One News – report referred to film "Austin Powers – The Spy Who Shagged Me" – "shagged" – offensive language
Standard G2 – decline to determine
Decision No: 1999-163
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
An item on One News broadcast by TV One between 6.00–7.00pm on 12 January 2000 described the development of a new open top sports car by Jaguar. In that context, reference was made to the film "Austin Powers – The Spy Who Shagged Me".
Mr Schwabe complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that "shagged" was an offensive, aggressive and macho anti-woman term which was unacceptable for broadcast at a time when children were encouraged to watch television.
Referring to a previous Authority decision, TVNZ responded that as the word was not used gratuitously, formed part of the actual title of a film which had already received wide publicity, and the reference itself was brief, no broadcasting standard was breached.
Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s decision, Mr Schwabe 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 determine 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.
A news item broadcast on One News on TV One on 12 January 2000 between 6.00–7.00pm described the development of a new open top sports car by Jaguar. In that context, the report referred to the film "Austin Powers – The Spy Who Shagged Me".
Mr Schwabe complained to TVNZ that the word "shagged" in the film’s title was a term which was offensive, aggressive, and macho anti-woman. He contended that the use of the word "shagged" in the item breached the standard requiring broadcasters to maintain standards consistent with good taste and decency.
In Mr Schwabe’s opinion, the word implied that women were mere sex objects. He considered there was "a real danger of young male users of this type of language progressing to become perpetrators of violence against women". Mr Schwabe also commented that he was "very concerned about [the word’s] deliberate introduction to children". Furthermore, he said that the word was broadcast during prime time television "when, as a result of TV One’s own advertising, parents would have encouraged their children to watch".
In conclusion, Mr Schwabe said that he hoped a policy could be put in place to stop a similar event from occurring, and asked that future references to the movie use what he called its alternative title, "Austin Powers 2".
TVNZ assessed the complaint under the standards nominated by Mr Schwabe.
Section 4(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act reads:
s.4(1) Every broadcaster is responsible for maintaining in its programmes and their presentation, standards which are consistent with –
(a) The observance of good taste and decency
Standard G2 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice 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.
TVNZ considered that Mr Schwabe’s complaint was "virtually indistinguishable" from a similar complaint he made about the use of the film’s title in a One News item in July 1999.
TVNZ noted that in declining to uphold his complaint on that occasion, the Authority wrote in Decision No 1999-163:
In reaching its conclusion that no breach of the standard occurred on this occasion, it takes into account the fact that the word was not used gratuitously, that it was part of the actual title of a film which had already received wide publicity, and the reference itself was brief.
In TVNZ’s view, those three factors remained applicable and it had no reason to reach a different conclusion. It did not uphold Mr Schwabe’s complaint.
Mr Schwabe then asked the Authority to review TVNZ’s decision as he was dissatisfied with its response.
In its response to the referral, TVNZ wrote that it believed it would be appropriate for the Authority to refer to Decision No 1999-163 when it determined the complaint.
The Authority agrees with TVNZ that the complaint is virtually indistinguishable from Mr Schwabe’s complaint about the same film last year. Decision No 1999-163 also concerned a reference made to the film title in the context of a news item. The Authority sees no reason to depart from its earlier decision. Accordingly, having considered all the circumstances, the Authority declines to determine the complaint in accordance with s.11(b) of the Broadcasting Act.
For the reasons set forth above, the Authority declines to determine the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
11 May 2000
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1. Paul Schwabe’s Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – 8 February 2000
2. TVNZ’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 16 February 2000
3. Mr Schwabe’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 8 March 2000
4. TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 17 March 2000