BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Bragg and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2009-059

Members
  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
Dated
Complainant
  • John Bragg
Number
2009-059
Programme
Breakfast
Channel/Station
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Breakfast – host made comments about how people use public toilets – discussed how the news presenter's mother used to help him go to the toilet when he was a child – talked about suction toilets on trains in America – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – host's comments were light-hearted and intended to be humorous – contextual factors – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]  During an episode of Breakfast, broadcast on TV One between 6.30am and 9am on 20 April 2009, the hosts referred to a germ expert who had been interviewed earlier in the programme. This led one of the hosts to talk about the different methods people use to avoid germs in public toilets. The host then said, referring to the news presenter:

...[he] was telling us about the old camping days when his mother used to take him to the camp and when he wanted to go poos, his mum would take him to the public toilets. And go into the actual cubicle with you? I suppose she did.

And she used to just line the toilet seat with toilet paper, as some people do, and then place [his] bottom down really gently, didn't she? Just really gently so you didn't shuffle the toilet paper aside, so as you could go to the toilet germ-free. Then she’d pull him up off the seat, wipe him down, pop his little shorts on and he could go out to play.

[2]  The news presenter was shown laughing while the host said this and responded by saying "...I hope that you too had a caring and loving mother when you were three years old".

[3]  The host then told a story about suction toilets on Amtrak trains in America saying that the company employed people to help "extricate " passengers who had flushed the toilet while still seated and whose "arse " had been sucked partially into the toilet. The host noted that people who had been partially sucked into the toilet would not have had a chance to clean themselves and, while holding up a container of cleaning cloths, the host said "God, I bet [the toilet assistant] gets through a few of these! "

Complaint

[4]  John Bragg made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging the host's comments breached broadcasting standards. He stated that, "With scant regard to the sensibilities of those watching [the host] carried on ad nauseam about toilet procedures" and that the segment was unprofessional. He also alleged that the host had asked his co-host about her husband's "toilet usage".

[5]  With respect to child viewers, Mr Bragg stated, "I have no contact with youngsters, but I can’t help but wonder how many kids emulate [the host's] cusses".

Standards

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

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.

Guideline 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 (see Appendix 1). The examples are not exhaustive.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[7]  TVNZ stated that there was considerable audience expectation of the Breakfast audience that the presenters would "have a bit of fun on a number of issues". It stated that some of the presenters' perspectives "would not be considered PC", but the familiarity that viewers had with the style of the presenters' sense of humour ensured that the comments would not have offended a significant number of viewers.

[8]  The broadcaster contended that the host who made the comments was well known for making off-the-cuff remarks in an attempt at humour and that this was such an occasion. It argued that the host’s comments about the news presenter were intended to be humorous rather than malicious, that it was good-natured banter and that the news presenter engaged in the conversation. It stated that the host did not comment on the "toilet usage" of the other host’s husband.

[9]  With respect to the use of the word "arse" by the host, TVNZ argued that the word was "acceptable language in a programme like Breakfast aimed at adult viewers". It declined to uphold the complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[10]  Dissatisfied with TVNZ's response, Mr Bragg referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. The complainant argued that the broadcaster's decision had given insufficient consideration to good taste and decency and Standard 9 (children’s interests). He reiterated his argument saying the host "left professional standards of good taste and decency in his wake".

Authority's Determination

[11]  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.

[12]  At the outset, the Authority notes that after receiving Mr Bragg's complaint, TVNZ wrote to him stating that it was going to consider the complaint under Standard 1 alone and that if he wanted to raise any other standards he felt were breached in the programme he could do so. Mr Bragg did not raise any other standards after receiving the broadcaster’s letter and TVNZ went on to consider his complaint in relation to good taste and decency.

[13]  In his referral to the Authority, Mr Bragg alleged Standard 9 (children’s interests) had also been breached. As the Authority’s role is to review the broadcaster’s decision on the original formal complaint, it does not have jurisdiction to consider children’s interests.

[14]  The Authority also notes, having viewed the item, that the host did not question the female host about her husband's "toilet usage" as contended by the complainant.

Standard 1 (good taste and decency)

[15]  When the Authority considers an alleged breach of good taste and decency, it takes into account the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, the relevant contextual factors include:

  • Breakfast was a mix of news, serious interviews, magazine segments and reviews
  • the programme was broadcast between 6.30am and 9am
  • expectations of regular viewers
  • Breakfast was an unclassified news and current affairs programme
  • the programme had an adult target audience

[16]  The Authority considers that, while the host's comments were puerile and not to everyone's taste, regular Breakfast viewers have come to expect this type of banter between the presenters. The host’s remarks were clearly intended to be humorous and not meant to be taken seriously.

[17]  In the Authority’s view, the nature and style of the programme affords it some latitude with respect to its content. Taking the above contextual factors into account, the Authority finds that the host’s comments did not threaten standards of good taste and decency. It declines to uphold the complaint that the item breached Standard 1.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
19 August 2009

Appendix

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

1.         John Bragg's formal complaint – 23 April 2009
2.        TVNZ's response to the formal complaint – 21 May 2009
3.        Mr Bragg's referral to the Authority – 2 June 2009
4.        TVNZ's response to the Authority – 30 June 2009