BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Hooker and TV4 Network Ltd - 2001-217

Members
  • P Cartwright (Chair)
  • B Hayward
  • R Bryant
  • J H McGregor
Dated
Complainant
  • Michael Hooker
Number
2001-217
Broadcaster
TV4 Network Ltd
Channel/Station
TV4 # 3

Complaint
Star Trek: Deep Space 9 – "lesbian kiss" – bad taste

Findings
Standard G2 – context – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

[1] An episode of Star Trek: Deep Space 9 was broadcast on TV4 at 8.30pm on 24 August 2001. The episode included a scene where two of the female characters kiss.

[2] Michael Hooker complained to TV4 Network Ltd, the broadcaster, about a "lesbian kiss" which was included in the broadcast, and which he considered to be "far outside the accepted norms of taste and decency, given the context in which the behaviour occurred".

[3] TV4 declined to uphold the complaint. It maintained that the kiss was acceptable in the context of a PGR programme, explaining that it was brief, important to the storyline, not AO in nature and screened after the AO watershed.

[4] Dissatisfied with TV4’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] An episode of Star Trek: Deep Space 9 was broadcast on TV4 at 8.30pm on 24 August 2001. The episode included a scene where two of the female characters kiss.

The Complaint

[7] Michael Hooker complained to TV4 about a scene where two of the female characters kiss. He considered this "lesbian kiss":

  • was not important to the story
  • was shown before the watershed
  • screened during a programme with high appeal to children
  • was not preceded by any warning
  • screened during a programme rated PGR
  • was "far outside the accepted norms of taste and decency, given the context in which the behaviour occurred".

[8] In support of his complaint, Mr Hooker referred to the Authority’s research findings.

The Standards

[9] TV4 considered Mr Hooker’s complaint in the context of standard G2 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which requires 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.

TV4’s Response to the Complaint

[10] In TV4’s response to the complaint, it challenged each of the assertions made by Mr Hooker in his complaint. First, it disagreed that the kiss was not important to the storyline. Second, it pointed out that the programme had not been screened before the AO watershed. TV4 then referred to its audience figures for the episode, which it said indicated that the programme had negligible child appeal. TV4 also maintained that there was no need for any warning about the "brief kiss between the two female characters", as the material was acceptable for the programme’s PGR rating. Finally, TV4 challenged the relevance of the research findings which Mr Hooker had referred to in his complaint.

[11] TV4 declined to uphold the complaint as a breach of standard G2.

Mr Hooker’s Referral to the Authority

[12] In his referral to the Authority, Mr Hooker reiterated the contentions made in his original complaint.

The Authority’s Determination

[13] Before addressing the substance of the complaint, the Authority records that when Mr Hooker referred his complaint, he asked that it be considered under standards G8 and G12. The Authority does not address those standards in its determination, as they were not referred to by Mr Hooker when he made his original complaint to the broadcaster. The Authority’s role is to investigate and review the broadcaster’s decision, rather than to consider the complaint anew. It may consider a complaint under standards not already taken into account by the broadcaster provided it is apparent that they were concerns held by the complainant at the time of the original letter of complaint.

[14] The Authority’s task in assessing this complaint under standard G2 is to determine whether the material complained about breached currently accepted norms of good taste and decency, in the context in which it occurred. The context is relevant, but not decisive, to the Authority’s determination of whether the programme breached standards of good taste and decency.

[15] On this occasion, the Authority considers that the relevant contextual factors include the programme’s PGR rating and th e fact that the scene which Mr Hooker complained about occurred after the 8.30pm AO watershed. The Authority agrees with TV4’s submissions that the brief kiss about which Mr Hooker complained was not AO in nature and was not gratuitous in the context of the episode’s storyline.

[16] Taking into account the contextual matters referred to in the above paragraph, the Authority concludes that standard G2 was not breached.

[17] The Authority observes that to find a breach of standard G2 would be to interpret the Broadcasting Act 1989 in such a way as to place too great a limit on the broadcaster’s statutory freedom of expression in s.14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. It prefers to adopt an interpretation of the standard which is consistent with the Bill of Rights.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
17 December 2001

Appendix

 

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

1. Michael Hooker’s Formal Complaint to TV4 Network Ltd – 19 August 2001
2. TV4’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 6 September 2001
3. Mr Hooker’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 15 September 2001
4. TV4’s Response to the Authority – 8 November 2001