BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Collier and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2002-082

Members
  • P Cartwright (Chair)
  • B Hayward
  • R Bryant
  • J H McGregor
Dated
Complainant
  • Laurie Collier
Number
2002-082
Programme
Space
Channel/Station
TV2

Complaint
Space – images of man exposing buttocks – "mooning" – offensive behaviour

Findings
Standard 1 and Guideline 1a – context – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

[1] An episode of Space was broadcast on TV2 at 11.25pm on 8 March 2002. At the end of the episode, images of a man’s buttocks, and of a second man holding the cheeks of the man’s buttocks apart, were broadcast in a montage of out-takes over which the closing credits were run. The incident apparently occurred during a stag party.

[2] Laurie Collier complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the sequence was "one of the most indecent incidents I’ve witnessed on television".

[3] TVNZ declined to uphold the complaint. It did not consider that in the overall context of Space the scene was in breach of broadcasting standards.

[4] Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s decision, Mr Collier referred his complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons given, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Decision

[5] The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the part of the programme complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines this complaint without a formal hearing.

The Programme

[6] An episode of Space was broadcast on TV2 at 11.25pm on 8 March 2002. At the end of the episode, images of a man’s buttocks, and of a second man holding the cheeks of the man’s buttocks apart, were broadcast in a montage of out-takes over which the closing credits were run. The incident apparently occurred during a stag party.

The Complaint

[7] Laurie Collier complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the sequence was "one of the most indecent incidents I’ve witnessed on television".

The Standards

[8] TVNZ assessed Mr Collier’s complaint against Standard 1 and Guideline 1a of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which 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.

Guidelines

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.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[9] TVNZ declined to uphold the complaint. In responding to Mr Collier, it explained that:

Space is a programme aimed at late teens and young adults which presents a variety of entertainment likely to appeal to their interests and sense of humour – as well as staying in tune with the vaguely anarchical attitudes which this younger generation (and probably every one that has preceded it) reflect. The humour then is, arguably, that of the university student or the young "raver".

[10] TVNZ noted that the images complained about had been included as the closing part of the programme, with the programme credits superimposed over the lower part of the frame. The sequence had, it wrote, been introduced in the following way:

Jacqui Brown (Presenter):
We went away for three weeks. We were all over New Zealand. Some stuff didn’t make it into the show because it was too crap. So here it all is for you now. Goodnight.

Hugh Sundae (Presenter):
Goodnight. So there are a whole lot of bits from our three weeks away which we couldn’t show you because it was too crap. So here it all is for you now.

[11] TVNZ noted that, as the sequence was being screened, Jacqui Brown commented "somewhat sardonically" that it was "truly filthy".

[12] The broadcaster then maintained that, in the context of a programme which was aimed at a particular age group which has its own generational interests and values, the sequence seemed to it to be "harmless humour – even if to more mature minds it may seem somewhat grubby, even vulgar. Furthermore, TVNZ noted that:

the sequence had been included in a programme carrying an AO symbol which indicated that it was not suitable for children

the programme was preceded by a warning which included a reference to nudity

the images which the complainant objected to were not shown until midnight – "well after vulnerable viewers might be expected to be in bed".

The Complainant’s Referral to the Authority

[13] As he was dissatisfied with TVNZ’s decision, Mr Collier referred the complaint to the Authority. He wrote:

…my objection [is that] the screening of that particular segment… breaches the code of decency and good taste no matter when it is screened or what audience it is aimed at.

The Authority’s Determination

[14] When it determines a complaint that a broadcast contravenes Standard 1 of the Free-to-Air Television Code, the Authority is required to determine whether the material complained about breaches currently accepted standards of good taste and decency, taking into account the context of the broadcast. The context is relevant but not determinative of whether the programme breached the standard. Accordingly, the Authority has considered the context in which the material complained about was broadcast.

[15] Relevant contextual matters on this occasion include the programme's time of broadcast (midnight), AO certificate, target audience of late teens and young adults, and pre-broadcast warning which drew viewers' attention to the fact it contained nudity. The Authority also considers it relevant that the material complained about comprised fleeting images which were included at the end of the programme and over which the programme's credits were superimposed. Taking into account the context in which the material complained about was broadcast, the Authority declines to uphold this complaint as a breach of Standard 1.

[16] Finally, the Authority observes that to find a breach of broadcasting standards on this occasion would be to interpret the Broadcasting Act 1989 in such a way as to limit freedom of expression in a manner which is not reasonable or demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society (s.5 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990). As required by s.6 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, the Authority adopts an interpretation of the relevant standards which it considers is consistent with and gives full weight to the provisions of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
20 June 2002

Appendix

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

  1. Laurie Collier’s Formal Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – 9 March 2002
  2. TVNZ’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 3 April 2002
  3. Mr Collier’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 9 April 2002
  4. TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 16 April 2002