Marae – live broadcast of Aotearoa Traditional Performing Arts Festival – haka – whakapohane – nudity – buttocks – testicles – offensive behaviour
Standard G2 – brief – indistinct – modified version of traditional Maori challenge – no uphold
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
A special edition of Marae which was broadcast live from the "Aotearoa Traditional Performing Arts Festival" screened on TV One from 8.30am until midday on 6 February 2000.
Mr Potts complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that a haka performed during the programme was "grossly offensive". He objected to what he considered were close up shots of male performers’ naked buttocks and testicles.
TVNZ responded that the footage had not been as explicit as Mr Potts had described. In the context of a live telecast of a well-respected cultural festival, and a haka performance which included the "long established" whakapohane ritual, it did not find that the broadcast breached standards of good taste and decency.
Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s decision, Mr Potts 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.
A special edition of Marae was broadcast live on TV One from 8.30am to noon on 6 February 2000. The programme was a live relay of the "Aotearoa Traditional Performing Arts Festival".
Mr Potts complained to TVNZ about the broadcast of a haka performed during the programme. He said that during the haka, close up shots of male performers’ buttocks, "arseholes" and "tattooed" testicles were shown. Mr Potts considered that the footage was obscene. He considered that TVNZ had totally disregarded the sensitivities of religious groups, children and "unsuspecting" tourists who would have seen the programme.
TVNZ assessed the 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.
In TVNZ’s view, no scenes were shown which were as anatomically explicit as the complainant described. It seemed to TVNZ that "the men used a pouch to cover their testicles, while an oblique camera angle concealed any anal features".
TVNZ considered that the context of the broadcast was a live telecast of a well-respected cultural festival which featured performances of traditional Maori songs and ritual. TVNZ also referred to the English translation of the haka which had been performed. It noted that it was a "symbolic challenge in which defiance, contempt and protest were integral elements". TVNZ considered that the presentation of the performers’ buttocks was intended "to display the elaborate and defiant ‘tattoos’ with which they were adorned and which [were] themselves part of the symbolism of the occasion". TVNZ said that the display was known as "whakapohane" and was a long established pre European Maori ritual.
TVNZ also commented that it was "far from uncommon around the world for culture to be expressed in forms where nudity or partial nudity is found". It noted that a billboard advertising Tahiti which was currently on display in Auckland featured a naked tattooed man with his back to the camera.
TVNZ declined to uphold the complaint.
In his referral of the complaint to the Authority, Mr Potts disagreed with TVNZ’s view about the level of anatomical detail broadcast. He also challenged what he called TVNZ’s "belief that overseas visitors would enjoy whakapohane", as his personal informal research had persuaded him that it was not regarded as mainstream entertainment. He questioned the relevance of TVNZ’s comparison between the broadcast and what he called an "utterly innocuous" advertising billboard. He described the broadcast as an "obscene incident".
In its response to the referral, TVNZ advised that it had no further comment.
As required, the Authority considers alleged breaches of standard G2 in the context in which the language or behaviour occurs. On this occasion, the relevant contextual factors include the brevity of the incident complained about, the scant and indistinct anatomical detail broadcast, that the performers appeared to be partially covered, and that the incident was a modified and restrained version of a traditional Maori challenge which occurred during a traditional performing arts festival. Taking these contextual matters into account, the Authority is not persuaded that the broadcast breached standard G2. Accordingly, it declines to uphold the complaint.
On the point that the item was a live broadcast, the Authority refers to Decision No 2000-057. It reiterates the view then expressed that broadcasters must be cognisant of their obligations when covering events live, and are responsible for taking such steps as they consider appropriate to minimise associated risks.
For the reasons set forth above, the Authority declines to uphold 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:
A J Potts’ Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – 6 February 2000
A J Potts’ Letter to TVNZ – 10 February 2000
TVNZ’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 25 February 2000
TVNZ’s Letter to Mr Potts – 29 February 2000
Mr Potts’ Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 8 March 2000
TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 17 March 2000