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Allan and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2004-044

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • Alvin Allan
Ultimate Force
TV One

Complaint under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Ultimate Force – promo – depicted two women kissing – 7.00pm Sunday – offensive

Standard 1 and Guideline 1a (good taste and decency) – context – heterosexual and homosexual relationships are dealt with similarly – time of broadcast – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision. 


[1] A promo for Ultimate Force was broadcast on TV One at about 7.00pm on Sunday 11 January 2004. The promo included two women kissing.


[2] Alvin Allan complained formally to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster. He contended that the visual of the two women “engaged in a passionate kiss” breached the requirements for good taste and decency. Expressing the opinion that the gay lifestyle was a minority activity, he argued that programmes in which it was shown as normal could damage a young person’s view of normal and healthy sexual relationships.


[3] TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 1 and Guideline 1a of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. They provide:

Standard 1

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.


1a  Broadcasters must take into consideration current norms of decency and taste in language and behaviour bearing in mind the context in which any language or behaviour occurs. Examples of context are the time of the broadcast, the type of programme, the target audience, the use of warnings and the programme’s classification. The examples are not exhaustive .

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[4] Pointing out that gay relationships had featured in literature for “hundreds of years”, TVNZ said that the fictional story dealt with in the promo included a lesbian relationship. It added that its Complaints Committee:

… assumed you would not wish to restrict the creativity of writers of fiction by insisting that they not portray characters engaged in gay lifestyles.

[5] TVNZ also pointed out that the Television Code did not allow broadcasts to encourage the denigration of or discrimination against a section of the community on account of sexual orientation. On the basis that a heterosexual embrace would not breach the standard, TVNZ stated that the same conclusion was appropriate for the depiction of a homosexual relationship.

TVNZ did not uphold the complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[7] Mr Allan said he was dissatisfied with TVNZ’s decision for the following reasons:

  • The promo was screened at a time when children would be viewing television.
  • He questioned whether the standard relating to discrimination applied to parts of the programme.
  • Depictions of homosexual behaviour, he argued, were an attempt to change the societal norm of generally accepted standards of behaviour.
  • The broadcaster was unable to prove that the depiction would not encourage children towards a homosexual relationship when mature.
  • Depictions of any sexual relationships between adults as normal might be “politically correct”, but were contrary to the beliefs of many New Zealanders.

Broadcaster's Response to the Authority

[8] Submitting that the scene depicted was harmless, TVNZ reiterated the argument that no standards issue would have arisen if it had been a heterosexual embrace. To uphold the complaint, TVNZ continued, would imply a discriminatory attitude towards gay people and, moreover, breach the spirit of the human rights legislation.

Complainant’s Final Comment

[9] Repeating the point that his concern focused on children watching the material, Mr Allan asked where were parents’ rights to decide what was best for their children. That right, he argued, was lost when promos such as the one he had complained about were broadcast without warning. The scenes chosen, he contended, were inappropriate for children and strayed outside the boundaries of good taste and decency.

Authority's Determination

[10] The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the promo complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

[11] TVNZ explained that the promo was for a programme which included a lesbian relationship. It argued that, if the one shot in the promo of two women embracing had been a heterosexual embrace, Standard 1 would not have been at risk. TVNZ also noted that the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice does not allow the broadcast of items which encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, sections of the community on account of sexual orientation. It declined to uphold the complaint.

[12] When the Authority determines a complaint alleging a breach of good taste and decency, it is required under Guideline 1a of Standard 1 to take into account the context of the broadcast complained about. In this case, relevant contextual factors include the time of the broadcast and the promo’s classification.

[13] The Authority notes that the promo was broadcast at 7.00pm, at the beginning of the PGR (Parental Guidance Recommended) time-band. PGR is defined in the Television Code as:

Programmes containing material more suited for mature audiences but not necessarily unsuitable for child viewers when subject to the guidance of a parent or an adult.

[14] The Authority is satisfied that the promo complained about would not have earned more than a PGR classification. As such, it was appropriately broadcast during PGR time. In the Authority’s view, the promo did not breach standards requiring the observance of good taste and decency.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
6 May 2004


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

  1. Alvin Allan’s Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – 11 January 2004
  2. TVNZ’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 10 February 2004
  3. Mr Allan’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 18 February 2004
  4. TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 27 February 2004
  5. Mr Allan’s Final Comment – 23 March 2004