BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Dawkins and Television New Zealand Ltd - 1997-188

Members
  • J M Potter (Chair)
  • R McLeod
  • L M Loates
  • A Martin
Dated
Complainant
  • Karen Dawkins
Number
1997-188
Channel/Station
TV2

Summary

A group of partly clad men parading in a "Hottest Hunk Calendar Search"

in front of a predominantly female studio audience, formed the content

for The Ricki Lake Show, broadcast on TV2 at 2pm on 18 October 1996.

Ms Dawkins complained to the broadcaster, Television New Zealand Limited,

that the programme was not acceptable because it showed a demeaning and

intentionally sexist contest in front of the mainly female studio audience.

She believed the reaction of the studio audience to the contest reinforced

the unacceptable behaviour involved.

TVNZ's view was that the item was no more than a good natured "battle of

the sexes" in which everyone seemed to have a good time, and that the

"hyped-up" American audience reacted much as could be expected.

It declined to uphold the complaint.

Dissatisfied with TVNZ's decision, Ms Dawkins referred the complaint to the

Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

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

Decision

The members of the Authority have viewed the programme complained about

and have read the correspondence (summarised in the Appendix). As is its

practice, the Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

The Ricki Lake Show, broadcast on TV2 at 2pm on 18 October 1996, featured

a contest involving a group of men parading partly clad, in front of a

studio audience. The contest was to choose 11 men to appear in the

"Hottest Hunks Fantasy Calendar" The title for the programme was "Hottest

Hunk Calendar Search".

Believing that the contest discriminated against men, and was demeaning

towards them, Ms Dawkins complained to Television New Zealand Ltd.

Ms Dawkins believed that the behaviour of the studio audience reinforced

the unacceptable nature of the programme.

TVNZ assessed the complaint under standards G2 and G13 of the Television

Code of Broadcasting Practice which require broadcasters:

G2 To take into consideration currently accepted norms of decency and

taste in language and behaviour, bearing in mind the context in

which any language or behaviour occurs.

G13 To avoid portraying people in a way which represents as inherently

inferior, or is likely to encourage discrimination against, any

sections of the community on account of sex, race, age, disability,

occupational status, sexual orientation or the holding of any

religious, cultural or political belief. This requirement is not

intended to prevent the broadcast of material which is:

i) factual, or

ii) the expression of genuinely-held opinion in a news or

current affairs programme, or

iii) in the legitimate context of a humorous, satirical or

dramatic work.

TVNZ, in looking at standard G2, considered Ms Dawkins' concern that the

reaction of the studio audience reinforced the unacceptable nature of the

programme itself. It felt that the "hyped-up" American audience reacted

much as could be expected, and in the context of the whole programme, the

audience reaction did not breach the taste and decency standard.

In relation to standard G13, TVNZ noted that the programme was typical of

its genre - an American daytime talk show with subjects ranging from the

mundane to the outrageous. The item it felt fell somewhere in the middle,

and was no more than a "good natured battle of the sexes" in which everyone

seemed to have a good time. It considered that it was amiable badinage

not denigration. It declined to uphold the complaint.

The Authority does not consider there was any denigration of or discrimination

against men involved in the programme complained about. It considers the

contest featured to have been no more than reasonably harmless fun. It notes

that the contest took place in a protected environment, and that all parties

involved seemed to enjoy themselves.

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

Judith Potter

Chairperson

23 January 1997

Appendix

Ms Dawkins' Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd - 18 October

1996

Karen Dawkins of Rotorua complained to Television New Zealand Limited about

The Ricki Lane Show broadcast on TV2 on 18 October 1996 at 2pm. She believed

that the contest, described as the "Hottest Hunk Calendar Search",shown

in front of a studio audience, discriminated against men, and was demeaning

towards them, as it portrayed the men only as sex objects. The behaviour

of the studio audience she considered, reinforced the unacceptable nature

of the programme.

TVNZ's Response to the Formal Complaint - 30 October 1996

TVNZ considered the complaint under standards G13 and G2 of the Television

Code of Broadcasting Practice.

In respect of standard G13, TVNZ noted that the programme was typical of

its genre, an American daytime talk show with subjects ranging from the

mundane to the outrageous. TVNZ felt that the item at issue fell somewhere

in the middle and was no more than a good natured "battle of the sexes"

in which everyone seemed to have a good time.

TVNZ believed that Ms Dawkins may not have recognised the difference between

amiable badinage and denigration.

In relation to standard G2, TVNZ considered that taste when assessing something

like the reaction of the studio audience, was a subjective matter. Its view

was that the "hyped-up" American audience reacted much as one might

expect it to.

TVNZ declined to uphold Ms Dawkins' complaint.

Ms Dawkins' Referral to the Authority - 6 November 1996

Dissatisfied with TVNZ's response, Ms Dawkins referred the complaint to the

Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

She considered that her complaint had not been interpreted properly by TVNZ.

The two issues of importance to her were first, that the sexism portrayed

went beyond the bounds of being good natured and playful, and secondly, the

item was demeaning to the men, especially in its coverage of the studio

audiences reaction to them.

TVNZ's Response to the Authority - 19 November 1996

TVNZ had nothing further it wished to add.