BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Brownlee and Radkhou and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2011-147

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
Dated
Complainants
  • Babak Radkhou
  • Mark Brownlee
Number
2011-147
Programme
Coronation Street
Channel/Station
TV One

Complaints under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Coronation Street – scene contained two female characters kissing – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency, responsible programming, children’s interests and controversial issues standards

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – kissing scene was brief and innocuous – not made less acceptable by the fact the kiss was between two women – content was consistent with the programme’s G rating and not unsuitable for children – contextual factors – not upheld

Standard 8 (responsible programming) – programme was correctly rated G and screened in appropriate time-band – not upheld

Standard 9 (children’s interests) – broadcaster adequately considered children’s interests – not upheld

Standard 4 (controversial issues) – standard only applies to news, current affairs and factual programmes – Coronation Street was a fictional drama – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Introduction

[1]  An episode of Coronation Street, broadcast on TV One at 5.30pm on 18 October 2011 and classified G (General), contained a scene in which two female characters kissed while sitting on a couch.

[2]  Mark Brownlee and Babak Radkhou made formal complaints to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the scene breached broadcasting standards. Mr Brownlee considered that showing two women kissing was “immoral” and “offensive” and that “children may be led to think that behaviour is okay”. Babak Radkhou argued that “a lesbian kiss at 5.25pm” would have disturbed child viewers.

[3]  The issue is whether the episode, and specifically the kissing scene, breached Standards 1 (good taste and decency), 8 (responsible programming), 9 (children’s interests) and 4 (controversial issues) of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

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

Did the broadcast, specifically the kissing scene, threaten current norms of good taste and decency?

[5]  Standard 1 states that broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency. The standard is primarily concerned with the broadcast of 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

[6]  When we consider an alleged breach of good taste and decency, we take into account the context of the broadcast, which here includes:

  • Coronation Street screened at 5.30pm during children’s viewing times
  • the episode was rated G and screened during the G time-band
  • the kissing scene occurred at approximately 5.55pm
  • Coronation Street’s adult target audience
  • expectations of regular viewers
  • the episode was not preceded by a warning
  • Coronation Street had previously been broadcast at 7.30pm during the PGR time-band.

[7]  TVNZ argued that Coronation Street was a serial drama aimed at adults, and that the depiction of a couple kissing is acceptable during a G programme. The fact that the kiss was between two women, rather than a man and a woman, did not affect its level of acceptability, it said. TVNZ noted that other G-rated serial dramas, including Neighbours and Home and Away had previously contained scenes in which two girls kissed. Further, this particular episode screened in the United Kingdom prior to its adult watershed, it said.

[8]  The scene subject to complaint consisted of a brief, relatively innocuous kiss between two young women, who were sitting on a couch and fully clothed. The Authority has previously declined to uphold complaints about characters kissing during G programmes.3 We also agree with TVNZ that the mere fact that the kiss was between two women does not make it less acceptable. We now live in an age where same-sex relationships are accepted, as demonstrated by, among other things, the introduction of civil unions in New Zealand. Upholding the complaints – especially in the face of previous decisions declining to uphold complaints about heterosexual kisses – would in our view be discriminatory and undermine human rights.

[9]  We do not consider that most viewers would have been offended by the scene, or that it threatened current norms of good taste and decency. Upholding the complaints in these circumstances would unreasonably and unjustifiably restrict the right to freedom of expression.

[10]  We therefore decline to uphold the complaints under Standard 1.

Was the programme correctly classified and screened in an appropriate timeslot?

[11]  Standard 8 (responsible programming) requires broadcasters to ensure that programmes are correctly classified and adhere to the time-bands set out in the Appendix to the Code. TVNZ maintained that the episode was correctly rated G and that none of the material in the episode would have caused panic, alarm or distress. The G classification is defined as follows:

G – General

Programmes which exclude material likely to be unsuitable for children.  Programmes may not necessarily be designed for child viewers but should not contain material likely to alarm or distress them.

[12]  Coronation Street, while rated G, was targeted at an adult audience, and unlikely to appeal to child viewers. In any case, we are satisfied that the kissing scene was not unsuitable for any unsupervised child viewers who were watching, and did not warrant a higher classification of PGR or a later time of broadcast, for the reasons discussed in relation to Standard 1.

[13]  We therefore decline to uphold Mr Brownlee’s complaint that this episode of Coronation Street breached Standard 8.

Did the broadcaster adequately consider children’s interests?

[14]  Standard 9 requires broadcasters to consider the interests of child viewers during their normally accepted viewing times – usually up to 8.30pm. Guideline 9a states that broadcasters should be mindful of the effect any programme or promo may have on children during these times, and avoid screening material that would disturb or alarm them.

[15]  TVNZ reiterated its arguments in relation to the other standards raised, and concluded that the programme would not have disturbed or alarmed child viewers.

[16]  As discussed above under Standards 1 and 8, we are satisfied that the kissing scene was not unsuitable for child viewers, and not likely to disturb or alarm them. We agree that the scene was consistent with the programme’s G rating, and in any case we do not consider that children were likely to be watching, given the programme’s adult target audience.

[17]  Accordingly, we find that the broadcaster adequately considered children’s interests when screening this episode of Coronation Street at 5.30pm, and we decline to uphold the complaints under Standard 9.

Did the programme breach standards related to the discussion of controversial issues?

[18]  Mr Brownlee nominated Standard 4 (controversial issues) in his complaint.

[19]  Standard 4 states that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed in news, current affairs and factual programmes, broadcasters should make reasonable efforts, or give reasonable opportunities, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.

[20]  As Coronation Street was a fictional drama/soap opera, we find that Standard 4 does not apply in the circumstances.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
1 May 2012

Appendix

The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined these complaints:

Mark Brownlee’s complaint

1           Mark Brownlee’s formal complaint – 18 October 2011

2          TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 17 November 2011

3          Mr Brownlee’s referral to the Authority – 17 November 2011

4          TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 27 February 2012

Babak Radkhou’s complaint

1           Babak Radkhou’s formal complaint – 20 October 2011

2          TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 17 November 2011

3          Babak Radkhou’s referral to the Authority – 30 November 2011

4          TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 27 February 2012


1Turner and TVNZ, Decision No. 2008-112

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

3For example, Ibousi and TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2010-091