BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Deerness and CanWest TVWorks Ltd - 2007-005

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • L C Deerness
Outrageous Fortune
CanWest TVWorks Ltd
TV3 # 2

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Outrageous Fortune – scene in which two actors have sex in a video store – scene in which male character was touching the female character in a sexual manner – 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 Outrageous Fortune, a comedy-drama series about a one-family crime wave trying to go straight, was broadcast on TV3 at 9.30pm on 14 November 2006. The episode was preceded by a warning which said:

This programme is rated adults only and is recommended for a mature audience. It contains sexual material and language that may offend some people.

[2]  During the programme, one of the characters began writing a script for a pornographic movie and imagined a scene in which two actors have sex in a video store, standing up against the shelves. The male actor was shown sucking the female actor’s bare breasts. The episode also contained a scene in which a couple were lying on a bed and the male character was touching the female character in a sexual manner. 


[3]  L C Deerness made a formal complaint about the programme to CanWest TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster. The complainant objected to the video store scene which showed the female actor’s bare breasts and “the male character had his pants ripped down and I can’t recall the exact detail as I was so shocked, but it seemed to be that it did show his pubic hair and penis”. The complainant also complained about the scene involving the two characters lying on a bed, as the male character “seemed to be digitally penetrating” the female.

[4]  The complainant contended that these scenes were beyond the bounds of good taste and decency.


[5]  CanWest assessed the complaint under Standard 1 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which 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

[6]  CanWest noted that this episode of Outrageous Fortune was rated AO with a restriction to screening after 9.30pm. This classification was for programmes containing stronger material or special elements which fell outside of the AO classification, it said, and noted that the programme had been preceded by a warning.

[7]  The broadcaster asserted that, at 9.30pm, it could be expected that viewers would be an older, more sophisticated audience. It noted that both actors in the video store scene had been wearing underwear, although the female actor became topless. This nudity would have been expected by viewers and would not have seemed out of place. CanWest maintained that the scene was comedic and not designed to titillate.

[8]  In respect of the other scene complained about, it wrote:

In the sex scene between Van and his girlfriend the sexual action is inferred (not shown) and it is left to the viewer to decide what is happening (he could be merely rubbing his girlfriend’s leg. As the viewer is not shown otherwise the sexual contact is inferred by the viewer).

[9]  In CanWest’s view, both scenes were consistent with the AO 9.30pm rating. It contended that Outrageous Fortune was a well known series that had been running for two years, and as there were often storylines revolving around sexual themes “there would have been considerable audience expectation of the type of material that the episode may contain”.

[10]  Taking the above into account, the broadcaster did not consider that Standard 1 (good taste and decency) had been breached.

Referral to the Authority

[11]  Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, the complainant referred the complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

Authority's Determination

[12]  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.

[13]  When the Authority determines a complaint alleging a breach of good taste and decency, it is required to take into account the context in which the programme was broadcast. On this occasion, relevant contextual factors include:

  • the AO 9.30pm classification of the programme
  • the scenes complained about were broadcast after 9.30pm
  • the adult target audience
  • the visual and verbal warning given prior to the programme highlighted its sexual content
  • the audience’s expectations of Outrageous Fortune, a well-known New Zealand-made programme

[14]  The Authority is of the view that the sex scene in the video store was obviously a parody of the type of material shown in pornographic movies. It was interspersed with comedic shots of the character who was writing the pornographic script, and she appeared disgusted by the actors’ behaviour. Contrary to the complainant’s belief, the male actor was wearing underwear.

[15]  Looking at the sexual activity shown, the Authority considers that the scene pushed the limits of what is acceptable on free-to-air television. However, taking into account the contextual factors above, the Authority finds that it did not breach Standard 1.

[16]  Turning to consider the second scene complained about, the Authority agrees that this scene was risqué and may have offended some viewers. However, it notes that the scene was relatively brief and inexplicit.  In light of the audience expectations of Outrageous Fortune and the other contextual factors noted above, the Authority finds that Standard 1 was not breached.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
23 March 2007


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

1    L C Deerness’ formal complaint – 14 November 2007 and 2 December 2006

2    CanWest’s decision on the formal complaint – 22 December 2006

3    L C Deerness’ referral to the Authority – 9 January 2007

4    CanWest’s response to the Authority – 7 February 2007