BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Larsen and SKY Network Television Ltd - 2014-153

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Beverley Larsen
Midsomer Murders
Prime TV


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

An episode of the murder mystery series Midsomer Murders depicted several murders, including a man being shot with a bow and arrow and a woman being shot with a gun. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the murder scenes showed realistic violence likely to disturb children. The murder scenes were relatively innocuous in context and did not exceed the programme's PGR classification.

Not Upheld: Responsible Programming, Children's Interests


[1]  An episode of the murder mystery series Midsomer Murders focused on conflicts between the beneficiaries of a will which resulted in several murders, including a man who was shot with a bow and arrow and a woman who was shot with a gun.

[2]  Beverley Larsen complained that the broadcast depicted 'several graphic murder scenes... likely to disturb young viewers' and argued that the PGR classification was inadequate, especially given children often stay up later on Saturday evenings.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the responsible programming and children's interests standards, as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The broadcast took place between 7:30pm and 9:40pm on Prime TV on Saturday 4 October 2014. 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 broadcaster adequately consider children's interests, correctly classify the programme, and screen it in an appropriate timeslot?

[5]  The responsible programming standard (Standard 8) requires broadcasters to ensure that programmes are correctly classified and screened in an appropriate time-band. 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.1

[6]  Ms Larsen in her original complaint referred to specific scenes of a man being shot with a bow and arrow and a woman being shot with a gun, which she felt were graphic and likely to disturb young viewers. She noted Guideline 9c to the children's interests standard which recognises that children stay up later on weekend nights.

[7]  SKY maintained that these particular scenes did not feature any graphic violence which was likely to disturb child viewers. The violence depicted was well signposted and fell within the boundaries of the PGR classification, it said. Further, it was a reasonable inference that a programme that contains 'murder' in the title would contain violence of some sort. SKY noted that the series was aimed at an adult audience and was unlikely to hold the attention of child viewers.

[8]  The programme subject to complaint was classified PGR. Both the complainant in her referral to the Authority and the broadcaster in its response to the complainant mistakenly stated the programme was broadcast at 8:30pm. We have verified that the correct time of broadcast was 7:30pm.

[9]  Under the responsible programming standard our task is to determine whether the programme was correctly classified, and specifically whether the programme should have been AO rather than PGR. This is also related to the question of whether the broadcaster adequately considered children's interests. The PGR and AO classifications are defined in Appendix 1 to the Code as follows:

PGR – Parental Guidance Recommended
Programmes containing material more suited for mature audiences but not necessarily unsuitable for child viewers when subject to the guidance of a parent or an adult.
AO – Adults Only
Programmes containing adult themes and directed primarily at mature audiences.

[10]  Although the theme of violence, particularly in the form of murder, is a consistent theme throughout the series, the murder scenes in this episode were, in our view, relatively innocuous, and most occurred well into the Adults Only time-band (despite the programme starting at 7.30pm).

[11]  The first murder occurred near the beginning of the episode at approximately 7:33pm. The murder was only implied, showing a man falling backwards, facing away from the camera. No weapon or explicit violence was shown. It was unclear that he was shot with a bow and arrow until his murder scene was shown in full at approximately 9:09pm, well after the Adults Only 8:30pm watershed.

[12]  The second scene identified by the complainant depicted a woman being shot by a gun and sliding down the wall leaving a bloodstain behind her, and screened at approximately 9:00pm, again, half an hour after the Adults Only watershed.

[13]  The violence shown during these scenes was of a relatively low level. It was not unsuitable or likely to be distressing for children under the supervision of an adult. The violence was not sufficiently graphic or disturbing as to warrant a higher classification of AO or a later time of broadcast. On the contrary, the tone of Midsomer Murders is relatively light and eccentric compared to some other murder and crime series, with moments of humour injected. We agree with SKY that this programme is not targeted at, nor likely to appeal to child viewers.

[14]  For these reasons, we are satisfied that the broadcaster adequately considered children's interests when classifying the programme PGR and scheduling it in a 7:30pm timeslot, and we decline to uphold the complaint under Standards 8 and 9.

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority



Peter Radich
4 March 2015



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

1      Beverley Larsen's formal complaint – 14 October 2014
2      Ms Larsen's referral to the Authority – 8 December 2014
3      SKY's response to the complaint – 12 December 2014
4      Ms Larsen's comments in response and confirmation of referral – 19 December 2014
5      SKY's response to the Authority – 23 December 2014



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