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Worsnop and TV Works Ltd - 2010-135

Members

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Tapu Misa
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Mary Anne Shanahan

Complainant

  • Clive Worsnop of Auckland

Dated

23rd December 2010

Number

2010-135

Programme

Family Guy promo

Channel/Station

TV3

Broadcaster

TVWorks Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Family Guy
 – promo broadcast during 3 News- showed one character asking another to "unbutton your shirt and your pants" – overweight male character shown standing naked in a fountain with his stomach covering his genitals – character shown in another scene bending over and having his bottom pinched by his female boss who said, "Yeah, this is going to work out just fine", after which a fart sound was heard and the woman said "excuse me" – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency, responsible programming and children’s interests


Findings

Standard 1 (good taste and decency), Standard 8 (responsible programming) and Standard 9 (children’s interests) – promo was good natured, did not contain adult themes, and was correctly classified – broadcaster adequately considered the interests of child viewers – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]  A ten-second promo for the AO-classified version of the cartoon comedy Family Guy was broadcast during 3 News at 6.37pm on Friday 10 September 2010. The promo commenced with the character Quagmire instructing the main character Peter Griffin to "unbutton your shirt and your pants". This quickly cut to a garden paradise scene with Peter standing naked in a fountain. A dolphin emerged from the water and carried him skyward on its back. Although Peter was naked, his genitals were not visible.

[2]  The final scene showed Peter bending over in front of his female boss who pinched his buttocks and said, "Yeah, this is going to work out just fine". After a brief pause, the sound of breaking wind was heard - one assumed it was Peter but after he glanced back at his boss she confessed to the transgression saying "excuse me".

[3]  The promo was accompanied by a voiceover which said:

It’s the return of adults only Family Guy. Adults only Family Guy after 7 Days, tonight on 3.

Complaint

[4]   Clive Worsnop made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the promo breached broadcasting standards.

[5]  The complainant argued that the promo contained "adults themes, bad language and nudity (albeit in cartoon form)" and that it was a breach of good taste and decency to broadcast it during "family viewing time".

[6]  Mr Worsnop noted that the promo was for an AO-classified programme and was not preceded by a warning. He contended that it was a breach of Standard 8 (responsible programming) to show it at a time when "families are together" and outside of the programme’s AO timeslot.

[7]  The complainant also considered that the promo had breached Standard 9 (children’s interests), because it contained adult themes that younger viewers should not have been exposed to.

Standards

[8]  Standards 1, 8 and 9 and guidelines 8b and 9a of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice are relevant to the determination of this complaint. These provide:

Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency

Broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency.

Standard 8 Responsible Programming

Broadcasters should ensure that programme information and content is socially responsible.

Guideline 8b

All promos (including promos for news and current affairs) should be classified to comply with the "host programme" (the programme in which they screen):

  • Promos for AO programmes shown outside AO time should comply with the classification of the host programme;
  • Promos shown in G or PGR programmes screening in AO time should comply with the G or PGR classification of the host programme;
  • When a promo screens during an unclassified host programme (including news and current affairs) in G or PGR time, the promo must be classified G or PGR and broadcasters should pay regard to Standard 9 – Children’s Interests.
  • When a promo screens adjacent to an unclassified host programme (including news and current affairs) in G or PGR time, the promo should comply with the underlying timeband.
  • Broadcasters should be aware that promos showing footage of violence or other explicit material outside the context of the original programme may be unacceptable to viewers in the context of the host programme in which they screen.
Standard 9 Children’s Interests

During children’s normally accepted viewing times (see Appendix 1), broadcasters should consider the interests of child viewers.

Guideline 9a

Broadcasters should be mindful of the effect any programme or promo may have on children during their normally accepted viewing times – usually up to 8.30pm – and avoid screening material that would disturb or alarm them.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[9]  TVWorks stated that it was satisfied that the promo did not contain adult themes or nudity. It contended that Quagmire’s instruction to Peter to "unbutton your shirt and your pants" had no apparent sexual motivation, and that its primary function was to set up the following scene which showed Peter standing naked in a fountain. It pointed out that Peter was not completely naked as his large stomach covered his genitals.

