BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

McKenty and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2006-103

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • Robert McKenty
Ghost Squad
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Ghost Squad – scene showing a gang of teenage girls beating an off-duty police officer until he was unconscious – one of the girls was seen to urinate over the man’s head as he lay on the ground – 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 Ghost Squad, a British drama series about a crime unit in which police officers policed their colleagues, was broadcast on TV One at 9.30pm on 15 August 2006. The programme featured a scene in which a gang of teenage girls beat an off-duty police officer until he was unconscious. One of the girls was shown from the back, wearing a short skirt, urinating over the man’s head as he lay on the ground.


[2] Robert McKenty made a formal complaint about the programme to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster. He complained that the scene involving the girl urinating was a “gross obscenity”.


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

[4] TVNZ noted that the scene complained about did not contain any nudity. The girl was seen from the back with her legs astride the police officer and a flow of urine dropping between them. Rather than being salacious, it wrote, the scene “reflected the degradation of the housing estate and of its anarchic adolescent occupants”.

[5] The broadcaster also pointed out that the programme had been preceded by a warning, delivered both visually and verbally, which said:

This programme on One is rated Adults Only, and is recommended for a mature audience. It contains graphic violence and scenes that may disturb, and frequent use of language that may offend some people.

[6] TVNZ noted that Ghost Squad was classified AO and had begun at 9.30pm, a full hour after the adults only watershed. Taking into account these contextual factors, TVNZ considered that Standard 1 (good taste and decency) had not been breached.

Referral to the Authority

[7] Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Mr McKenty referred his complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He maintained that the urination scene was “totally unnecessary”, and said that the warning was inadequate.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[8] TVNZ added nothing further to its original reply to the complainant.

Complainant’s Final Comment

[9] Mr McKenty submitted that showing the girl urinating was a breach of good taste and decency, irrespective of whether any nudity was shown.

Authority's Determination

[10] 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.

[11] 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, relevant contextual factors include:

  • the time of the broadcast, at 9.30pm
  • the AO classification of the programme
  • the adult target audience
  • the visual and verbal warning given prior to the programme.

[12] Further, the Authority notes that Ghost Squad was a hard-hitting fictional drama, and the scene complained about was integral to the storyline. The Authority considers that in the context in which it was shown, the scene did not breach standards of good taste and decency.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
27 November 2006


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

1     Robert McKenty’s formal complaint – 17 August 2006

2    TVNZ’s decision on the formal complaint – 13 September 2006

3    Mr McKenty’s referral to the Authority – 29 September 2006

4    TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 3 October 2006

5    Mr McKenty’s final comment – 11 October 2006