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Barry and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2016-077 (15 December 2016)

Members

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Paula Rose

Complainant

  • Audrey Barry

Dated

15th December 2016

Number

2016-077

Programme

Lucifer Promo

Channel/Station

TV ONE

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd

Summary

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

A promo for an episode of the comedy-drama series Lucifer was broadcast during Sunday. In the promo, the main character, Lucifer, was shown impersonating a priest and hearing a woman’s confession. Lucifer said to the woman, ‘Your penance: ten Bloody Marys and a good shag’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the main character’s impersonation of a priest was inappropriate, offensive and denigrated Catholics and Christians. The Authority acknowledged that the promo would have been upsetting to some viewers who hold certain beliefs, but found in the context of the broadcast the promo did not reach the threshold for finding a breach of standards. The promo reflected the content of the fictional programme promoted, and was intended to be humorous and light-hearted. It contained only low-level sexual innuendo. The promo did not contain any material which could be said to encourage the discrimination of, or denigration against, all Catholics and/or Christians.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration


Introduction

[1]  A promo for an episode of the comedy-drama series Lucifer was broadcast during Sunday. In the promo, the main character, Lucifer, was shown impersonating a priest and hearing a woman’s confession. Lucifer said to the woman, ‘Your penance: ten Bloody Marys and a good shag’.

[2]  Audrey Barry complained that the main character’s impersonation of a priest was inappropriate, offensive and denigrated Catholics and Christians.

[3]  In her complaint, Mrs Barry also referred to the promo being screened at other times of the day. However, as she did not specify sufficient detail in relation to these other screenings, we are limited to considering the broadcast of the Lucifer promo during Sunday.

[4]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the good taste and decency and discrimination and denigration standards as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[5]  The promo was broadcast on TV ONE between 7pm and 7.30pm on 14 August 2016. 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 broadcast threaten current norms of good taste and decency?

[6]  The purpose of the good taste and decency standard (Standard 1) is to protect audience members from viewing broadcasts that are likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards.

The parties’ submissions

[7]  Mrs Barry submitted that the main character’s impersonation of a priest, and his ‘penance’, were inappropriate and offensive.

[8]  TVNZ submitted that the promo would not have offended a significant number of viewers in the context of the broadcast for the following reasons:

  • Sunday is a current affairs programme targeted at an adult audience, and there is an expectation that any child viewers will be subject to adult supervision.
  • The word ‘shag’ is not considered a swear word and is not included in the Authority’s ‘What Not to Swear’ research.
  • The promo did not contain any sexual material beyond the use of the slang word ‘shag’ (meaning ‘have sex’) and the tone of the comment complained about was humorous rather than titillating.

Our analysis

[9]  When we consider a complaint under the good taste and decency standard, we take into account relevant contextual factors, which here include:

  • The host programme, Sunday, is an unclassified current affairs programme targeted at adults.
  • The promo was broadcast between 7pm and 7.30pm.
  • Lucifer, the programme promoted, is classified Adults Only (AO) and broadcast at 8.30pm.
  • The promo contained low-level sexual innuendo.
  • Lucifer is a fictional comedy-drama series about Lucifer, the Devil, ‘who is bored and unhappy as the Lord of Hell and resigns his throne and abandons his kingdom for the beauty of Los Angeles, where he gets his kicks helping the Los Angeles Police Department punish criminals’.1

[10]  We acknowledge that the complainant’s concerns relate to the main character’s impersonation of a priest while giving ‘penance’ of ‘ten Bloody Marys and a good shag’, and we understand that this would be upsetting to some viewers who hold certain beliefs.

[11]  That being said, the promo reflected the content of the fictional comedy-drama series promoted, the main character of which is a depiction of the Devil. We think it was clearly intended to be humorous and light-hearted. The reference to ‘a good shag’ was in the nature of low-level sexual innuendo, and the promo did not contain any other explicit or adult material. We are satisfied the promo was appropriate to broadcast in the context of a current affairs programme screening in PGR time and aimed at an adult audience. In this context the promo did not reach the threshold for finding a breach of the good taste and decency standard.

[12]  Accordingly, we do not uphold the complaint under Standard 1.

Did the broadcast encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, Catholics and/or Christians as a section of the community?

[13]  The objective of the discrimination and denigration standard (Standard 6) is to protect sections of the community from verbal and other attacks. The standard protects against broadcasts which encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, any section of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, occupational status, or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religion, culture or political belief.

The parties’ submissions

[14]  In her initial complaint, Mrs Barry did not explicitly identify the section of the community she considered had been discriminated against or denigrated, but referred to the main character’s impersonation of a priest as ‘inappropriate and offensive’. In her referral to the Authority, Mrs Barry clarified that she considered Catholics (and most other Christians) would have felt denigrated and upset by the content of the promo.

[15] TVNZ maintained the promo did not contain any material which amounted to a breach of this standard.

Our analysis

[16]  The importance of freedom of expression means that a high level of condemnation, often with an element of malice or nastiness, will be necessary to conclude that a broadcast encouraged discrimination in contravention of the standard.2 Additionally, the standard is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material that is legitimate humour, drama or satire.3

[17]  We consider that as a humorous and light-hearted promo for a fictional comedy-drama series, the broadcast could not be said to have encouraged the denigration of, or discrimination against, Catholics or Christians. The Authority has previously recognised that humour and satire in relation to religious figures is a valuable component of the right to freedom of expression.4 While there may be situations where this does threaten standards – for example, where the programme is particularly vicious or vitriolic – this promo did not reach the high threshold necessary to find a breach.

[18]  Accordingly we do not uphold this aspect of the complaint.

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

 

Peter Radich
Chair
15 December 2016

 

Appendix

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

1      Audrey Barry’s formal complaint – 31 August 2016
2      TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 15 September 2016
3      Mrs Barry’s referral to the Authority – 6 October 2016
4      TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 23 November 2016

 


1  http://deadline.com/2015/02/lucifer-pilot-order-len-wiseman-director-jerry-bruckheimer-producer-fox-1201376635/

2  Guideline 6b

3  Guideline 6c

4  For example, Cox and 3 Others and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2006-012