BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Howe and Torrey and TVWorks Ltd - 2009-130

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • Guy and Julie Torrey
  • Walter Howe
3 News
TVWorks Ltd
TV3 # 3

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
3 News – teaser for upcoming item contained footage of bare-breasted women – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency

Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – footage was fleeting and shown from a distance – factual report – contextual factors – not upheld by majority

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1]   At the beginning of 3 News, broadcast on TV3 at 6pm on Wednesday 23 September 2009, the presenters highlighted the major stories of the evening, one of which concerned the Auckland “Boobs on Bikes” parade. As footage of the parade was briefly shown, the presented stated:

And not just boobs on bikes, there are bazookas on tanks as well.

[2]   The footage of the parade included a shot of four bare-breasted women standing up in a convertible car. Another piece of footage showed a woman with 153XXX sized breasts sitting on top of a moving tank, wearing a bikini top.


[3]   Walter Howe and Guy and Julie Torrey made formal complaints to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging the footage of the bare-breasted women contained in the teaser breached standards of good taste and decency.

[4]   The complainants noted that the teaser was not preceded by a warning for nudity and argued that it was “simply pornographic” and highly offensive considering the programme’s 6pm timeslot.


[5]   Standard 1 and guidelines 1a and 1b of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice are relevant to the determination of these complaints. They provide:

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

[6]   TVWorks stated that it was sorry the complainants were upset by the contents of the “Boobs on Bikes” teaser. However, it argued that the Authority, in Forbes-Dawson and TVWorks1, had already determined that news coverage like this was not a breach of broadcasting standards.

[7]   As a result, the broadcaster declined to accept the complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[8]   Dissatisfied with TVWorks’ response, Mr Howe and Mr and Mrs Torrey referred their complaints to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

Authority's Determination

[9]   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.

Procedural Matter

[10]   TVWorks “declined to accept” the complaints because it believed that the Authority had already determined that news coverage of the sort contained in the item did not breach broadcasting standards. The Authority points out that the Broadcasting Act 1989 does not allow a broadcaster to decline to accept a valid formal complaint.

[11]   Further, the Authority has not found that footage of “Boobs on Bikes” will never breach broadcasting standards. Every complaint must be considered on its own merits and whether a breach occurs depends on an item’s content and the context in which it is shown.

[12]   However, despite TVWorks’ use of the phrase “decline to accept”, the Authority considers that, in effect, the broadcaster declined to uphold the complaints because it provided reasons for its decision and advised the complainants of their right to refer the matter to the Authority for review. In these circumstances, the Authority considers that the broadcaster discharged its obligations under the Broadcasting Act 1989 and the complainants were not disadvantaged in any way. However, it reminds TVWorks that it cannot “decline to accept” legitimate formal complaints, and its use of the phrase is confusing for complainants.

Standard 1 (good taste and decency)

[13]   When the Authority considers an alleged breach of Standard 1, it takes into account the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, the relevant contextual factors include:

  • 3 News was broadcast at 6pm
  • the teaser was broadcast at 6pm
  • 3 News is an unclassified news programme
  • the teaser was not preceded by a warning
  • the programme was broadcast during children’s normally accepted viewing times
  • children are unlikely to watch news programmes unsupervised.

[14]   For a majority of the Authority (Joanne Morris, Mary Anne Shanahan and Paul France), the teaser showing footage from the “Boobs on Bikes” parade, while obviously not to everyone's tastes, was extremely brief and relatively inexplicit. The shots of bare-breasted women were not salacious and were shown from a distance. The majority also notes that the parade was a newsworthy event which had drawn a large crowd.

[15]    Taking the above contextual factors into account, the majority declines to uphold the complaints that the teaser breached Standard 1.

[16]    A minority of the Authority (Tapu Misa) would uphold the complaint. The minority notes that the teaser was at the beginning of the news programme, and there was no time or warning which would have allowed viewers who found the images offensive to avoid them, or to prevent children from doing so. While agreeing that the shots were brief, the minority finds that the broadcaster could have chosen less explicit images to promote the item. The minority observes that the news item itself was preceded by the presenter saying “if you find the thought of bare breasts offensive, you may wish to turn away now” (see James and TVWorks2), but the teaser was not similarly sign-posted. For these reasons, the minority considers that Standard 1 was breached.


For the above reasons a majority of the Authority declines to uphold the complaints.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
21 December 2009


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

1.           Guy and Julie Torrey’s formal complaint – 26 September 2009
2.          TVWorks’ response to the formal complaint – 30 September 2009
3.          Mr and Mrs Torrey’s referral to the Authority – 13 October 2009
4.          TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 6 November 2009

1.           Walter Howe’s formal complaint – 23 September 2009
2.          TVWorks’ response to the formal complaint – 24 September 2009
3.          Mr Howe’s referral to the Authority – 5 October 2009
4.          TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 16 October 2009

1Decision No. 2006-109

2Decision No. 2009-127