BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Lawrence and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2007-132

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • J L Lawrence
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Benidorm – character made a comment about his wife’s vagina looking “like a pair of padded coat hangers” – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency

Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – contextual factors – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1]   An episode of Benidorm was broadcast on TV One at 9.30pm on 28 September 2007. The programme was a British comedy set in an all-inclusive package holiday resort inhabited by a range of different characters. Among them was a couple of middle-aged swingers, Donald and Jacqueline, who were prone to scaring people with inappropriate details of their lives.

[2]   In one scene, Donald told a man he had just met about how accommodating his wife was and stated:

The night before we flew out I had six of the lads around, the crazy gang – they’re all good lads you know. Thing is if you’ve got a beautiful wife, to me it would seem churlish to keep her to yourself sort of thing. Mind you at the end of the night her vagina looked like a pair of padded coat hangers – I had to pay for extra leg room for her on the plane.   

[3]   The programme was preceded by the following warning:

This programme is rated adults only. It contains language that may offend some people.


[4]   J L Lawrence made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the item breached standards of good taste and decency.

[5]   The complainant stated that the comment made by Donald that his wife’s vagina looked like “a couple of padded coat hangers” was degrading to women and totally unnecessary.    


[6]   TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 1 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. It provides:

Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[7]   TVNZ stated that to constitute a breach of Standard 1 the material shown must be unacceptable to a significant number of viewers in the context in which it was shown. It pointed out that Benidorm was rated AO (Adults Only) and that this classification gave viewers a precise indication of the type of material it contained.

[8]   The broadcaster also noted that the programme screened at 9.30pm and that there was some expectation that the material shown in Benidorm was likely to be more challenging than material shown in an AO-rated show screening at 8.30pm.

[9]   TVNZ argued that the programme was an adult comedy and that the humour caused by the characters Donald and Jacqueline came from the fact that they gave far too much information about their private lives – information that other people did not want to hear.

[10]   The broadcaster maintained that the comment was not made in a malicious or degrading manner and that it appeared Donald was proud of Jacqueline and found her beautiful. It said the character was just not aware of social niceties and shared too much information about his private life. TVNZ declined to uphold the complaint that the item breached standards of good taste and decency.   

Referral to the Authority

[11]   Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Mr Lawrence referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

Authority's Determination

[12]   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.

Standard 1 (good taste and decency)

[13]   When the Authority considers a complaint that alleges a breach of good taste and decency, it is required to take into consideration the context of the broadcast. On this occasion the relevant contextual factors include:

  • the programme had an AO classification
  • the programme was broadcast at 9.30pm
  • the programme was preceded by a verbal and written warning
  • Benidorm was a comedy programme targeted at adults.

[14]   The Authority acknowledges that a number of viewers would have found the character’s comment about his wife distasteful. However, in the Authority’s view, the comment was not gratuitous as it accentuated the character’s unpleasant nature. The other character’s reaction of horror and dismay served to reinforce this.

[15]   Taking the above contextual factors into account, the Authority finds that the comment did not breach currently accepted norms of good taste and decency. Accordingly, it declines to uphold the complaint.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
26 March 2008


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

1.            J L Lawrence’s formal complaint – 17 October 2007
2.           TVNZ’s response to the formal complaint – 13 November 2007
3.           Mr Lawrence’s referral to the Authority – 27 November 2007
4.           TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 11 February 2008