An episode of Havoc 2000 Deluxe was broadcast on TV2 at 10.20pm on 14 December 1999.
Simon Boyce complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, about three skits contained in the programme, which he considered were in breach of broadcasting standards relating to good taste and discrimination/denigration.
TVNZ responded that, in the context of a late night time slot and the programme’s AO certificate, it did not consider that the skits complained about posed a threat to the good taste standard. It also commented that the approach taken by the presenters, Mikey Havoc and Jeremy Wells (Newsboy), was well established and recognised by its viewing audience, who expected to see material which verged on the outrageous. In addition, TVNZ did not consider any of the programme material was discriminatory and, even if it was wrong about that, considered that the items complained about were presented in the legitimate context of a humorous, satirical work. It declined to uphold any aspect of the complaint.
Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Mr Boyce 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.
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. On this occasion, the Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.
The following three skits were included in an episode of Havoc Deluxe 2000 broadcast on TV2 on 14 December 1999 beginning at 10.20pm:
A skit during which bacon was suggested as a substitute for Christmas wrapping paper, and in which the phrase "Christmas is fucking excellent – I fucking love it" was used and certain religions were referred to
A skit in which Havoc wore an artificial horse’s head while he appeared to imitate an Asian language.
A skit during which the presenters sailed around the America’s Cup village in Auckland. The presenters had a conversation with an Australian crew and asked them whether they brought back women to have sex on the boat’s hull. They also referred to a group on the wharf as a "pack of wankers", and Newsboy claimed to recognise a TVNZ staff member among the group.
Mr Boyce complained to TVNZ that the three items each breached the good taste and decency standard, and the standard relating to discrimination. In his view, there was no legitimate context for the skits.
As it had been requested to do by Mr Boyce, TVNZ assessed the complaint under standards G2 and G13 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. Those standards require 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.
G13 To avoid portraying people in a way which represents as inherently inferior, or is likely to encourage discrimination against, any section of the community on account of race, age, disability, occupational status, sexual orientation or the holding of any religious, cultural or political belief. This requirement is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material which is:
i) factual, or
ii) the expression of genuinely-held opinion in a news or current affairs programme, or
iii) in the legitimate context of a humorous, satirical or dramatic work.
TVNZ began by noting that the programme was broadcast at 10.20pm, nearly two hours after the AO watershed. It also observed that the programme carried an AO certificate. In addition, it explained its view that the nature of programmes featuring Havoc and Newsboy:
was now well established and recognised by the TV2 viewing audience. People who make the choice to watch these programmes expect material which verges on the outrageous and would indeed be disappointed if it didn’t.
TVNZ then commented on Mr Boyce’s view that there was no legitimate humorous context to the material he had complained about. It responded that what a person found funny was a subjective matter. It added that Mr Boyce had chosen to watch the programme "knowing full well the nature of the comedy it employ[ed]". TVNZ noted also that it had not received any other complaint about the programme, although ratings figures had suggested that it had been watched by a large number of people.
Turning to deal with Mr Boyce’s specific complaints, TVNZ made the following comments. First, in relation to the religious references in the "Fun with Meat" section, TVNZ said that although Newsboy referred to Muslims, Jews and Christians, it could not detect:
anything in the manner of delivery or the choice of language which seemed calculated to represent the faiths mentioned as inherently inferior or to encourage discrimination against them.
TVNZ said that it believed that, in any event, the material was "in the legitimate context of a humorous, satirical … work".
As to the horse’s head sequence, TVNZ said that it recognised that Havoc was close to incoherent in some sketches and that viewers found this funny. TVNZ agreed that it was possible to argue that the skit found its humour in "lampooning misunderstandings that come with a diversity of cultures". However, it considered that it was also possible to see it as nothing more than "simple foolery meaning very little at all".
TVNZ said that it had difficulty understanding why Mr Boyce considered the horse’s head skit was racially offensive. In its view, the item made fun of "a well-known Japanese television cliché – but without malice". TVNZ considered that clause (iii) of standard G13 was again applicable.
Next TVNZ commented on the use of the words "wankers" and "fucking" in the programme. It said that it did not believe that these expressions strayed beyond the expectations of a late night audience watching the programme. In its view, the language did not dominate the programme in any way. It noted the programme’s AO classification and its late time of screening. It also commented that the programme’s target audience found this type of humour mirthful and enjoyable. It added that it was "quickly recognised by those not enamoured by this type of comedy as being not for them".
For the reasons noted above, TVNZ declined to uphold the complaint.
In his referral to the Authority, Mr Boyce said that his complaint about the "Fun with Meat" skit was about what he thought was the phrase "fucking Christmas", and Newsboy’s "obnoxious" behaviour in holding up rashers of bacon while he referred to religious groups.
Mr Boyce also questioned why TVNZ had not addressed his concerns about the discussion about sex in the America’s Cup section of the programme. Mr Boyce then commented that calling a group of people a "pack of wankers" was undoubtedly an abusive remark, even if the group was out of earshot.
In its response to the Authority, TVNZ reported that it had nothing further to add.
Mr Boyce made a final comment to the Authority, in which he cited a columnist who contended that Havoc and Newsboy courted complaints because it was good publicity.
When the Authority considers a complaint under standard G2, it is required to take into account matters of context. On this occasion, the relevant contextual factors are the time of the broadcast (10.20pm), the programme’s AO classification and its target audience of young adults. In addition, the Authority considers it relevant that programmes featuring Havoc and Newsboy are known for their particular type of humour and that the late night audience was likely to be familiar with their style.
Taking these contextual matters into account, the Authority finds no breach of standard G2. However, it records its concern about the repeated and gratuitous use of the word "fucking" during the "Fun with Meat" skit. In the Authority’s view, this came very close to breaching standard G2. But, as the word was not used in an abusive, threatening or sexual way, the Authority has determined that there was no breach of the good taste standard on this occasion.
The complainant also contended that standard G13 was breached. The Authority considers that, given the programme’s humorous nature, this standard is not transgressed.
For the reasons set forth above, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
9 March 2000
The following correspondence has been received and considered by the Authority in the determination of this complaint.
1. Simon Boyce’s Formal Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – 20 November 1999
2. TVNZ’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 5 January 2000
3. Mr Boyce’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 7 January 2000
4. TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 26 January 2000
5. Mr Boyce’s Final Comment – 1 February 2000