BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Hodge and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2008-084

Members
  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
Dated
Complainant
  • W R Hodge
Number
2008-084
Programme
A Place in Spain
Channel/Station
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
A Place in Spain – man said “Jesus [bleep] Christ” during an argument – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – contextual factors – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]   An episode of A Place in Spain was broadcast on TV One at 5pm on Wednesday 11 June 2008. The series followed Lee and Cheryl, a Welsh couple, on their dream of packing up their life in the United Kingdom and starting a snail farm in Spain.

[2]   At one point in the episode, Lee and Cheryl were shown in their new car having an argument about the directions being given by their satellite navigation system. During the argument, Lee said “Jesus [bleep] Christ” twice. A swear word in between “Jesus” and “Christ” was censored on both occasions.

Complaint

[3]   W R Hodge made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the programme had breached standards of good taste and decency. The complainant argued that “it is a breach of respect and common decency for any person’s name to be used as a form of foul language”.

[4]   The complainant considered the programme “chose to heighten the effect of the expletive by blocking out one word in the total expletive (each time repeated) whilst leaving the words ‘Jesus’ and ‘Christ’ in place”.

Standards

[5]   TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 1 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. It provides:

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.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[6]   TVNZ stated that to constitute a breach of Standard 1, the broadcast material must be unacceptable to a significant number of viewers in the context in which it was shown. The broadcaster noted that the Authority had “considered numerous decisions regarding the use of the phrase ‘Jesus Christ’ as an offensive term”. It pointed out that the Authority had accepted that its use on some occasions, given the context, fitted into the category of an exclamation of irritation and alarm.

[7]   TVNZ also noted that the “Concise Oxford Dictionary defines ‘Jesus Christ’ as a central figure of the Christian religion and, in a separate definition, it is said to be an ‘exclamation, informal expression of irritation, dismay or surprise”.

[8]   The broadcaster stated that some language was “bleeped” to ensure the programme was appropriate to its G (General) rating and timeslot. It argued that the use of the phrase “Jesus [bleep] Christ” would not have offended a significant number of viewers and it declined to uphold the complaint.      

Referral to the Authority

[9]   Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, W R Hodge referred the complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. The complainant maintained that a significant number of people would have been offended by the use of the words in the programme and that Standard 1 had been breached.

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.

[11]   When the Authority considers a complaint that alleges a breach of good taste and decency, it is required to take in to account the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, the relevant contextual factors include:

  • the programme was rated G (General)
  • the programme was broadcast at 5pm, during children’s normally accepted viewing time
  • the programme was not targeted at children.

[12]   The complainant’s concern is that the name Jesus Christ was used in the programme as a form of “foul language”. The Authority considers that the phrase “Jesus [bleep] Christ” was clearly used by Lee as an expression of his anger and frustration at the directions being given by his GPS navigation system. The Authority has in the past found that the use of "Jesus Christ" as an expression of dismay or anger was acceptable in context (e.g. Decision Nos 2005-141 and 2008-012).

[13]   The Authority also notes that, while A Place in Spain was broadcast during children’s normally accepted viewing times, the programme was targeted at adults.

[14]   Taking the above contextual factors into account, the Authority finds that the phrase “Jesus [bleep] Christ” would not have offended a significant number of viewers in the context in which it was shown. It declines to uphold the complaint that the programme breached Standard 1 (good taste and decency).       

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
21 October 2008

Appendix

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

1.           W R Hodge’s formal complaint – 12 June 2008
2.          TVNZ’s response to the formal complaint – 10 July 2008
3.          W R Hodge’s referral to the Authority – 28 July 2008
4.          TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 22 August 2008