The Boys Club – film – fuck – offensive
Standard G2 – adult theme – contextual factors – rating – warning – classification – time of screening – no uphold
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
The Canadian film The Boys Club was broadcast on TV3 on 24 June 2001. It told the story of some teenage boys with a secret hideout who hide a dangerous criminal. Their conversation frequently used the word "fuck" and its derivatives.
Phillip Smits complained to TV3 Network Services Ltd, the broadcaster, that the teenage boys as the main characters used offensive language extensively. People of that age, he wrote, should not be allowed to swear.
In response, TV3 pointed to programme’s rating (AO), the time of screening (10.40pm), and the verbal and written warning which preceded the broadcast. In view of these matters and in the context in the film in which the language was used, it declined to uphold the complaint.
Dissatisfied with TV3's response, Mr Smits referred the 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.
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 film The Boys Club was screened on TV3 at 10.40pm on Sunday 24 June 2001. It dealt with a group of teenage boys who hide a dangerous criminal who they believe, initially, is a policeman. The language used by the boys included the extensive use of such words as "shit" and "fuck", and variations of them.
Phillip Smits complained to TV3 Network Services Ltd, the broadcaster, about the language. Describing the word "fuck" as obscene and for the use of which one could be criminally convicted, Mr Smits maintained that children should not be allowed to swear.
TV3 assessed the complaint under standard G2 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. It 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.
TV3 explained that the film was rated Adults Only (AO), was screened at 10.40pm, which was more than two hours after the watershed at 8.30pm, and preceded with a verbal and written warning which said, "This film contains scenes of violence and coarse language intended for adult audiences". Moreover, it explained, TV3’s programme appraiser had made some cuts.
TV3 advised that these steps had been taken to minimise the chances that children and young people would be exposed to their peers’ use of swearing. In summary, TV3 wrote:
…TV3 has no control over the production of foreign-made programmes and films, i.e. TV3 cannot prevent a film made in America having a script where the characters swear. TV3 can however control the likely audience in New Zealand. In this case TV3 ensured that children would not be exposed to the swearing by screening the movie at an appropriate time. Further TV3 took care to warn adult viewers of potentially offensive language so they could decide whether they wished to view the programme, and made censor cuts to prevent a breach of Standards.
TV3 declined to uphold the complaint.
Dissatisfied with TV3's decision, Mr Smits referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
Mr Smits argued that the swearing was not expected, and was offensive for that reason. He also contended that the swearing was not necessary in context. Insisting that the language was offensive, Mr Smits stated:
The people that made the movie had adolescent actors using language that TV3 admit is unsuitable for people of similar age to hear. They then show that to adults and expect us not to complain. Kids might swear amongst themselves but they don’t in front of adults - and so they don’t on any broadcast medium either.
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 beached standards of good taste and decency.
The Authority notes that the film dealt with dysfunctional families and contained relatively extensive use of the language complained about. Nevertheless, the Authority does not believe that the film would appeal to a very young audience and, taking into account the contextual factors raised by TV3, especially the time of screening, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
For the reasons above, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
25 October 2001
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint: