BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Greenwood and SKY Network Television Ltd - 2010-154

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Marjon Greenwood
Penis Envy promo
Prime TV

Complaint under section 8(1C) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Penis Envy promo – promo for AO-classified documentary broadcast during PGR-rated television series Stephen Fry in America – allegedly in breach of children’s interests standard

Standard 9 (children’s interests) – promo would not have disturbed or alarmed child viewers – broadcaster adequately considered children’s interests – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1]   A promo for a documentary, Penis Envy, was broadcast on Prime TV at 8.10pm on Monday 27 September 2010, during the television programme Stephen Fry in America which was rated PGR. Penis Envy was classified Adults Only and was broadcast on Wednesday 29 September at 9.30pm.

[2]   At the beginning of the promo, a voiceover stated, “We live in a supersized world where bigger is better”, as footage of unidentified males walking down the street was shown, focusing on their groin area. A clip of a comedian stating, “Size does matter”, was shown, before the following brief images were broadcast in rapid succession:

  • a group of naked men facing away from the camera, their bottoms blurred
  • penis enlargement devices
  • surgeons performing a penis enlargement procedure
  • naked men standing in a line facing the camera, their groin area blurred
  • a naked man standing in front of a mirror, his private parts blurred, as a voiceover stated, “I want to have a bigger penis than the guy standing next to me”
  • a woman holding up her little finger and stating, “That would be too small”.


[3]   Marjon Greenwood made a formal complaint to SKY Network Television Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the item breached the children’s interests standard.

[4]   The complainant argued that her children had been watching Stephen Fry in America when a promo which featured vibrators and penis enlargement was screened. She considered that the promo contained scenes and dialogue unsuitable for children.


[5]   Ms Greenwood nominated Standard 9 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice in her complaint. This provides:

Standard 9 Children’s Interests

During children’s normally accepted viewing times (see Appendix 1), broadcasters should consider the interests of child viewers.

Referral to the Authority

[6]   Having received no response from the broadcaster within the statutory timeframe, Ms Greenwood referred her complaint to the Authority under section 8(1C) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

Broadcaster's Response to the Authority

[7]   SKY said that the promo for Penis Envy was rated PG(S). It contended that the tone of the promo suited the host programme in which it screened because Stephen Fry in America often contained “light-hearted, mildly sexual innuendo”. It noted that any shots of body parts that may have caused offence were blurred.

[8]   However, the broadcaster accepted that the promo’s content may have been “borderline” for “sensitive viewers”, and said that similar programmes would be promoted and scheduled with such viewers in mind.

[9]   The broadcaster declined to uphold the Standard 9 complaint.

Authority's Determination

[10]   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.

Procedural Matter

[11]   The Broadcasting Act 1989 provides that broadcasters must respond to formal complaints within 20 working days by notifying complainants of their decision on the complaint. In this instance, SKY failed to respond to the complainant within the required statutory timeframe.

[12]   We remind SKY of its obligations under the Broadcasting Act 1989 and expect that the broadcaster will respond to all formal complaints in future.

Standard 9 (children’s interests)

[13]   Standard 9 requires broadcasters to consider the interests of child viewers during their normally accepted viewing times – usually up to 8.30pm. Guideline 9a states that broadcasters should be mindful of the effect any programme or promo may have on children during these times and avoid screening material that would disturb or alarm them. In accordance with Appendix 1 to the code, broadcasters may screen PGR-rated programmes from 7pm onwards, which contain material more suited for mature audiences but which are not necessarily unsuitable for child viewers when subject to adult supervision. The host programme, Stephen Fry in America, was rated PGR and the promo for Penis Envy was rated PG(S).

[14]   We note that while the classification “PG” and warning symbol “S” are recognised in the Pay TV Code, they are not found in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. This promo screened on Prime, which is a free-to-air channel. SKY should therefore have used the free-to-air classification of “PGR”, not a pay television classification and warning. We advise SKY to use classifications from the appropriate Code.

[15]   The promo for Penis Envy screened at 8.10pm during the PGR time-band and children’s normally accepted viewing times. We consider that, while the promo contained sexual themes and dialogue, the actual images were subtle, fleeting and relatively discreet. The nudity was blurred and, in our view, the nature of the images depicting penis enlargement surgery and various devices would have gone over the heads of younger viewers. We do not consider that children would have been disturbed or alarmed by the broadcast, especially when viewing the programme with adult supervision.

[16]   In these circumstances we find that the broadcaster adequately considered the interests of child viewers in screening the promo at 8.10pm, and we decline to uphold the Standard 9 complaint.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Radich
22 February 2011


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

1                  Marjon Greenwood’s formal complaint – 27 September 2010

2                 Ms Greenwood’s referral to the Authority – 9 November 2010

3                 SKY’s response to the Authority – 20 December 2010