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Towgood and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2012-061

Members

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

Complainant

  • Arthur Towgood of Hamilton

Dated

21st August 2012

Number

2012-061

Channel/Station

TV2

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Promo for Two and a Half Men – promo broadcast at 2.10pm contained sexual innuendo and the word “penis” – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency, responsible programming, and children’s interests standards

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – promo screened during chat show targeted at adults and in AO timeslot – contextual factors – not upheld

Standard 8 (responsible programming) – host programme, while rated G, was not targeted at children and broadcast in AO time-band – sexual content was sufficiently inexplicit and promo light-hearted and humorous – not upheld

Standard 9 (children’s interests) – host programme targeted at adults and broadcast during AO timeslot – broadcaster adequately considered children’s interests – not upheld 

This headnote does not form part of the decision. 


Introduction

[1]   A promo for Two and a Half Men was broadcast as part of a montage of promos for ‘Comedy Wednesday’ on TV2 at 2.10pm on Wednesday 2 May 2012. The promo screened during the host programme Anderson, a chat show rated G (General). In the promo, the characters engaged in the following dialogue:

Character 1:    You’ve mistaken toothpaste for lubricant?

Character 2:   Just once, it stung like hell but my penis was minty fresh.

Character 1:    Wait, how did you know it was minty fresh?

[2]  Arthur Towgood made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the promo contained sexually explicit material that was unsuitable for broadcast during the day when children could be watching.

[3]  The issue is whether the promo beached Standards 1 (good taste and decency), 8 (responsible programming) and 9 (children’s interests) of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[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 promo stray beyond current norms of good taste and decency?

[5]  Standard 1 states that broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency. The standard is primarily concerned with the broadcast of sexual material, nudity, coarse language or violence.1 The Authority will also consider the standard in relation to any broadcast that portrays or discusses material in a way that is likely to cause offence or distress.2

[6]  When we consider an alleged breach of good taste and decency, we take into account the context of the broadcast, which here includes:

  • the promo was broadcast during Anderson, which was rated G
  • Anderson was rated Adults Only (AO) on occasion
  • TVNZ advised that the promo was rated “GXC”, meaning it could screen in G-rated programmes not aimed at a young audience
  • the promo was for Two and a Half Men which was rated PGR
  • it was broadcast at approximately 2.10pm during the school term
  • Appendix 1 to the Code states that AO programmes may be screened between midday and 3pm on weekdays during the school term
  • Anderson’s adult target audience
  • audience expectations of Anderson.

[7]  Mr Towgood described the content of the promo, in particular the “sexual reference to lubricant and the taste of the penis after application of toothpaste”, as “pornographic advertising”.

[8]  TVNZ considered that the promo was acceptable in context and did not warrant a higher classification. It said that care was taken in the selection of the material to ensure it was appropriate to screen during Anderson, which was rated G and targeted at an adult audience.

[9]  We accept that the promo contained sexual themes. However, we disagree that the material was “pornographic”, and consider that the sexual material was sufficiently inexplicit to screen during Anderson, a chat show targeted at adults and occasionally classified AO. The hours between midday and 3pm on weekdays, during the school term, are not recognised as children’s normally accepted viewing times, and AO content is permitted to screen during these hours (see Appendix 1 to the Code). We are satisfied that most viewers would not have been unduly surprised or offended by the comments in this context. While the promo’s host programme was rated G, it was not targeted at, nor likely to attract, young children, and it is reasonable to expect parents to exercise discretion with regard to their children’s viewing during this time-band.

[10]  For these reasons, and giving full weight to the right to freedom of expression which is guaranteed by section 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, we decline to uphold the complaint that the promo breached Standard 1.

Was the promo correctly classified and screened in an appropriate host programme?

[11]  Standard 8 requires broadcasters to correctly classify programmes and adhere to the time-bands set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code. The standard exists to create consistency and certainty for viewers, who rely on the classification of a programme and its time of broadcast to give them a fair indication of its content. Standard 8 also plays an important role in the protection of children, because it assists parents and guardians in making informed choices about children’s viewing.

[12]  The promo subject to complaint was broadcast at approximately 2.10pm during the school term, during Anderson, which was a chat show aimed at a mature audience, and which was rated G. The G classification is defined as follows in Appendix 1 to the Code:

G – General

Programmes which exclude material likely to be unsuitable for children. Programmes may not necessarily be designed for child viewers but should not contain material likely to alarm or distress them.

[13]  TVNZ advised that the promo was rated “GXC”, meaning it could screen in G-rated programmes not aimed at a young audience. “GXC” is not a recognised classification in the Free-to-Air Television Code. The Authority has previously stated that there are no distinct levels for different content within the G classification; all G programmes must be suitable for unaccompanied children of any age.3

[14]  However, we consider that the majority of the promo was light-hearted and cheerful, and intended to be humorous, consistent with its aim of promoting four programmes forming the line-up on “Comedy Wednesday”. With regard to the comment specifically complained about, “it stung like hell but my penis was minty fresh”, we consider that it was delivered in a matter-of-fact and humorous manner. While adult viewers may have gleaned sexual innuendo from the comment, in our view this would have gone over the heads of any pre-school age children watching television during the day. We therefore do not consider that the promo contained material that was likely to alarm or distress child viewers. We also reiterate that the promo’s host programme, although rated G, was unlikely to attract children and broadcast at a time when AO programmes are permitted to be screened.

[15]  While we would advise that TVNZ take more care to appropriately classify programmes in the future in accordance with Appendix 1, we find that upholding the Standard 8 complaint would be an unjustifiable limit on the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression. We therefore decline to uphold this part of the complaint.

Did the broadcaster adequately consider children’s interests?

[16]  Standard 9 requires broadcasters to consider the interests of child viewers during their normally accepted viewing times – usually up to 8.30pm. The purpose of the children’s interests standard is to protect children from broadcasts which might adversely affect them.4

[17]  For the reasons expressed in paragraphs [9] and [14], and taking into account that the promo was broadcast during Anderson which was targeted at adults and screened in the AO time-band, we are satisfied that the broadcaster adequately considered children’s interests and we decline to uphold the Standard 9 complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
21 August 2012