BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Birkinshaw and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2013-043

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
Dated
Complainant
  • Grant Birkinshaw
Number
2013-043
Programme
Seven Sharp
Channel/Station
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Seven Sharp – during interview with Kiwi actor, presenter commented “I was about as popular as a wet fart in a wedding dress” – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency standard

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – comment was a brief, throwaway remark used to convey the meaning the presenter was unpopular – upholding complaint would be unreasonable limit on right to freedom of expression – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Introduction

[1]  During Seven Sharp, a New Zealand current affairs and entertainment programme, the presenters interviewed a Kiwi actor. One of the presenters stated:

I’ve actually got to make a confession right here and right now [laughter from actor]… what a bang-up geezer [name] is, because I did an interview with [name] about two weeks ago. I took an hour-and-a-half of his time. It was a really good interview. It was great. Then I forgot to have it saved in the system. Needless to say, I was about as popular as a wet fart in a wedding dress [laughter from actor and co-presenters], but [name], because he is a bang-up geezer, came in and he is going to have a talk to us anyway, which is really nice. Thank you for that.

[2]  The programme was broadcast at 7pm on Friday 10 May 2013 on TV One.

[3]  Grant Birkinshaw made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the presenter’s reference to a “wet fart in a wedding dress” amounted to swearing and demonstrated “a new low in public broadcasting”.

[4]  The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Scope of complaint and Authority’s jurisdiction

[5]  Mr Birkinshaw also complained about the alleged use of the expression “taking a leak”. However, TVNZ was unable to identify the comment in the programme broadcast on either of the dates specified.

[6]  The Broadcasting Act 1989 requires that formal complaints relate to a specific broadcast. If an individual wishes to make a formal complaint and have it formally answered by a broadcaster, that person must be able to provide sufficient details to allow the broadcaster to locate and review the broadcast, in order to properly answer the complaint. Without a recording of the broadcast we are unable to determine whether the alleged use of the expression “taking a leak” breached broadcasting standards.

[7]  Our determination is therefore limited to whether the presenter’s comment “I was about as popular as a wet fart in a wedding dress” breached the good taste and decency standard, as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

Did the comment threaten current norms of good taste and decency?

[8]  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

[9]  TVNZ described the presenter’s remark as a “spontaneous, off-the-cuff comment that was an attempt at humour” and a “colourful way of suggesting that what he had done was very unpopular”. It said the comment was greeted with laughter and viewers would have understood it was intended to be “comedic” as opposed to offensive. It did not consider that most viewers would have been offended or distressed by the comment in the context of a current affairs programme screened in PGR time when parental guidance was expected.

[10]  The presenter’s comment, “I was about as popular as a wet fart in a wedding dress” was immature, crude and a departure from the language of primetime news and current affairs. Having said this, the threshold has not been reached where we should intervene. The comment was brief and said at a fast pace. It was a throwaway remark and employed a colloquial expression to convey the point that the presenter was very unpopular having deleted a long interview with the actor. It was in keeping with the comedic style of presentation in this programme, and was an attempt to compliment the actor, intended to be humorous rather than offensive.

[11]  While some viewers may have found the comment objectionable, we do not think it was so objectionable as to warrant us limiting the broadcaster’s freedom of expression. We therefore decline to uphold the complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
3 September 2013

Appendix

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

1           Grant Birkinshaw’s formal complaint – 13 May 2013

2          TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 5 June 2013

3          Mr Birkinshaw’s referral to the Authority – 12 June 2013

4          TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 5 July 2013


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

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