BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Collier and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2008-028

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • Laurie Collier

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Distraction – British comedy quiz show – contained conversations of a sexual nature and coarse language – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency

Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – contextual factors – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1]   An episode of Distraction, a British comedy quiz programme in which the utmost is done to distract contestants from the task at hand, was broadcast on TV2 at 10pm on 25 January 2008. The episode included conversations of a sexual nature, which came about by the host asking questions of the four contestants and then commenting on their answers.

[2]   An example of one such exchange was as follows:

Host:             (asking one of the three female contestants) Who out of Sharon and Sue has
                     had sex with their partner’s big toe?

Contestant:   Sharon

Host:             You’re absolutely right. How did this happen? Was he kicking you and thought,
                     ‘hang on, this is brilliant’?

[3]   The contestant (Sharon) responded by saying that it was part of a sex game. The host then discussed her genital piercing and that she had received a noise warning from her local council because of “noisy love making”. The host then said “what happens if something serious will be like the boy who cried wolf, but you’ll be the girl who cried ‘fuck me, fuck me harder’”. 

[4]   The programme was preceded by the following verbal and written warning:

This programme is rated Adults Only. It contains language that may offend some people.


[5]   Laurie Collier made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the programme had breached standards of good taste and decency.

[6]   The complainant argued that the programme’s dialogue was explicit, made references to sexual intercourse and contained use of the “f... word quite often”. 


[7]   TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 1 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. It 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

[8]   TVNZ stated that to constitute a breach of Standard 1, the material shown must be unacceptable to a significant number of viewers in the context in which it was shown. Contextual factors include the programme’s classification, the intended audience and the use of warnings, it said.

[9]   The broadcaster pointed out that Distraction was classified AO and was preceded by a warning that “gave a precise indication of the material in the programme and gave viewers ample opportunity to decide if they wished to watch the programme”. It also noted that the programme was broadcast at 10pm.

[10]   TVNZ stated that the programme had been broadcast in New Zealand for several years and that the type of material it contained was well known to its intended audience. It contended that the “sexual discussion...did not seek to arouse and titillate the viewer” and that it was included to be humorous and to try and distract the contestants.

[11]   The broadcaster argued that the episode was intended to be satirical and “would be understood by the Distraction audience as such”. TVNZ declined to uphold the complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[12]   Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Mr Collier referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He maintained that the programme was “crude and offensive”, particularly “the segment where a female entertainer, scantily dressed” was asked to expose her genitals. 

Authority's Determination

[13]   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.

[14]   In his referral to the Authority, Mr Collier alleged that the episode of Distraction he complained about included a segment in which a female entertainer was asked to expose her genitals. However, having viewed the programme, the Authority notes that no such scene occurred in the episode of Distraction broadcast on 25 January 2008.

[15]   Because Mr Collier clearly nominated the 25 January episode in his complaint to TVNZ, and the Authority’s task is to review the broadcaster’s decision about that episode, it confines its consideration to the content of the 25 January 2008 programme.  
[16]   When the Authority considers a complaint that alleges a breach of good taste and decency, it is required to take in to account the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, the relevant contextual factors include:

  • the programme was broadcast at 10pm
  • the programme was classified AO (Adults Only)
  • the programme had a young adult target audience
  • the programme was preceded by a visual and verbal warning
  • the light-hearted and humorous nature of the programme.

[17]   In the Authority’s view, the programme set out to be outrageous, and revelations about the contestants tied in with the programme’s risqué nature. It finds that the language contained in this episode of Distraction was acceptable in the context of an AO classified programme that was preceded by a warning and broadcast at 10pm.

[18]   Taking the above contextual factors into account, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint that the programme breached Standard 1 (good taste and decency). 


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
4 July 2008


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

1.            Laurie Collier’s formal complaint – 29 January 2008
2.           TVNZ’s response to the formal complaint – 5 March 2008
3.           Mr Collier’s referral to the Authority – 15 March 2008
4.           TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 8 May 2008