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Shone and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2013-078

Members

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

Complainant

  • John Shone of Picton

Dated

19th December 2013

Number

2013-078

Programme

Vicious

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Summary [This summary does not form part of the decision.]

During Vicious, a British sitcom about two older men in a long-term relationship, one of the main characters exclaimed ‘Jesus Christ!’ in response to seeing a couple kissing. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the remark was blasphemous and offensive to Christians. The use of variants of ‘Jesus’ as an exclamation does not amount to coarse language in modern secular society. Here it was intended to be humorous rather than abusive or offensive, and it was acceptable in context.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency


Introduction

[1]  During Vicious, a British sitcom about two older men in a long-term relationship, one of the main characters exclaimed ‘Jesus Christ!’ in response to seeing a couple kissing. The episode was rated AO and was broadcast on TV ONE at 10.05pm on 26 September 2013.

[2]  John Shone made a formal complaint to TVNZ, the broadcaster, alleging that the use of ‘Jesus Christ’ was blasphemous, insulting and offensive to Christians.

[3]  The issue is whether the episode breached the good taste and decency standard, as set out in 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 programme threaten standards of good taste and decency?

[5]  The good taste and decency standard (Standard 1) is primarily aimed at broadcasts that contain 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]  The Authority has consistently recognised that the use of variations of the word ‘Jesus’ as an exclamation for the purpose of expressing irritation, dismay or surprise, in our modern secular society, does not amount to ‘coarse language’. While offensive to some people, it is not likely to offend or distress the majority of viewers, as it has come to be considered by many people to be part of everyday colloquial speech.3

[7]  On this occasion, the phrase ‘Jesus Christ’ was an expression of surprise and disappointment, in response to seeing a young man kissing his girlfriend, who the main characters disliked. It was intended to be humorous rather than abusive or offensive. The phrase did not threaten current norms of good taste and decency, taking into account the relevant contextual factors, including the programme’s AO classification, the late time of broadcast at 10.05pm, the programme’s adult target audience, and audience expectations of the sitcom genre.

[8]  Accordingly, we decline to uphold the Standard 1 complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
19 December 2013

Appendix

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

1                 John Shone’s formal complaint  – 11 October 2013

2                 TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 4 November 2013

3                 Mr Shone’s referral to the Authority – 5 November 2013

4                 TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 13 November 2013


1Turner and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2008-112


2
Practice Note: Good Taste and Decency (Broadcasting Standards Authority, November 2006)

3For example, Collier and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-123