[10]  The broadcaster argued that the last scene was a "mild and humorous play on workplace sexual harassment augmented with a juvenile fart gag". It stated that the promo had been given a G rating because it did not contain any violence, strong language, sexual material, or any other element likely to disturb or alarm children. It declined to uphold the good taste and decency complaint.

[11]  With respect to Standard 8 (responsible programming), TVWorks noted that guideline 8b made provision for promos for AO programmes to be broadcast outside the AO timeslot provided they complied with the classification of the host programme. It noted that the promo was broadcast during 3 News, which was an unclassified news programme, and that G and PGR-rated promos were permitted to be broadcast during such programmes. It argued that this was because child viewers were unlikely to watch news programmes unsupervised.

[12]  TVWorks therefore declined to uphold the complaint that Standard 8 had been breached.

[13]  The broadcaster maintained that, for the same reasons outlined in its consideration of Standards 1 and 8, the promo did not breach Standard 9 (children’s interests).

Referral to the Authority

[14]  Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr Worsnop referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

[15]  With respect to Standard 1, Mr Worsnop said that, after researching the programme, the character Quagmire was known for his "hyper-sexuality". He argued that "the nature of the character and its interaction with Peter Griffin, including the instruction to ‘unbutton your shirt and your pants’ is meant to suggest a sexual connotation" and was of a sexual nature.

[16]  The complainant argued that the "fart gag" was "clearly designed to attract the attention of children to the nature of the programme", and considered that the final scene trivialised workplace harassment.

[17]  Mr Worsnop maintained that Standards 8 and 9 had also been breached.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[18]  TVWorks pointed out that the promo did not provide any information about the nature of Quagmire’s character and argued that it was "up to the viewer to make any sexual inference".

[19]  The broadcaster contended that most viewers would have realised the final scene was intended as a light-hearted joke and that their views on workplace harassment would not have been challenged to any significant degree. With respect to the "fart gag", it stated that, while not to everyone’s tastes, "people of all ages may enjoy fart-based humour and the promo simply targeted viewers with a weakness for flatulence comedy".

[20]  TVWorks considered that the promo made it clear that the programme itself was classified AO and argued that it had been correctly rated G, because it did not contain any material that was likely to disturb or alarm child viewers.

Authority's Determination

[21]  The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

Standard 1 (good taste and decency), Standard 8 (responsible programming) and Standard 9
(children’s interests)

[22]  We consider that the following contextual factors are relevant to our consideration of the above standards:

  • the promo was broadcast at 6.37pm during children’s normally accepted viewing times
  • it was broadcast during 3 News, which was unclassified
  • the promo was classified G
  • the host programme had an adult target audience.

[23]  The complainant argued that the promo contained adult themes and "bad language", and that it was a breach of broadcasting standards to screen it during family viewing time.

[24]  We consider that the promo’s themes were juvenile and harmless; it depicted an animated image of a rotund and naked male figure without any genitalia showing, and two cartoon figures in an exchange involving one pinching the other’s bottom and where one broke wind to the surprise of the other. We agree with the broadcaster that most viewers would have realised that the final scene was simply a light-hearted joke which in no way trivialised workplace harassment.

[25]  In our view, the character’s statement, "unbutton your shirt and your pants" was not sexual in nature, particularly as the next scene showed the main character standing unclothed in a fountain and being carried skyward on the back of a dolphin.

[26]  We note that guideline 8b of the responsible programming standard states that promos broadcast during unclassified host programmes, including news, should be classified either G or PGR. In our view, while the version of Family Guy being promoted was classified AO, the promo itself was correctly rated G because it did not contain any adult themes or material that would have been likely to disturb or alarm child viewers. If there was any sexual connotation in the promo, it would have been lost on children.

[27]  Having reached the conclusion that the promo was correctly classified and did not contain any adult themes, we also find that TVWorks adequately considered the interests of child viewers when broadcasting it during 3 News.

[28]  Taking the above contextual factors into account, we decline to uphold the complaint that the promo breached Standards 1, 8 or 9.

 

For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaints.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
23 December 2010

Appendix

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

1.          Clive Worsnop’s formal complaint  15 September 2010

2.         TVWorks’ response to the formal complaint  30 September 2010

3.         Mr Worsnop’s referral to the Authority  8 October 2010

4.         TVWorks’ response to the Authority  12 October 2010

5.         Mr Worsnop’s final comment  21 October 2010