BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Gardiner and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2003-125

Members
  • J R Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • R Bryant
Dated
Complainant
  • Jeff Gardiner
Number
2003-125
Programme
Perfect Match
Channel/Station
TV One

Complaint
Perfect Match – Featured a gay man in search of a male partner – broadcast during school holidays at 8.30pm – alleged erroneous message – disturbing to children

Findings
Standard 9 Guidelines 9a and 9c – broadcaster considered children’s viewing interests – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

[1]  An episode in the programme Perfect Match featured a gay man in search of a male partner.  It was broadcast on TV One at 8.30pm on Thursday 17 July 2003.

[2]  Mr Gardiner complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the programme, which screened at a time when “older” children were still watching television, contained a message that incorrectly implied gay relationships were normal.

[3]  In response, TVNZ noted that the programme was clearly classified Adults Only and disputed the view that the programme could harm children.  Accordingly, it declined to uphold the complaint.

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

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

Decision

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

The Programme

[6]  An episode in the programme Perfect Match featured a gay man in search of a male partner.  It was broadcast on Thursday 17 July 2003, on  TV One at 8.30pm, during the school holidays.

The Complaint

[7]  Mr Gardiner complained to TVNZ about the episode that portrayed “a male being helped to find his perfect love, another male”.  He contended that it was an inappropriate episode to screen at 8.30pm during the school holidays when “older” children were still watching television.

The Standards

[8]  In view of the complainant’s concerns, TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 9 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.  The Standard and relevant Guidelines read:

Standard 9  Children’s Interests

During children’s normally accepted viewing times (see Appendix 1), broadcasters are required, in the preparation and presentation of programmes, to consider the interests of child viewers.

Guidelines

9a  Broadcasters should be mindful of the effect any programme or promo may have on children during their normally accepted viewing times – usually up to 8.30pm – and avoid screening material which would disturb or alarm them.

9c  Broadcasters should have regard to the fact that children tend to stay up later than usual on Friday and Saturday nights and during school and public holidays and, accordingly, special attention should be given to providing appropriate warnings during these periods.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[9]  TVNZ disagreed with the complainant’s view that the programme indicated that homosexual behaviour was “normal for males”.  It wrote:

… what it [the programme] indicates is the reality that gay relationships exist and that it is as normal for a lonely gay man to seek a partner as it is for a lonely heterosexual man.         

[10]  TVNZ reiterated its position that, under the Television Code, it was expressly forbidden to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation.  To exclude a same sex couple from a dating show would, it argued, imply that such a relationship was unacceptable.

 [11] TVNZ also considered the following factors to be relevant to its decision:

  • The programme carried an AO (Adults Only) classification, with the AO symbol being shown on screen at the beginning of the programme and after each  commercial break.
  • The programme started at 8.30pm which is the time of the long established Adults Only watershed.
  • [TVNZ] did not see anything inherently harmful to children.       

[12]   Taking all the above factors into account, TVNZ declined to uphold the complaint.

The Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority

[13]   Mr Gardiner informed the Authority that his complaint related solely to the harm children were exposed to when they received a “message” that implied gay relationships were normal and therefore an option.   He wrote:             

The majority of children (over 99%) are brought up with a Mum and Dad in the family home (in some cases Mum and/or Dad are not present).  This programme would alarm and disturb these children because they are bought up observing their parents as Mum and Dad, not Dad and Dad or Mum and Mum.

[14]   Mr Gardiner contended that during the school holidays, when this programme was broadcast, the majority of “older” children were watching television after 8.30pm.  He also argued that many of these children watched television unsupervised and were enticed, rather than put off, by an AO classification. 

[15]   Mr Gardiner concluded by informing TVNZ that its role was not to be “PC”, but to “uphold standards and ensure children are not disturbed or alarmed by what is shown on television”.         

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[16]   TVNZ acknowledged the complainant’s assertion that his criticism of the programme was not related to discrimination.  However, the broadcaster reiterated that it had an overriding duty, under the Television Code, to ensure that it demonstrated an even-handed approach to its programme content.  This, it argued, included broadcasting an episode of Perfect Match that brought gay couples together.

[17]   TVNZ questioned the statistics the complainant relied on, and denied that its ruling was based on an ideology of “political correctness”. 

The Complainant’s Final Comment

[18]   Mr Gardiner maintained that his complaint was made solely in the interest of the children of New Zealand.  He contended that it was up to the parents of these children to educate them in matters of sexual orientation not the broadcaster.

The Authority’s Determination

[19]   Standard 9 of the Television Code requires broadcasters to consider the interests of child viewers during their normally accepted viewing times.  The Authority notes that 8.30pm is the recognised watershed for adult programmes.   Mr Gardiner complained that the broadcaster breached its obligation under Standard 9, because it did not have regard to the fact that older children stay up later than 8.30pm during the school holidays.

[20]   The Authority agrees with the complainant that children tend to stay up later during the school holidays and observes that this is recognised in Guideline 9c of Standard 9 of the Television Code.  The Authority notes that Guideline 9c also imposes an obligation on the broadcaster to give special attention to providing appropriate warnings during these periods.  Nevertheless and acknowledging that the programme was broadcast in school holidays, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint on this occasion.  Given the content of the programme which was unlikely to disturb or alarm children, the Authority considers that by broadcasting the programme at 8.30pm and by clearly classifying it AO, the broadcaster had onsidered children’s viewing interests. 

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
20 November 2003

Appendix

 

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

1.       Mr Gardiner’s Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – 18 July 2003
2       TVNZ’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 14 August 2003
3.      Mr Gardiner’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 5 September 2003 
4.      TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 12 September 2003
5.      Mr Gardiner’s Final Comment – 18 September 2003