BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Heares-Farry and TVWorks Ltd - 2010-115

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Tapu Misa
  • Peter Radich
  • Danielle Heares-Farry
TVWorks Ltd
TV3 # 3

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
New Zealand’s Next Top Model –
contestants posed semi-naked and covered in mud for a photo shoot – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency standard

Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – nudity effectively masked by mud and steam – contextual factors – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1]   During an episode of the reality TV series New Zealand’s Next Top Model, broadcast on TV3 at 7.30pm on Friday 20 August 2010, a group of young girls were filmed posing for a photo shoot, semi-naked in geothermal mud pools.

[2]   The footage included various shots of the girls posing for a female photographer, wearing bikinis and accessories, with their bodies covered in mud.

[3]   Some of the girls posed topless and their breasts were visible, although covered in mud and concealed by steam rising from the pools. A 16-year-old girl made the following comment as she prepared to pose topless for the photo shoot:

“I’m a Christian, and I don’t think that’s going to stop me from a lot of things as long as I have confidence in myself and confidence in the Lord.”

[4]   At the end of the programme the girls stood before a judging panel, and each underwent an individual evaluation based on their performance during the photo shoot. As the girls were evaluated each had their photograph displayed on a screen; those that posed topless had their breasts concealed by mud and steam. The following exchange took place between one of the judges, the photographer and the 16-year-old Christian girl with reference to the topless shoot:

Girl:                   It’s not really in my comfort zone, like I’m religious and I felt kind of bad.

Judge:              You might have been a bit uncomfortable, but it’s my favourite shot.

Photographer:   I didn’t know that you had this inner turmoil while I was shooting you, so
                        thank you for taking that on and just being brave.


[5]   Danielle Heares-Farry made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the nudity in the photo shoot breached standards of good taste and decency.

[6]   The complainant argued that it was “crossing the line” and “immoral” to ask a young girl to take her top off. She said that she was “disgusted and disappointed to see a 16-year-old girl being exploited”. In her view, the broadcast added to “the pressure already put on our young girls that are being forced to grow up too quickly in our overly sexualised society”, which, she argued, was the result of programmes such as this.


[7]   Ms Heares-Farry nominated Standard 1 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice in her complaint, which provides:

Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency

Broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency.


1a   Broadcasters will take into account current norms of good taste and decency bearing in mind the context in which any content occurs and the wider context of the broadcast e.g. programme classification, target audience, type of programme and use of warnings etc.

1b   The use of visual and verbal warnings should be considered when content is likely to disturb or offend a significant number of viewers except in the case of news and current affairs, where verbal warnings only will be considered. Warnings should be specific in nature, while avoiding detail which may itself distress or offend viewers.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[8]   In response to the complaint, TVWorks provided the following comment from the executive producer of New Zealand’s Next Top Model:

We as producers take the well-being and comfort of the NZNTM contestants very seriously. They have female chaperones with them 24 hours a day, their stylist on this particular occasion was a woman, as was the photographer. The models are free at any time to opt out of any situation with which they feel uncomfortable, so far this has not been the case.

[9]   The broadcaster stated that, having viewed the footage and received the above comment from the executive producer, it was confident that there had been no breach of Standard 1, and it declined to uphold the complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[10]   Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Ms Heares-Farry referred her complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

[11]   With regard to the executive producer’s comment that the stylist and photographer were females, the complainant argued that this did not mean that the girls had been fully informed about the implications of “nude” modelling. In her opinion, the fact that the crew were female did not impact on the safety and well-being of the models.

[12]   Ms Heares-Farry argued that even if the girls had the opportunity to opt out of the photo shoot, as contended by the executive producer and accepted by TVWorks, “the reality of these sorts of programmes means that their chances of success of carrying on in the competition are limited”.

[13]   The complainant stated that a wide audience of young girls looked up to those on the show and used them as role models “to gauge what is acceptable in society”.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[14]   TVWorks did not consider that any of the girls in the broadcast appeared uncomfortable or distressed about the costume requirements of the photo shoot. The broadcaster stated, “indeed, the photo shoot was notable for the confidence the girls showed and the only discomfort they complained of was the cold and being smeared with mud and water”.

[15]   The broadcaster argued that the 16-year-old girl, referred to in Ms Heares-Farry’s original complaint, did not appear to be any less confident than the older girls. The broadcaster referred to the 16-year-old girl’s comment, “I’m a Christian, and I don’t think that’s going to stop me from a lot of things as long as I have confidence in myself and confidence in the Lord”, to illustrate its point.

Authority's Determination

[16]   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.

[17]   When we consider an alleged breach of good taste and decency, we take into account the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, the relevant contextual factors include:

  • New Zealand’s Next Top Model was broadcast at 7.30pm on a Friday

  • the programme was classified PGR

  • it was preceded by a written and verbal warning for coarse language.

[18]   In our view, the nudity subject to complaint was effectively masked by the mud that covered the girl’s body and the steam rising from the pools. Furthermore, no attention was drawn to her breasts; the transition between shots was relatively swift, and the camera tended to focus on the girl’s face. We consider that the poses were non-sexual and were presented in an inoffensive way.

[19]   Taking the above contextual factors into account, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint that the programme breached Standard 1.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Radich
23 November 2010


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

1.           Danielle Heares-Farry’s formal complaint – 20 August 2010

2.          TVWorks’ response to the formal complaint – 7 September 2010

3.          Ms Heares-Farry’s referral to the Authority – 7 September 2010

4.          TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 16 September 2010