BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Green and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2008-025

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • Craig Green

Complaint under section 8(1C)(c)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Desperate Housewives promo – brief scenes showing couples kissing, and characters saying “let’s have sex” and “if I was a lesbian, I’d totally do you” – allegedly in breach of children’s interests standard

Standard 9 (children’s interests) – promo was broadcast during G-rated movie – contained material likely to be unsuitable for children – broadcaster did not adequately consider the interests of child viewers – upheld

No Order 

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1]   A promo for Desperate Housewives was broadcast on Saturday 2 February 2008 at 8.30pm on TV2 during the movie Herbie: Fully Loaded, which began at 7pm and was rated G. The promo contained the following brief scenes:

  • Three separate shots showing three fully clothed couples kissing. Two were standing, and the third couple was lying on a bed with the woman on top of the man.
  • A topless man embracing a woman lying on her bed wearing lingerie.
  • A woman in her bra, shown from the waist upwards.
  • A female character saying to another “if I was a lesbian, I’d totally do you”.
  • A female character saying “let’s have sex” and rolling on top of her husband on their bed to kiss him. Both characters were fully clothed.


[2]   Craig Green made a formal complaint about the promo to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, contending that the promo had contained “very adult themes and language” and should not have been broadcast during a family movie. He asserted that the promo had been broadcast repeatedly during Herbie: Fully Loaded.


[3]   TVNZ considered the complaint with reference to Standard 9 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provides:

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.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[4]   TVNZ stated that the promo for Desperate Housewives had screened only once during the Saturday night movie, and that was at 8.30pm. It contended that the promo was acceptable to screen during a movie which was aimed at older children.

[5]   In the broadcaster’s view, the line “If I was a lesbian I’d totally do you” was intended to be humorous and was clearly not intended as a sexual comment between the two female characters. It noted that the women were sitting on a sofa fully clothed, and the line was an attempt by one woman to say that her friend was attractive, to boost her self esteem. TVNZ stated that the comment was not elaborated on or described in any way, so that it would be unclear to a child what the phrase actually referred to.

[6]   TVNZ also argued that the comment “Let’s have sex” followed by the two characters kissing was acceptable in the context of a film aimed at older children. It declined to uphold the Standard 9 complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[7]   Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Mr Green referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He argued that TVNZ’s explanations as to why the characters had made the comments complained about were not evident in the 30 second promo. Mr Green said that his child did not understand those adult themes or storylines, adding: minute he was watching a movie about a playful car and the next minute he was watching a 30 second ad packed with, by your own admission, at least 3 counts of overt sexual innuendo.

[8]   The complainant conceded that the characters were clothed, but he noted that two characters were in their underwear, “one straddling the other”, and they were kissing. He stated that sex or foreplay were unacceptable to show during a children’s movie, irrespective of whether the movie was aimed at older children.

Authority's Determination

[9]   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.

[10]   Under Standard 9 (children's interests), broadcasters are required to consider the interests of child viewers during their normally accepted viewing times. Although Mr Green did not complain under Standard 7 (programme classification), the Authority considers that the classification of the promo and its host programme are relevant to determining whether TVNZ considered the interests of child viewers.

[11]   The promo was broadcast at 8.30pm during a G-rated movie which commenced at 7pm in the evening. Appendix 1 to the Free-to-Air Television Code defines G-rated programmes as:

Programmes which exclude material likely to be unsuitable for children. Programmes may not necessarily be designed for child viewers but must not contain material likely to alarm or distress them.

[12]   Guideline 7b to the programme classification standard requires that:

Promos shown in G or PGR programmes screening in AO time must comply with the G or PGR classification of their host programme.

[13]   In other words, any promo broadcast during Herbie: Fully Loaded was required to comply with the film’s G rating. In the Authority’s view, the promo complained about contained material that was likely to be unsuitable for children. The images in the promo were brief, but clearly showed a topless man lying down on top of a woman in her lingerie and kissing her, and several other couples kissing, and there were sexual themes in the characters’ language such as “let’s have sex” and “if I was a lesbian, I’d totally do you”. The Authority considers that the promo warranted a classification of at least PGR, and therefore it was unsuitable for broadcast during a G-rated film which was targeted at children.

[14]   In these circumstances, the Authority finds that TVNZ did not adequately consider the interests of child viewers by broadcasting the Desperate Housewives promo during Herbie: Fully Loaded. It upholds the Standard 9 complaint.

Bill of Rights

[15]   The Authority records that it has given full weight to the provisions of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and taken into account all the circumstances of the complaint in reaching its determination. The  Authority considers that its exercise of powers on this occasion is consistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act’s requirement that limits on freedom of expression must be prescribed by law, be reasonable, and be demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society.


For the above reasons the Authority upholds the complaint that the broadcast of a promo for Desperate Housewives on 2 February 2008 breached Standard 9 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[16]   Having upheld a complaint, the Authority may make orders under sections 13 and 16 of the Broadcasting Act 1989. It does not intend to impose an order on this occasion.  

[17]   The Authority notes that it has been several years since it has upheld a Standard 9 complaint about a promo on TVNZ. It hopes that this decision will serve as a reminder to broadcasters to take care when advertising AO programmes during a G-rated host programme. The Authority considers that the publication of its decision is sufficient to clarify its expectations surrounding promos of this nature. 

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
26 May 2008


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

1.            Craig Green’s formal complaint – 2 February 2008
2.           TVNZ’s decision on the formal complaint – 4 March 2008
3.           Mr Green’s referral to the Authority – 5 March 2008
4.           TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 18 April 2008