BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Hooker and TV3 Network Services Ltd - 2002-030

Members
  • P Cartwright (Chair)
  • B Hayward
  • R Bryant
  • J H McGregor
Dated
Complainant
  • Michael Hooker
Number
2002-030
Channel/Station
TV3

Complaint
Manhattan on the Beach – sexual/adult themes – incorrect classification – broadcaster not mindful of the programme’s effect on children

Findings
Standard G2 – context – no uphold

Standard G8 – PGR rating correct – no uphold

Standard G12 – correct classification and time of broadcast – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

[1] The final episode of Manhattan on the Beach was broadcast on TV3 at 8.00pm on 18 September 2001. Manhattan on the Beach was a fly-on-the-wall documentary series which followed New Yorkers on holiday in the Hamptons – a resort location in up-state New York.

[2] Michael Hooker complained to TV3 Network Services Ltd, the broadcaster, that the programme contained sexual themes and a "simulated sex act" which were outside accepted norms of good taste and decency. He also considered that the broadcast was incorrectly classified and that the broadcaster had not been mindful of the programme’s effect on children.

[3] TV3 declined to uphold the complaint. It did not consider that that the programme breached any of the standards to which Mr Hooker had referred in his complaint.

[4] Dissatisfied with TV3’s decision, Mr Hooker referred his complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

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

Decision

[5] The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the programme complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines this complaint without a formal hearing.

The Programme

[6] The final episode of Manhattan on the Beach was broadcast on TV3 at 8.00pm on 18 September 2001. Manhattan on the Beach was described by TV3 as:

a fly-on-the-wall documentary series that followed several well-to-do New Yorkers on their holidays in the Hamptons. The series examined the etiquette of the Hampton beach experience (including dating and party etiquette), the cost of the properties to rent and own, and the extravagant lifestyles of the fabulously wealthy. Episode 10 (the series final) showed stockbroker Caz Carrington off to get his marriage licence, Susan Redstone being disappointed by her ex-boyfriend, and actor Daniel Reton on the set of SEX IN THE CITY.

The Complaint

[7] Michael Hooker complained to TV3 that the programme:

contained sexual themes outside the accepted norms of taste and decency in the context of before the watershed.

[8] Mr Hooker "particularly note[d] the simulated sex act" included in the broadcast. He also considered that the programme should have been rated AO, as its theme was sex, which he said was "obviously an adult theme". In addition, he submitted that the broadcaster had breached its obligation to be mindful of the effect of the programme on children.

The Standards

[9] Mr Hooker asked that his complaint be assessed under standards G2, G8 and G12 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. Those standards 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.

G8  To abide by the classification codes and their appropriate time bands as outlined in the agreed criteria for classification.

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

TV3’s Response to the Complaint

[10] TV3 did not uphold Mr Hooker’s complaint. In responding it explained that it could not locate any material within the broadcast which could be considered a "simulated sex act".

[11] TV3 considered whether standard G2 had been breached. In its view, the only part of the programme with any relationship to sex was a portion of a conversation which Daniel Reton had about a sexual encounter he had experienced. TV3 considered that the conversation was acceptable in a PGR rated programme, as it had not dominated the programme and was not the main theme of the show. Accordingly, TV3 did not uphold this aspect of the complaint.

[12] As to standard G8, TV3 did not accept that the programme was incorrectly classified.

[13] TV3 disagreed with Mr Hooker’s contention that sex was "obviously an adult theme". It explained that an AO rating meant that a programme was unsuitable for persons under 18 years of age, and that the legal age of consent (for sexual intercourse) was 16 years of age. It continued:

Obviously the differences between PGR sexual material and AO sexual material are to be found in the way the material is handled. For example, a documentary with legitimate educational information about the human body and sexual matters may be correctly rated PGR, whereas a film with raunchy sex scenes and nudity may be correctly rated AO.

In the case of MANHATTAN ON THE BEACH, there are no sex scenes nor is sex the main theme of the programme. [TV3] therefore finds that the rating of PGR is correct for the programme and declines to uphold a breach of standard G12.

Mr Hooker’s Referral to the Authority

[14] In his referral to the Authority, Mr Hooker referred to aspects of the Authority’s research and to previous decisions which he said supported his claims that a "simulated sex act" in Manhattan on the Beach breached standard G2 and that the programme had been incorrectly classified, as it contained adult themes.

TV3’s Response to the Authority

[15] TV3 did not accept Mr Hooker’s use of the Authority’s research and previous decisions. It submitted that:

It is clear to [the Committee] that the Authority’s research was measuring the public’s response to an actual sex act (pornography) or, much more commonly, actors pretending to have sex (acting). That is what is referred to as simulated sex. There is no instance of either type of behaviour in the MANHATTAN ON THE BEACH episode.

Mr Hooker’s Final Comment

[16] In Mr Hooker’s final comment, he disagreed with TV3’s submission that the programme did not contain simulated sex. He also noted a previous Authority decision (Decision No 2001-036) where the Authority commented that broadcasters are not relieved of their obligation to comply with broadcasting standards "just because a programme is described as a reality production".

The Authority’s Determination

[17] When it determines a complaint about whether a broadcast contravenes standard G2, the Authority is required to determine whether the material complained about breached currently accepted standards of good taste and decency, taking into account the context of the broadcast. The context is relevant, but not decisive, to the Authority’s determination. The Authority considers that relevant contextual matters include the programme’s PGR rating and its broadcast during the PGR time band (8.00pm).

[18] Having viewed the programme, the Authority agrees with TV3’s assessment that there was no simulated sex in the programme and that sex was not the programme’s main focus. Rather, the programme contained a fleeting glimpse of flirtatious behaviour in the context of a fly-on-the-wall look at the behaviour of New Yorkers on holiday in an affluent area. Having considered all the circumstances of the broadcast, the Authority concludes that Manhattan on the Beach did not breach standard G2.

[19] Standard G8 requires broadcasters to abide by the classification codes and their appropriate time bands. In this case, the Authority considers that the broadcast was correctly classified as PGR material and was screened at an appropriate time. Accordingly, it finds that standard G8 was not breached.

[20] In relation to standard G12, the Authority considers that, by correctly applying a PGR certificate to the programme and screening it within the PGR time band, TV3 demonstrated that it was mindful of the effect of the broadcast on children.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
14 March 2002

Appendix

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

  1. Michael Hooker’s Formal Complaint to TV3 Network Services Ltd – 2 October 2001
  2. tV3’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 5 November 2001
  3. Mr Hooker’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 14 November 2001
  4. TV3’s Response to the Authority – 21 December 2001