BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

McKoy and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2005-027

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • Luke McKoy
One News
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
One News item – street march through Auckland – topless protester shown – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency

Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – context – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1] An item on One News broadcast on TV One at 6pm on 5 March 2005 showed a street march through Auckland that day in support of “family values”. A topless woman was among those shown protesting against the views expressed by the marchers.


[2] Luke McKoy complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that showing a topless woman did not observe standards of good taste and decency.


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

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.

Guideline 1a           

Broadcasters must take into consideration current norms of decency and taste in language and behaviour bearing in mind the context in which any language or behaviour occurs. Examples of context are the time of the broadcast, the type of programme, the target audience, the use of warnings and the programme’s classification. The examples are not exhaustive.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[4] In its response to Mr McKoy, TVNZ noted first that there was nothing inherently offensive in nudity or semi-nudity. Rather, it contended that the potential for offensiveness arose when nudity was used in a sexual context. The woman was using the upper part of her body to make a political statement, it said, and the sequence was devoid of any sexual element.

[5] While the woman’s method of protest may have been unconventional, TVNZ argued, unconventional behaviour regularly attracted public interest. Furthermore, the broadcaster noted that topless women had been seen on a number of occasions on One News.

[6] Noting that the news was unclassified, TVNZ wondered why “a non-prurient image of a topless woman” should cause such offence, when news programmes regularly told of things such as war, abuse and natural disasters. TVNZ concluded that Standard 1 was not breached.

Referral to the Authority

[7] Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr McKoy referred his complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. The complainant maintained that it was not acceptable for people to “go around flashing their private parts in public”, and did not consider that it was relevant to the news story.

[8] Mr McKoy did not accept that TVNZ was justified in showing the woman because she had an unconventional way of displaying her message. He did not see any political statement that could not have been shown another way on the news.

[9] The complainant also asserted that Standards 2 (law and order) and 9 (children’s interests) had been breached.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[10] TVNZ added nothing further to its original reply to the complainant. However, it asked the Authority to disregard Mr McKoy’s complaints under Standards 2 and 9 on the grounds that he had not cited those standards when lodging his complaint with TVNZ.

Authority's Determination

[11] The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.  The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

[12] When the Authority considers a complaint which 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 news is unclassified and targeted at an adult audience
  • the images were very brief
  • the nudity was non-sexual and not intended to titillate
  • the nudity was relevant to the news item.

[13] Taking into account all the relevant contextual factors, the Authority is of the view that Standard 1 was not breached on this occasion.

[14] The complainant also alleged breaches of Standards 2 and 9 in his referral to the Authority. As these standards were not raised in Mr McKoy’s original complaint to the broadcaster, the Authority agrees with TVNZ that it has no jurisdiction to determine these matters.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
3 June 2005


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

  1. Luke McKoy’s formal complaint – 7 March 2005
  2. TVNZ’s decision on the formal complaint – 21 March 2005
  3. Mr McKoy’s referral to the Authority – 4 April 2005
  4. TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 20 April 2005