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Dunlop and SKY Network Television Ltd - 2011-116

Members

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

Complainant

  • E A and W N Dunlop of Mosgiel

Dated

22nd November 2011

Number

2011-116

Channel/Station

Prime TV

Broadcaster

SKY Network Television Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Prime Presents: The Grand Tour: Jeremy Wells and the NZSO – comments by presenter included references to sexual activity, nudity, and bodily functions – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency standard

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – presenter was respectful overall towards the programme and the NZSO and helped to make it accessible to a wider audience – interviewees appeared comfortable with his style and entertained by him – contextual factors – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Introduction

[1]  A documentary titled The Grand Tour: Jeremy Wells and the NZSO, was broadcast on Prime at 8.35pm on Sunday 31 July 2011. It followed the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO) on a tour to China and around Europe. Throughout the documentary, the presenter Jeremy Wells interviewed people involved in the tour, including the musicians, conductors, orchestra fans, and health professionals. During these discussions he:

  • asked one of the orchestra directors if there were any rules about “sexual practice” before performances
  • questioned a resident doctor at a concert hall in Germany, saying, “What about if someone goes down in the orchestra with possibly a bow through testicles, or something along those lines, if the testicle’s on the floor would you have to pick up the testicle at that point? This is an orchestra member whose had their testicle on the floor, would you have to pick up the testicle off the floor – is there a room where you can take them and the testicle?”
  • asked the principal harpist from the NZSO, “Has anyone ever asked you to play the harp nude?” and suggested the notion of a “nude harp ensemble”
  • asked a violinist in the orchestra, “have you ever needed to go number ones or number twos during a performance?”
  • asked the orchestra’s physiotherapist, “No one’s ever asked for a happy ending have they?” and, “Erections – is there ever an issue there?”
  • asked one of the musicians whether someone reminds everyone to “go wees” before a concert.

[2]  EA and WN Dunlop made a formal complaint to SKY Network Television Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the presenter’s comments breached standards relating to good taste and decency. The complainants considered that the interviewees seemed to be “embarrassed by the intrusive nature of the questions”, and argued that comments such as these should have been edited out of the programme.

[3]  The issue is whether Mr Wells’ comments in the programme breached Standard 1 (good taste and decency) of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which states that broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency.

[4]  The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Did the presenter’s comments breach standards of good taste and decency?

[5]  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 Grand Tour was broadcast at 8.35pm on a Sunday evening
  • it was classified PGR
  • it was broadcast outside of children’s viewing times
  • the programme’s target audience
  • audience expectations of the channel
  • the subject matter of the documentary
  • the programme’s title, “Jeremy Wells and the NZSO” indicated that he would appear in the programme
  • Jeremy Wells is well known for his presenting style and type of humour.

[6]  In its response to the complainants, SKY noted that “the programme was made with the full approval and cooperation of the NZSO and in fact, the NZSO viewed the finished programme before it went to air”. It also said that it had received positive feedback from viewers who had “noted with pleasant surprise that they had no idea of the quality and international achievements of the NZSO, let alone that the orchestra members can be young and interesting in their own right”. It considered that these viewers were “drawn to watch the programme because of the presenter, Jeremy Wells, who is noted for [his] particular style of comic overlay”. SKY maintained that the programme was correctly rated PGR, and concluded that, while the programme was not to the complainants’ tastes, it did not breach Standard 1.

[7]  While we acknowledge that some of Mr Wells’ comments were clearly designed to shock and may have been unexpected for viewers unfamiliar with his style, in our view, overall, he was duly respectful towards the programme and towards the NZSO. We agree with the broadcaster that employing Mr Wells as presenter made the documentary more accessible for a younger audience and for viewers less familiar with the NZSO, by highlighting its achievements in an interesting and down-to-earth manner. We consider that a sense of reality was achieved through Mr Wells’ engagement with members of the orchestra and their crew on a more personal level, presenting them as affable and interesting individuals, and we note that the interviewees in general seemed comfortable with, and entertained by, his presenting style. In this respect, we emphasise that, according to the broadcaster, the NZSO was fully cooperative throughout the programme’s production, and viewed the final product before it went to air.

[8]  For these reasons, and taking into account the above contextual factors, we are satisfied that Mr Wells’ comments would not have offended most viewers, and did not threaten current norms of good taste and decency. Accordingly, we decline to uphold the complaint.

Name Suppression

[9]  Mr and Mrs Dunlop requested that their names be suppressed in the decision. Name suppression is granted rarely, usually in cases where an individual’s privacy has been breached, or in other exceptional circumstances. We do not consider that any such circumstances exist in the present case, and we therefore decline the complainants’ request on this occasion.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
22 November 2011

Appendix

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

1                 EA and WN Dunlop’s formal complaint – undated

2                 SKY’s response to the complaint – 18 August 2011

3                 Mr and Mrs Dunlop’s referral to the Authority – 31 August 2011

4                 Mr and Mrs Dunlop’s request for name suppression – 12 September 2011

5                 SKY’s response to the Authority – 3 October 2011