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Francis and TV3 Network Services Ltd - 2001-115

Members

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

Complainant

  • Ken and Jackie Francis of Hamilton

Dated

20th September 2001

Number

2001-115

Channel/Station

TV3

Broadcaster

TV3 Network Services Ltd


Complaint
For Richer or Poorer movie – "fuck off" – offensive language – insufficient warning

Findings
Standard G2 – language not offensive in context – no uphold

Standard G8 – classification and time of screening appropriate – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

For Richer or Poorer was broadcast on TV3 at 8.30pm on 29 April 2001. For Richer or Poorer is a comedy movie about a rich couple who hide among the Amish to avoid pursuit by the tax department. During one scene, the wife tells her husband to "fuck off".

Ken and Jackie Francis complained to the broadcaster, TV3 Network Services Ltd, that the language was offensive, and that the warning for "coarse" language which had preceded the broadcast had been insufficient.

TV3 advised that in the context of the movie’s AO rating, time of broadcast, and accompanying warning for coarse language, community standards of good taste and decency had not been breached. It also maintained that the movie had been appropriately classified and broadcast in an appropriate time band.

Dissatisfied with TV3’s response, Mr Francis referred the complaint 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 complaint.

Decision

The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the item complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines this complaint without a formal hearing.

For Richer or Poorer was broadcast on TV3 at 8.30pm on 29 April 2001. For Richer or Poorer is a comedy movie about a rich American couple who hide among the Amish to avoid pursuit by the tax department. During one scene, the wife tells her husband to "fuck off".

Ken and Jackie Francis complained to the broadcaster, TV3 Network Services Ltd, that the language was offensive, and that the warning for "coarse" language which had preceded the broadcast had been insufficient. The complainants considered that "coarse" language was "slightly milder than 'offensive' language". They said that they had allowed their 12-year-old to watch the movie on the basis of the warning, and that they expected "better protection for our families" from TV3.

TV3 considered the complaint under standards G2 and G8 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, as the complainant had nominated those standards. Those standards require broadcasters, in the preparation and presentation of programmes:

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.

G8  To abide by the classification codes and their appropriate time bands as outlined in the agreed criteria for classification.

TV3 noted that the language complained about occurred approximately 13 minutes into the movie and that this was the only occasion on which the word "fuck" had been used, although the movie did contain other occasions of coarse language such as "shit, arse, bastard". TV3 concluded that the warning for coarse language accurately represented the movie’s content.

TV3 considered that, in the context of the movie’s AO rating, time of broadcast, and accompanying warning for coarse language, viewers were unlikely to find the language offensive or in breach of standard G2.

TV3 also maintained that the movie was appropriately classified as AO, was broadcast in an appropriate AO time band, and carried an appropriate warning for coarse language. Therefore it did not uphold the complaint as a breach of standard G8.

Dissatisfied with TV3’s response, Mr Francis referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. In his referral, Mr Francis reiterated his view that the movie's pre-broadcast warning ought to have contained a warning for "offensive" rather than "coarse" language. He also disagreed with TV3's conclusion that viewers were not likely to find the language offensive in the context of the broadcast.

The Authority’s Findings

The Authority’s task in assessing this complaint under standard G2 is to determine whether the language complained about breached currently accepted norms, in the context in which it occurred. The context is relevant, but not decisive, to the Authority’s determination of whether the programme breached standards of good taste and decency.

The Authority considers that the relevant contextual factors include the movie’s broadcast during AO time, the warning for coarse language preceding the broadcast, which the Authority considers appropriate, and the fact that the word "fuck" was used only once in the movie. It also considers it relevant that the broadcast occurred on a Sunday night, a time which the Authority’s research indicates the younger audience is less likely to watch television.

The Authority notes that the use of the language complained about occurred close to the 8.30pm watershed, and that the Authority’s research has rated the word "fuck" as the third most objectionable in a recent survey of language. However, taking into account the contextual matters referred to in the above paragraph, the Authority concludes that standard G2 was not breached.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
20 September 2001

Appendix

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

  1. Ken and Jackie Francis’ Formal Complaint to TV3 Network Services Ltd – 30 April 2001
  2. TV3’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 29 May 2001
  3. Mr Francis’ Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 19 June 2001
  4. TV3’s Response to the Authority – 12 July 2001
  5. Mr Francis’ Final Comment – 26 July 2001