Harrison and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2009-072
- Joanne Morris (Chair)
- Mary Anne Shanahan
- Tapu Misa
- Paul France
- Aidan Harrison
ProgrammeThe Erin Simpson Show
BroadcasterTelevision New Zealand Ltd
Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
The Erin Simpson Show – lyrics of song performed by New Zealand band on the show – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency and accuracy standards
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – lyrics were oblique – teenagers more likely to be watching than young children – acceptable in G programme – not upheld
Standard 5 (accuracy) – not a news, current affairs or factual programme – complainant did not identify any inaccurate statements – not likely to have alarmed viewers – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 An episode of The Erin Simpson Show, a programme aimed at teenagers and containing a mixture of interviews, band performances, and information about the latest games, technology, TV and movies, was broadcast at 4.30pm on TV2 on Tuesday 5 May.
 During the episode, Erin Simpson interviewed members of the band Goodnight Nurse, who then performed their latest single, titled “Lay With Me”. The lyrics of the song included:
You’ve got that good girl act right down to an art
But I can tell that you’re excited from the beat of your heart
‘Cause it shows, I see it in your eyes you’ve got one thing in mind
So let’s not waste our time if it’s your place or mine
Just stay, stay with me
Oh won’t you lay, lay with me?
Let’s make a scene, oh let’s mess up the sheets
‘Cause I want nothing more, nothing more
Leave your morals at the door
Well our reflections never looked so good
And I know that down the hallway which we never would
But I know that look in your eye
I see it all the time, you’ve got one thing in mind
If it’s your place or mine
Your look is telling me that it’s meant to be
And I know that you can feel it when you press up to me
‘Cause it shows, I see it in your eyes, you’ve got one thing in mind
So let’s not waste our time
If it’s your place or mine
 Aidan Harrison made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the inclusion of the song breached standards of good taste and decency and accuracy, because of its “graphic sexual and smutty lyrics”.
 Mr Harrison considered that the song was of a sexual nature, and said that it caused him and his wife to feel “disgusted, dismayed and distressed”. He argued that it breached Standard 1 (good taste and decency) because it was too early in the evening to broadcast sexual content, and he considered that the song lyrics encouraged casual sex, especially, for example, “leave your morals at the door”.
 The complainant also considered that the song was inappropriate for the programme’s rating, and contained material that should have been classified Adults Only. He said the sexual content was “not vague or innuendo it was plain it was about having sex”.
 Mr Harrison also argued that the song breached Standard 5 (accuracy), in particular guideline 5b which relates to material which is misleading or unnecessarily alarms viewers. He said he was alarmed that this type of material was broadcast at that time of day in front of his two young daughters.
 TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standards 1 and 5 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. Mr Harrison also nominated guidelines 1a, 1b and 5b. These provide:
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.
1a Broadcasters must take into consideration current norms of decency and taste in language and behaviour bearing in mind the context in which any language or behaviour occurs. Examples of context are the time of the broadcast, the type of programme, the target audience, the use of warnings and the programme’s classification (see Appendix 1). The examples are not exhaustive.
1b Broadcasters should consider – and if appropriate require – the use of on-air visual and verbal warnings when programmes contain violent material, material of a sexual nature, coarse language or other content likely to disturb children or offend a significant number of adult viewers. Warnings should be specific in nature, while avoiding detail which may itself distress or offend viewers.
Standard 5 Accuracy
News, current affairs and other factual programmes must be truthful and accurate on points of fact, and be impartial and objective at all times.
Broadcasters should refrain from broadcasting material which is misleading or unnecessarily alarms viewers.
Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant
 Looking at Standard 1, TVNZ noted that the programme was rated G, meaning it excluded material unsuitable for child viewers. It said that the show was targeted at teenagers, and teenagers were interested in local music. Goodnight Nurse was a prominent local band, TVNZ said.
 The broadcaster emphasised that there were “no swear words or coarse language” in the song. It considered that, “while the chorus of the song asks the singer’s girl to ‘lay with him’ the meaning of the lyrics is fairly obscure and small children would not know what the lyrics meant”. It noted that Mr Harrison had said that his children were too young to be alarmed.
 TVNZ pointed out that popular music had “caused upset and concern to parents for decades... this does not mean that the material is inappropriate for screening”. It also noted that the song was played live, which meant that the accompanying footage was of the band, rather than a music video which could have “acted out” the lyrics and emphasised the meaning of the song.
 The broadcaster concluded that the song was appropriate for screening in The Erin Simpson Show. It declined to uphold the Standard 1 complaint.
 Turning to Standard 5, TVNZ noted that the programme was not a “news, current affairs or factual programme” to which the standard applied, but an entertainment show aimed at teenagers. It concluded that Standard 5 did not apply in the circumstances, and declined to uphold this part of the complaint.
Referral to the Authority
 Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Mr Harrison referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He reiterated the arguments contained in his original complaint.
 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.
Standard 1 (good taste and decency)
 When the Authority considers an alleged breach of good taste and decency, it takes into account the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, the relevant contextual factors include:
- The Erin Simpson Show was an entertainment programme targeted at a teenage audience
- it was rated G
- the programme was broadcast at 4.30pm
 In the Authority’s view, the lyrics of the song “Lay With Me” were oblique and inexplicit. It considers that most viewers would not have paid close attention to the words or thought about their intended meaning. Further, the programme was aimed at teenagers and unlikely to appeal to young children, who, in any event, would not likely have understood the meaning behind the lyrics.
 Taking into account the above contextual factors, the Authority finds that the song was acceptable for inclusion in a G-rated programme aimed at teenagers. It declines to uphold the Standard 1 complaint.
Standard 5 (accuracy)
 Standard 5 requires that news, current affairs and other factual programmes are truthful and accurate on points of fact, and impartial and objective at all times.
 The Authority notes that Mr Harrison did not identify any aspects of the programme he considered to be inaccurate, but was concerned that the lyrics of the song would have unnecessarily alarmed viewers (guideline 5b). The Authority is of the view that the programme did not contain any material that was likely to alarm viewers in the manner envisaged by the standard. Accordingly, it declines to uphold the Standard 5 complaint.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
17 September 2009
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1. Aidan Harrison’s formal complaint – 5 May 2009
2. TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 5 June 2009
3. Mr Harrison’s referral to the Authority – 16 June 2009
4. TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 31 July 2009