BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Hausmann and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2000-023

Members
  • S R Maling (Chair)
  • J Withers
  • R McLeod
  • L M Loates
Dated
Complainant
  • H V Hausmann
Number
2000-023
Programme
60 Minutes
Channel/Station
TV One

Summary

An interview with a bisexual author of erotic books was included in 60 Minutes broadcast on TV One on 31 October 1999 between 7.30–8.30pm. The woman described herself as "an amateur sexologist" and explained how she had become an expert on the subject of erotica.

Mr Hausmann complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the material was pornographic, breached the good taste standard and was unsuitable to be shown at a time when younger viewers could be watching. He also maintained that the item lacked balance because it did not show the serious downside of what he termed sexual addiction.

TVNZ responded that the programme had profiled a New Zealand woman who had been approached by a publisher to produce a work on female erotica. It suggested that the complainant had made an unfair assumption by concluding that the woman had a sexual addiction. It acknowledged that some of the content of the book might threaten the good taste standard, but considered the content of the broadcast had complied with broadcasting standards and declined to uphold the complaint.

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

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

Decision

The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the programme and have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. On this occasion, the Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

An interview with a self-proclaimed "amateur sexologist", the author of a book of erotica for women, was included on 60 Minutes broadcast on TV One on 31 October 1999 between 7.30–8.30pm. The woman, a New Zealander living in Coromandel, described herself as bisexual and related that she enjoyed an active sex life.

Mr Hausmann complained to TVNZ that the content of the programme was unsuitable for broadcast at a time when children were likely to be watching television, and breached the requirement to maintain standards of good taste. He also contended that it lacked balance because it did not refer to the downside of sexual addiction or the link between pornography and criminal behaviour. In a second letter, he elaborated on his concerns, adding that in his view the woman featured had an addiction to sex, and that the item itself would have had a detrimental effect on viewers.

TVNZ assessed the complaint under standards G2, G6, G12, V4 and V16 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, as nominated by Mr Hausmann. Standards G2, G6 and G12 require broadcasters:

G2  To take into consideration currently accepted norms of decency and taste in language and behaviour, bearing in mind the context in which any language or behaviour occurs.

G6  To show balance, impartiality and fairness in dealing with political matters, current affairs and all questions of a controversial nature.

G12  To be mindful of the effect any programme may have on children during their normally accepted viewing hours.

The other standards read:

V4  The combination of violence and sexuality in a way designed to titillate must not be shown.

V16  Broadcasters must be mindful of the effect any programme, including trailers, may have on children during their generally accepted viewing periods, usually up to 8.30pm, and avoid screening material which could unnecessarily disturb or alarm children.

TVNZ acknowledged Mr Hausmann’s contention that there could be a link between erotica and pornography and crime, but noted that the programme did not deal with that subject and was not intended to. Instead, it said, it was the profile of a woman who had been approached by a major publisher to write a book on female erotica. It suggested Mr Hausmann had reached an unfair assumption by concluding that the woman had an addiction to sex.

Dealing first with the complaint under standard G2, TVNZ acknowledged that while some of the content of the book could well have exceeded the norms of decency and taste, nothing in the broadcast had done so. As for the complaint that the item lacked balance, TVNZ responded that it did not believe that the item required any debate about the social consequences of erotic writing, as the focus had been on the author and why a major publisher had sought her work. It did not consider standard G6 to be relevant in that context.

Turning to the complaint that it had failed to be mindful of children, TVNZ responded that it "believed that parents and caregivers recognised the nature of news and current affairs and adjust the viewing options of their children accordingly". Further, it argued, by keeping away from the book’s content and focussing very briefly on the sexual paraphernalia, the item demonstrated an awareness of the hour of the broadcast and the likely composition of the audience. It found no breach of that standard.

With respect to standard V4, TVNZ said it found nothing in the item which could be seen as "designed to titillate" and therefore that standard was not relevant. The matters raised under standard V16 it noted had already been dealt with under standard G12. It declined to uphold any aspect of the complaint.

In his referral to the Authority, Mr Hausmann expressed his dissatisfaction with TVNZ’s response to the complaint. He acknowledged that his conclusion about the author’s sexual addiction had been reached by deduction, but argued that it was clear that her admissions demonstrated that sex controlled her life. To TVNZ’s assertion that the item had not exceeded norms of decency and good taste, Mr Hausmann responded that such response "was surely an indictment of the moral standards" of society when anyone, including toddlers, could be viewing.

Concerning TVNZ’s response on standard G12, Mr Hausmann repeated that the content was unsuitable for early evening viewing. He did not accept that the onus should be on parents and caregivers to monitor children’s viewing at that hour.

To the response under standard V4, Mr Hausmann argued that to sex offenders and sex addicts, the content "would be akin to wafting a whisky cork under the nose of an alcoholic".

In conclusion, Mr Hausmann repeated his argument that the lowering standards of television programmes demonstrated that they were designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator and to satisfy advertisers. He regretted the inevitable decline in moral values and suggested there was a link between the erosion of standards and the high youth suicide rate and increased violence in society.

TVNZ advised it had no further comment.

The Authority’s Findings

The Authority considers the essence of this complaint is that the subject matter was unsuitable for broadcast, both because it was in breach of the good taste standard and also because it was broadcast at a time when children were likely to be watching. Nevertheless, it takes into account the matters raised under the other standards nominated by Mr Hausmann when it considers the complaint.

When the Authority considers a complaint that the good taste standard has been breached, it is required to take relevant contextual factors into account, including the time of the broadcast, the subject matter and how it was dealt with, and the programme genre. As a first point, the Authority notes that 60 Minutes is well-established as a current affairs programme in this time slot, and that it is broadcast during PGR time, a time when the content is deemed to be more suited to adult audiences but not necessarily unsuitable for children when subject to the guidance of an adult. The subject matter of the book, the Authority acknowledges, was adult-oriented. However, it considers that it was dealt with in an appropriate manner, noting that the item focused on profiling the author rather than on examining the content of her book. It concludes that the item did not exceed community expectations of good taste and decency.

Standard G12 requires broadcasters to be mindful of the effect of any programme on children during their normally accepted viewing hours. The Authority considers that the omission of any provocative content from the book demonstrated that TVNZ had been aware of the likely composition of the audience at that hour, and the effect of the programme on younger viewers. It declines to uphold this aspect.

As a final point, the Authority notes Mr Hausmann’s argument relating pornography consumption to violence and crime. As the programme did not deal with these matters, it makes no finding on them.

 

For the reasons set forth above, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Sam Maling
Chairperson
17 February 2000

Appendix

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

1.    H V Hausmann’s Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – 1 November 1999

2.    TVNZ’s First Response to the Complaint – 3 November 1999

3.    Mr Hausmann’s Further letter to TVNZ – 4 November 1999

4.    Mr Hausmann’s Further letter to TVNZ – 9 November 1999

5.    TVNZ’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 24 November 1999

6.    Mr Hausmann’s Referral to the Authority – 6 December 1999

7.    TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 17 December 1999