearing.
A scene from the film "Intimacy", showing two people in the nude, was part of an item broadcast on One News at 6pm on 19 February 2001. The item reported that New Zealand actress Kerry Fox, one of the actors shown nude, had won the Silver Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival for her portrayal of an adulteress in the film.
Stephen Cotterall, Anne Chitty, and Wayne Curham made separate complaints to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, about the actors being shown naked.
Mr Cotterall said he considered it was objectionable to show nude people on television, and asked, "Don’t you make allowance for children watching at this time?"
Ms Chitty emphasised that she did not consider it "at all appropriate" to screen the footage on a news programme at 6pm, and Mr Curham requested a public apology from the broadcaster, and an assurance that similar footage would not be shown again on One News.
TVNZ considered the complaints under standards G2 and G12 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.
These standards provide that in the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are required:
G2 To take into consideration currently accepted norms of decency and taste in language and behaviour, bearing in mind the context in which any language or behaviour occurs.
G12 To be mindful of the effect any programme may have on children during their normally accepted viewing times.
TVNZ responded to each of the complainants advising them that it did not consider the subject broadcast offensive in the context of its presentation. It compared the footage with a visit to see paintings in a museum, commenting that if the scene had been offensive, "we would not visit, and take our children to, exhibitions of great art in which the nude figure is often a prominent figure."
TVNZ explained, to avoid being misleading, that any extract shown from the film had to portray that its subject matter was of a sexual nature. The sequence, it noted, did not show any sexual activity but demonstrated the artistic merit of the film. TVNZ contended that the scene had not been included gratuitously, and it was unable to identify anything in the item which it considered might endanger the welfare of children.
Mr Cotterall responded to TVNZ, writing:
As far as I know, frontal nudity is considered to be a matter for a restricted certificate for movies, and so this would put the item outside what would be currently accepted as a norm of decency for general viewing, given the time this item was shown.
In his referral to the Authority, Mr Cotterall contended that it was not valid to compare the nudity screened with nudity in a painting. He expressed the view that parents had choices in respect of the viewing of a painting, which they did not have with a news broadcast.
In referring her complaint to the Authority, Ms Chitty expressed her disappointment with the response she had received from TVNZ. She stated:
I do not feel that they viewed the clip from the perspective of the well-being of children at all. They instead appeared to focus on the adult or intellectual view of the item concerned, and indeed even seemed more concerned about the possibility of depreciating Kerry Fox’s achievement than considering whether this was suitable viewing for children.
Mr Curham, in his referral to the Authority, touched on similar concerns to those made by Mr Cotterall and Ms Chitty. In addition, he wrote:
The presenting of Kerry Fox’s body in a slow pan view down her body did not portray her in any way as viewing art, but more to reveal the fact that the film subject matter involved nudity and sexual activity.
To say the male pubic region appeared to be covered by shadow [as TVNZ argued] is again missing the point as the context of the clip was with the film’s portrayal of sexual desire.
TVNZ responded to all three complainants reiterating its view that the shots of the nude people were neither salacious nor voyeuristic in nature.
It seems to us that the report on a New Zealand actor winning a prestigious film award in Europe was mild compared with the murder, warfare, abuse and corruption stories which quite properly are reported as a matter of course in our regular news programmes.
The Authority is aware that there is likely to be some community concern involved in the screening of nude persons on a news programme. However, there is nothing in the Broadcasting Act 1989, or in the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which automatically precludes showing the naked body on a news programme. In each case, whether or not there has been a breach of standards of good taste and decency is a matter of context.
In this case the complainants were unanimous in saying that it was not appropriate to show the naked body at a time when children might be watching. The Authority disagrees. The question of its suitability lies in the portrayal of the nudity. The Authority assumes that TVNZ chose a promotional clip, which, it considers, while capturing the attention of viewers, did not overstep the boundaries of good taste and decency. The Authority is of the opinion that any depiction of sexuality present in the clip would probably not have had meaning for children. It notes that the man’s pubic region was shaded, and that of the woman was concealed by the pose she adopted.
The Authority also acknowledges the validity of TVNZ’s argument that the subject matter of the film, adultery, and the role played by Kerry Fox as an adultress, required, if pictures were to be shown at all, something which represented the film and its artistic merit.
The Authority’s view is that the portrayal of nudity in this case did not breach either Standard G2 or Standard G12.
For the reasons given, the Authority declines to uphold any of the complaints.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
3 May 2001
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined these complaints: