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Field and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2011-027

Members

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Mary Anne Shanahan

Complainant

  • Maurice Field of Napier

Dated

7th June 2011

Number

2011-027

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
IRB Sevens World Series – presenter used the term “MILFs” – allegedly in breach of broadcasting standards

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – “MILFs” used in a light-hearted and jovial manner – not explained or elaborated on – contextual factors – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]   During the IRB Sevens World Series, broadcast on TV One at 7.30pm on Saturday 5 February 2011, the presenter stated:

I can tell you in your absence it’s going off. The party is absolutely awesome. It’s all in good fun, good clean fun as well. I did pop out there, I got snogged   by a couple of MILFs and I was also issued a fine by some police officers wearing only Speedos, let’s not go into that.

Complaint

[2]   Maurice Field made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the item breached broadcasting standards. The complainant argued that the term “MILF” was a coarse expression for “Mothers I’d Like to Fuck” and was therefore offensive to women. In his view, this was not in keeping with the nature of the programme or time of broadcast.

Standards

[3]   TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 1 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provides:

Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency

Broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[4]   The broadcaster said that to constitute a breach of Standard 1, the broadcast material must be unacceptable in the context in which it was shown, including the time of broadcast, the programme’s classification, the target audience, and the use of warnings. TVNZ argued that terms such as “JAFA”, “fugly” and “MILF” were commonly used in a humorous way to express something risqué in a “socially acceptable” manner. It made an analogy with using the “f-word” to “politely discuss” an adult swear word. The broadcaster argued that, on this occasion, the presenter’s comment was not intended to be derogatory towards any group, and considered that it was acceptable in the context of the IRB Sevens World Series.

[5]   TVNZ noted that the Authority had previously stated that Standard 1 was primarily aimed at broadcasts containing sexual material, nudity, violence or coarse language.1 It argued that the presenter’s comment did not fall into any of these categories.

[6]   In the broadcaster’s view, the presenter’s use of the term “MILF” would not have offended or distressed viewers because it was not explained or elaborated on, and it was simply used to refer to a group of people dressed in costume as MILFS. It noted that the Rugby Sevens was renowned for the creative and outlandish costumes worn by the crowd, and it therefore considered that it was reasonable for the presenter to discuss some of the outfits that he had seen.

[7]   For these reasons, TVNZ declined to uphold a breach of Standard 1.

Referral to the Authority

[8]   Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr Field referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. The complainant disagreed with the broadcaster that the term “MILFs” was used to refer to people dressed in costume; the presenter did not describe the women as “being dressed like MILFs”, and there was no dress code for women that could be considered to fit that description, he said.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[9]   TVNZ referred to the Authority’s previous ruling in Thomson-Ryan and Television New Zealand Ltd,2 where it found that a promo containing the word “fugly” did not breach current norms of good taste and decency.

Authority’s Determination

[10]   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.

[11]   When we consider an alleged breach of good taste and decency, we take into account the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, the relevant contextual factors include:

  •     the IRB Sevens World Series was broadcast at 7.30pm on a Saturday
  •     the programme was broadcast during the PGR time-band
  •     the programme was unclassified
  •     the presenter did not explain the meaning of the term “MILFs”.

[12]   On this occasion, the presenter used the colloquial term “MILFs” in a light-hearted and jovial manner while commenting on the well-known party atmosphere at the Rugby Sevens. Importantly, the presenter did not explain or elaborate on the term’s meaning. While the term may have originated as an acronym for the phrase “Mother I’d Like to Fuck”, it is our view that it has become a word in its own right which has been distanced from the phrase from which it was derived.

[13]   Taking into account the above contextual factors, we find that the presenter’s comment did not threaten current norms of good taste and decency and we therefore decline to uphold the complaint that the programme breached Standard 1.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
7 June 2011

Appendix

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

1   Maurice Field’s formal complaint – 6 February 2011

2   TVNZ’s response to the formal complaint – 7 March 2011

3   Mr Field’s referral to the Authority – 15 March 2011

4   TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 20 April 2011


1See, for example, Golden and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2008-080

2Decision No. 2010-063