Armstrong and MediaWorks TV Ltd - 2016-003 (13 May 2016)
- Peter Radich (Chair)
- Leigh Pearson
- Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
- Paula Rose
- Helen Armstrong
Programme2015 Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards
BroadcasterMediaWorks TV Ltd
Channel/StationTV3 # 4
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
The 2015 Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards featured numerous expletives, sexual references and other strong language. The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging the ‘foul language’ and ‘crude humour’ used during the awards was offensive and unacceptable. The programme did contain strong adult content which would not have been to the liking of all viewers. However there were opportunities for viewers to make a different viewing choice or to exercise discretion, given the length of the broadcast (more than two hours) and that there was a pre-broadcast warning of sorts (although not of itself adequate). On balance the Authority found the broadcast did not reach the threshold for breaching the good taste and decency standard. Nevertheless, the Authority urged broadcasters to take care when broadcasting live material after 8.30pm that is likely to attract younger viewers.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency
 The 2015 Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards, hosted by actor/director Taika Waititi, featured numerous expletives, sexual references and other strong language.
 Helen Armstrong complained that the ‘foul language’ and ‘crude humour’ used during the awards was offensive and unacceptable.
 The issue is whether the broadcast breached the good taste and decency standard as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.
 The programme was broadcast on TV3 from 8.30pm on 19 November 2015 and ran for more than two hours. The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
 Ms Armstrong did not nominate specific broadcasting standards in her original complaint, but implicitly raised issues of good taste and decency. In her referral to the Authority, Ms Armstrong nominated the good taste and decency and discrimination and denigration standards. The Authority’s task is to review the broadcaster’s decision on the complaint, so our jurisdiction is limited to matters raised in the original complaint. Because the discrimination and denigration standard was only raised at the referral stage, we are only able to now consider the good taste and decency standard.
 In her complaint Ms Armstrong did not specify particular segments of the programme or precise statements that she considered were offensive or unacceptable. We consider the following statements made over the course of the programme may have been seen as potentially offensive, although we acknowledge that some are at the lower end of the offensiveness range and may be considered to be generally acceptable:
- ‘It folds in on itself; it’s a tesseract. Tell you what else is a tesseract, this guy [points to penis]’. (Mr Waititi – host)
- ‘I would like to introduce the first presenter, she’s a good friend of mine... she gave me a present, it was banana leaves, unwrapped it... it was a little poo’. (Mr Waititi)
- ‘I need to let you know about something very cool. Vodafone have created a special Snapchat channel where you’ll see heaps of interesting things around the awards that you won’t see anywhere else, like Taika’s tesseract in his pants’. (Mr Waititi)
- ‘Fucking bullshit – where’s my fucking East Coast hip-hop?’ (Mr Waititi)
- ‘As a matter of fact, this isn’t the first time I’ve done this. The first time I shaved number 11 into my eyebrow was 20 years ago when [Jonah Lomu] first burst onto the scene and – fun fact – my girlfriend at the time “turned the tap off” until the eyebrow grew back’. (Dom Harvey – award presenter)
- ‘...You’ve got all these artists, creative people, just here expressing themselves, expressing themselves all over the table’ [accompanied by hand gestures apparently showing the expressing of breast milk] (Mr Waititi)
- ‘I’m imagining this as some sort of futuristic... thing that transports my penis into the future... I just sort of insert it, and it beams it out to the future. Because if you ask anyone, it’s pretty advanced. It doesn’t belong in this time [referring to podium]’. (Mr Waititi)
- ‘You know that you’re in a music group because your tour van smells like other people’s farts... so tonight we honour the people that deeply breathe in what their bandmates put out’. (Urzila Carlson and ‘Chopper’ – comedians/award presenters)
- ‘Let’s face it, no one wants to bone a folk singer... DJs are riddled with STDs... so if you are going to do it with a musician, you really can’t go past a rock star... because you can’t folk out with your cock out... You haven’t lived until you’ve fucked a drummer’. (Ms Carlson and Chopper)
- ‘They say his voice sounds like a wounded angel, but in my opinion it sounds like a wounded angel is making love to... a sexy nurse angel’. (Mr Waititi)
- ‘In your face, Anika Moa... I’m so happy to be winning over Anika Moa this evening... Fuck you’. (Gin Wigmore – accepting award)
- ‘Our next presenters are giving away the award for Best Roots Album, which is pretty ironic – I’ve slept with both of these people and “best root” is not how I’d describe them’. (Mr Waititi)
The broadcaster’s position
 The position of the broadcaster in response to the complaint was basically that the programme was broadcast during adult viewing times and that there was a warning of what the programme might contain.
 This was a long broadcast which started at 8.30pm and went on for more than two hours. It was not material made for television but rather was a television programme which covered an awards function intended for adults. However, the whole programme was about contemporary music and contemporary music attracts children and is intended to attract children (under the age of 14 years), as well as those who are older. For this reason, we do not agree with the broadcaster that the programme is automatically saved by its having been broadcast after 8.30pm, in Adults Only viewing time.
 There was a warning given at the commencement of the programme:
Remember, it is live, there could be some naughty language.
 We do not think this was an adequate prediction of what in fact followed. The language and some of the expressions were more than naughty. They would have been offensive to a lot of people and not suitable for children.
 As the programme progressed, its tone and content became obvious and there were plenty of opportunities for viewers to disconnect and for parents to intervene.
 We are also aware of it being said that people who were at this function found it to be acceptable and humorous and we can understand that this sort of humour may have some appeal at a function where it is delivered into party conviviality. Delivered over television to viewers it was less likely to have appeal. It was likely to cause at least some viewers to yearn for the days when humour was clever, sometimes risqué but not bluntly crude. It appears to us that the broadcaster did not anticipate what would happen at this function or if it did, it failed to see the implications of this sort of material being openly broadcast with a commencement time of 8.30pm.
 We have decided on balance and after careful consideration, not to uphold this complaint. This is because the programme was broadcast after 8:30pm, there were opportunities for viewers to exit and there was some sort of warning although not of itself adequate. As well, any children’s audience would have been secondary, and some of the more offensive items were broadcast later at night.
 The broadcaster should not, however, take this as an unqualified approval. When a broadcaster is contemplating a live broadcast of this kind care has to be taken. We think that wide-ranging questions need to be asked, including:
- Is it likely that potentially offensive material will be broadcast?
- Will the participants be aware that their participations will be broadcast live?
- Have the participants been made aware of the standards that are expected in New Zealand broadcasting?
- Are children likely to be attracted to the broadcast and if they are, will it be suitable for children?
 We think that here the broadcaster had not adequately prepared and appeared to be left receiving and broadcasting what it was given. If the organisers of functions such as these music awards want to have the benefits of the awards being broadcast then they have to accept responsibilities and make arrangements to ensure as far as possible that offensive material is not spilled into programmes to which children are likely to be attracted, even if the programmes are outside ordinary children’s viewing times. We trust that this guidance will be received and acted upon in the future.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
13 May 2016
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Helen Armstrong’s formal complaint – 20 November 2015
2 MediaWorks’ response to the complaint – 16 December 2015
3 Ms Armstrong’s referral to the Authority – 11 January 2016
4 MediaWorks’ response to the Authority – 15 February 2016