Bladen and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2009-020
- Joanne Morris (Chair)
- Diane Musgrave
- Tapu Misa
- Paul France
- Mark Bladen
BroadcasterTelevision New Zealand Ltd
Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Breakfast – host said that obese children “should be taken away from their parents and put in a car compactor” – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – comment was light-hearted and intended to be humorous – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 At the beginning of Breakfast, broadcast on TV One between 6.30am and 9am on 3 February 2009, the programme’s presenters outlined the upcoming items for the day. One host stated, “should obese children be taken away from their parents? That is what Australian experts are suggesting – well, some of them anyway. We’ll wade into the debate after 7”. The following exchange then took place between the two hosts:
Host 1: They should be taken away from their parents and put in a car compactor [laughs].
I mean, if we can’t take cars away from boy racers, and the Australians are
suggesting fat children are taken away from their parents.
Host 2: In very extreme cases...
Host 1: [interrupts] What a crazy world.
Host 2: ...where the parents don’t follow medical advice to help their children.
Host 1: But they’re not suggesting that they’re baled, compacted?
Host 2: No, they’re not. No, they’re not going that far.
Host 1: Well, that’s good.
 Mark Bladen made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the host’s comment about obese children being put in car compactors was inappropriate and breached broadcasting standards.
 TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 1 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provides:
Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency
In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.
Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant
 TVNZ stated that Breakfast was “a mixture of news, serious interviews, magazine segments, review and often frequent good-natured ribbing at the expense of almost anyone in the headlines or visiting the set”. It said that participants and viewers appreciated this, and in particular the host’s “‘shoot from the lip’ hyperbolic comments” [were] an accepted style and integral part of the daily morning fare for the programme’s growing audience”. TVNZ noted that Breakfast had an adult target audience.
 The broadcaster maintained that the Authority had acknowledged the host’s style in Decision No. 2008-072. It considered that this was a similar occasion where he made an off-the-cuff remark in an attempt at humour. Further, it considered that the language the host used was “his vernacular” and was not said with any invective, nor was it intended to cause offence.
 TVNZ concluded that, in the context of a “light-hearted impromptu exchange” between the presenters, Mr Henry’s comment did not stray beyond current norms of good taste and decency. It declined to uphold the Standard 1 complaint.
Referral to the Authority
 Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Mr Bladen referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He reiterated his belief that the programme had breached standards of good taste and decency, and disagreed with TVNZ that Mr Henry’s comment was “the type of language and decency that the viewers of this show expect”.
 The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.
 When the Authority considers an alleged breach of good taste and decency, it is required to take into account the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, the contextual factors which are relevant include:
- the programme was broadcast between 6.30am and 9am
- expectations of regular viewers
- the programme has an adult target audience
- Breakfast is an unclassified news and current affairs programme.
 The Authority notes that the comment made by the host was:
They should be taken away from their parents and put in a car compactor [laughs]. I mean if we can’t take cars away from boy racers, and the Australians are suggesting fat children are taken away from their parents...
 In the Authority’s view, the comment was a light-hearted attempt at humour; the host was not seriously suggesting that children be put into a car compactor. Rather, he was highlighting what he saw as the absurdity that, while there was disagreement over whether boy racers should have their cars confiscated and destroyed, it was being suggested that obese children be removed from their parents if they were not following medical advice.
 In these circumstances the Authority considers that the comment did not go beyond current norms of good taste and decency. It therefore declines 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
10 June 2009
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1. Mark Bladen’s formal complaint – 3 February 2009
2. TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 3 March 2009
3. Mr Bladen’s referral to the Authority – 10 March 2009
4. TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 23 March 2009