BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Madsen and TVWorks Ltd - 2011-023

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Lars Madsen
Glee promo
TVWorks Ltd
TV3 # 3

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Glee promo – male character in a wheelchair said, “I want to be very clear, I still have the use of my penis” – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency standard

Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – majority of the content was fun and cheerful – sexual innuendo would have gone over the heads of child viewers – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1]   A promo for Glee, a musical comedy series, was broadcast on TV3 at 9.45am on 13 January 2011, during The Biggest Loser Australia, which was rated G. Most of the promo showed characters singing and dancing. Near the end of the promo, a boy in a wheelchair was shown saying to a girl, “I want to be very clear. I still have the use of my penis.”


[2]   Lars Madsen made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the boy’s comment breached standards relating to good taste and decency. He considered that screening the promo in the morning during school holidays was “incredibly poor taste”.


[3]   TVWorks assessed the complaint under Standard 1 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provides:

Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency

Broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[4]   TVWorks contended that to constitute a breach of Standard 1, the broadcast material must be unacceptable in the context in which it was shown, including the programme’s classification, time of broadcast, target audience, and use of warnings.

[5]   The broadcaster noted that The Biggest Loser was rated G, and argued that it did not specifically target children, but did not contain any content deemed harmful or disturbing to unsupervised child viewers. It considered that the promo was also correctly classified G, because it did not contain any material considered harmful to children.

[6]   TVWorks argued that “the word ‘penis’ is an anatomical description of a body part that approximately half the population possesses, and the context in which it was used was not explicitly sexual”. It considered that the context was a “dead pan” conversation between two students and that “nothing salacious could be derived from the location”. Further, TVWorks argued, the comment was left open to interpretation, and “to a child who was not already aware of any concepts relating to sex, the meaning would have been completely innocent”. Adults may have interpreted his words to have a sexual meaning, it said.

[7]   The broadcaster concluded by saying that “as a result of the lack of sexual content in the promo, it was rated G with a restriction on screening during programmes that specifically target young children”. It maintained that the promo was classified and scheduled appropriately and therefore declined to uphold the Standard 1 complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[8]   Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr Madsen referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He said that his complaint related to the character’s whole comment, not only the word “penis”. He maintained that using the word in the context it was shown was “plainly designed to titillate and shock”. Mr Madsen considered it would have been more acceptable had the promo targeted an adult audience, but emphasised that 9.45am during school holidays was not a time when only adults would be watching.

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.

[10]   When we consider an alleged breach of good taste and decency, we take into account the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, the relevant contextual factors include:

  • the promo for Glee was broadcast at 9.45am during school holidays
  • the promo was screened during The Biggest Loser Australia, which was rated G
  • Glee was rated PGR and broadcast at 7.30pm.

[11]   The G classification is defined in Appendix 1 of the Code as follows:

G – General

Programmes which exclude material likely to be unsuitable for children. Programmes may not necessarily be designed for child viewers but must not contain material likely to alarm or distress them.

[12]   We note that the majority of the promo was light-hearted and cheerful, showing characters singing and dancing. With regard to the comment specifically complained about, “I still have the use of my penis,” we consider that it was delivered in a matter-of-fact manner. While adult viewers may have gleaned sexual innuendo from the comment, in our view this would have gone over the heads of younger children. We therefore do not consider that the promo contained material that was likely to alarm or distress child viewers, or any material which warranted a higher rating of PGR. We also note that the promo’s host programme, The Biggest Loser Australia, although rated G, was unlikely to attract children.

[13]   Taking into account the above contextual factors, we decline to uphold the complaint that the promo breached Standard 1.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Radich
7 June 2011


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

1    Lars Madsen’s formal complaint – 13 January 2011

2   TVWorks’ response to the complaint – 8 April 2011

3   Mr Madsen’s referral to the Authority – 7 March 2011

4   TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 20 April 2011