Last Dance – movie – offensive language – "is she sucking your cock?" – "cock sucking bitch"
Standard G2 – context – AO programme – AO time – warning – no uphold
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
The movie Last Dance was broadcast on TV3 at 9.30pm on Thursday, 15 March 2001. Last Dance is a movie about a government official who tries to save a woman on death row from execution.
Philip Smits complained to the broadcaster, TV3 Network Services Ltd, that a scene during which one character asks another "is she sucking your cock?" and the woman on death row is referred to as a "cock sucking bitch" contained language which was unacceptable for broadcast.
TV3 advised that in the context of the movie’s story line, its AO rating and time of broadcast, and the accompanying warning about potentially offensive scenes and language, the broadcast did not breach community standards of good taste and decency.
Dissatisfied with TV3’s response, Mr Smits referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
For the reasons given below, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the item complained about and have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.
The movie Last Dance was broadcast at 9.30pm on TV3 on Thursday, 15 March 2001. Last Dance is a movie about a government official who tries to save a woman on death row from execution. During one scene in the movie, one of the male characters asks another "is she sucking your cock?" and then refers to the woman on death row as a "cock sucking bitch".
Philip Smits complained to the broadcaster, TV3 Network Services Ltd, that the language was unacceptable for broadcast. In his opinion, parents would not have expected such language to be included in a movie broadcast on television. He also considered that the language could have been removed or "bleeped" without affecting the movie’s storyline. Mr Smits said that the language denigrated the woman and showed what he called "woman-hatred".
In its response to Mr Smits, TV3 noted that Mr Smits’ complaint was a re-submission of his November 1999 complaint about the original broadcast by TV3 of the same movie. The original complaint was not referred to the Authority. TV3 advised Mr Smits that as he had raised no issues in addition to those contained in his original complaint, it reconfirmed its original decision that
In the context of the story line, in an Adults Only programme, broadcast in AO time, with a warning for potentially offensive scenes and language, the broadcast of the movie LAST DANCE did not breach Standard G2.
TV3 had considered the original complaint under standard G2 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which requires broadcasters:
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.
Mr Smits referred his complaint to the Authority, as he was dissatisfied with TV3’s decision.
When the Authority considers a complaint under standard G2, it takes into account the context in which the material complained about occurs. The context is relevant, but not decisive, to the Authority’s determination of whether the programme breaches community standards of good taste and decency.
The contextual factors which the Authority considers relevant on this occasion include the time of the broadcast, the programme’s AO classification and the fact that it was preceded by a warning for potentially offensive scenes and language. The Authority also considers that, in the context of the storyline of Last Dance, the language used was a credible aspect of the behaviour of the character who used it.
Having considered these contextual factors, the Authority concludes that the language used in Last Dance does not breach community expectations. Accordingly, it declines to uphold the complaint.
The Authority notes that matters were raised in Mr Smits’ correspondence which were of minimal relevance to broadcasting standards. In the context of his grievance and the tone of his correspondence, it would have been open to the Authority to find this complaint vexatious. That it has not done so on this occasion is intended to serve as a clear warning to the complainant. In future, it is likely that the Authority will decline to determine any complaint which is based on the complainant’s conviction in the District Court on a charge under the Telecommunications Act 1987 of faxing obscene language.
For the above reasons, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
2 August 2001