BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

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Jelavich and MediaWorks TV Ltd - 2015-081 (28 January 2016)

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Paula Rose
  • Rolfe Jelavich
The Heat
MediaWorks TV Ltd
TV3 # 4


[This summary does not form part of the decision.]

The Heat, a comedy/action film about a mismatched FBI agent and police officer working together to take down a drug lord, contained frequent coarse language. The Authority did not uphold a complaint about this language. As the film was classified Adults Only, was preceded by a comprehensive warning and broadcast at 8.30pm, the Authority found the broadcaster clearly informed viewers about the nature of the film and adequately considered the interests of children.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests


[1]  The Heat, a comedy/action film about a mismatched FBI agent and police officer working together to take down a drug lord, contained frequent coarse language.

[2]  Rolfe Jelavich complained about the ‘frequent foul language’ broadcast at a time when children could be watching.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the good taste and decency and children’s interests standards as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The film was broadcast on TV3 at 8.30pm on Sunday 9 August 2015. The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Did the film breach broadcasting standards?

[5]  As Mr Jelavich’s complaint raises similar issues under both the good taste and decency and children’s interests standards, we have addressed these standards together.

[6]  The good taste and decency standard (Standard 1) is primarily aimed at broadcasts containing sexual material, nudity, coarse language or violence.1 The children’s interests standard (Standard 9) requires broadcasters to consider the interests of child viewers during their normally accepted viewing times – usually up to 8.30pm. The purpose of the standard is to protect children from broadcasts which might adversely affect them.2

[7]  Mr Jelavich stated he was ‘totally disgusted with the absolutely filthy foul-mouthed language’ used frequently throughout the film. In particular, he considered the words ‘fuck’ and ‘fucking’ should not be used on television at all, but especially not during times when children and young teenagers could be watching.

[8]  MediaWorks agreed with the complainant that the film contained challenging content, including frequent strong language. However it noted The Heat was classified Adults Only (AO), was broadcast after 8.30pm and was preceded by a full-screen visual and verbal warning for violence and coarse language. MediaWorks argued that the first 10 minutes of the film established the ‘ribald tone of the comedy’ before the extensive strong language began. The broadcaster also advised that it had censored a ‘crass anatomical reference’ 10 minutes into the film. MediaWorks was satisfied that, overall, the language was not unacceptable in the context of a film aimed at an adult audience and which clearly informed viewers of the type of content to expect. Additionally, it found that as The Heat was explicitly identified as AO programming and care was taken with material broadcast close to the 8.30pm watershed, the interests of child viewers were adequately considered.

[9]  When we consider a complaint under either of the nominated standards, we take into account relevant contextual factors, which here include:

  • the film’s AO classification
  • the time of broadcast at 8.30pm during the AO time-band
  • the use of an explicit pre-broadcast warning for ‘strong violence and frequent coarse language’
  • the film’s adult target audience
  • audience expectations of AO-rated comedy/action films.

[10]  We agree with the complainant that coarse language was used frequently during the film, and acknowledge that this may not be to everyone’s taste. However, the Authority’s established approach is to require broadcasters to provide viewers with sufficient information so they can regulate their own – and their children’s – viewing behaviour.3 This places a degree of responsibility on viewers to inform themselves about the viewing choices they make.

[11]  We consider The Heat’s AO classification, the explicit warning for frequent coarse language (and strong violence) and the time of broadcast at 8.30pm when AO content is permitted to be shown, were more than adequate to inform viewers of the nature of the film. Low-level coarse language, such as ‘bullshit’, ‘dick’ and one instance of ‘fuck’ (muttered under a character’s breath), was used in the first 10 minutes of the film which served to signpost the more extensive coarse language to come. Coarse language is a typical feature of comedy films and in this instance supported both the narrative and character development (during the film one of the main characters actually draws attention to, and criticises, the other main character’s use of foul language). For these reasons we do not think most viewers would have been unduly surprised or offended by the film’s content.

[12]  The complainant was particularly concerned that frequent coarse language was used during a time when children may be watching. The film’s time of broadcast at 8.30pm was during the AO time-band and not during children’s normally accepted viewing times. Research conducted by the Authority on children’s media use and viewing habits suggests that the vast majority of children, especially younger children, have stopped watching television by 8.30pm.4 However, to ensure care is taken by broadcasters in the transition into AO time, guideline 9b to the children’s interests standard states that broadcasters should ensure ‘strong adult material’ is not shown soon after 8.30pm. In our view the level of language used during the first 10 minutes of the film (see [11] above) did not amount to ‘strong adult material’ as envisaged by this guideline.5 We are therefore satisfied that the broadcaster adequately considered children’s interests, particularly as it took steps to edit some of the content in the first 10 minutes of the film.

[13]  Accordingly, we find that Standards 1 and 9 were not breached.

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Radich
28 January 2016



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

1      Rolfe Jelavich’s formal complaint – 25 August 2015
2      MediaWorks’ response to the complaint – 16 September 2015
3      Mr Jelavich’s referral to the Authority – 29 September 2015
4      MediaWorks’ response to the Authority – 20 October 2015


Turner and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2008-112

E.g. Harrison and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2008-066

Practice Note: Good Taste and Decency (Broadcasting Standards Authority, November 2006)

Children’s Media Use Study (Broadcasting Standards Authority, March 2015) at page 31 

For examples of ‘strong adult material’ which was found to breach this guideline, see Milich and Television New Zealand, Decision No. 2011-053 which concerned graphic violence, and Riwai-Couch and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-053 which concerned an explicit sex scene.