BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

O'Neil and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2010-124

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Tapu Misa
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Sarah O'Neil
What Now

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
What Now 
– spoof of talent shows called "Fairytale's Got Talent" – guest judge said to Cinderella who was a contestant, "Next time I'm holding one of my balls, you're invited" – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency standard


Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – child viewers would have understood the comment to be a reference to the Cinderella fairytale – comment did not go beyond the programme's G rating – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1]  During What Now, broadcast on TV2 at 8am on Sunday 15 August 2010, the programme's hosts and two former New Zealand Idol judges, Paul Ellis and Frankie Stevens, participated in a spoof of television talent contests, called "Fairytale's Got Talent". A contestant, Cinderella, performed on the saxophone. One of the hosts of the talent contest said:

"Well there's only one spot in the semi-finals up for grabs and who's going to grab it? Let's go to the judges and find out. So let's start with the act we've just seen, Cinderella. Paul?

[2]  Paul Ellis on the judging panel said, "Listen, next time I'm holding one of my balls, you're invited" and voted yes for Cinderella moving on to the semi-finals. The host commented, "I'm sure she'll appreciate the invitation", then the other two judges gave their comments on Cinderella's performance.


[3]  Sarah O'Neil made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the guest judge's comment breached standards of good taste and decency because it was "completely out of order on a kids show".


[4]  Ms O'Neil nominated Standard 1 and guideline 1a of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice in her complaint. These provide:

Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency

Broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency.

Guideline 1a

Broadcasters will take into account current norms of good taste and decency bearing in mind the context in which any content occurs and the wider context of the broadcast e.g. programme classification, target audience, type of programme and use of warnings etc.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[5]  TVNZ argued 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 classification, time of broadcast, target audience, and the use of warnings. It said that What Now was rated G (General) which was defined as "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."

[6]  TVNZ noted that the Authority had previously stated that Standard 1 was primarily aimed at broadcasts containing sexual material, nudity, violence or coarse language. It argued that the What Now segment did not fall into any of these categories.

[7]  The broadcaster did not consider that the episode would have offended or distressed viewers because "There was no sexual connotation or innuendo in the judge's comment. It was simply the judge making a comment that referred to the fairytale of Cinderella which involves the character of Cinderella going to a ball." TVNZ considered that children would have understood his comment as a reference to the fairytale, and that the comment was not sexual in nature.

[8]  Accordingly, TVNZ declined to uphold the Standard 1 complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[9]  Dissatisfied with the broadcaster's response, Ms O'Neil referred her complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. She argued that "the statement [was] loaded with innuendo and older kids would have understood quite clearly what was meant". She alleged that Paul Ellis was "normally found on late night adult comedy/comment style shows where they are always saying dodgy stuff" and reiterated her view that "saying something loaded with innuendo on kids' TV is wrong".

Broadcaster's Response to the Authority

[10]  TVNZ considered that Ms O'Neil had raised a point that was not part of her original complaint, namely that Paul Ellis was "found on late night comedy/comment shows where they are always saying dodgy stuff". For the record, it said, Mr Ellis was a judge on New Zealand Idol which was a talent contest.

Authority's Determination

[11]  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.

[12]  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:

  • What Now was broadcast at 8am during children's normally accepted viewing times
  • it was rated G (General)
  • the programme's child target audience.

[13]  Ms O'Neil complained that Mr Ellis' comment to Cinderella, "next time I'm holding one of my balls, you're invited," was "completely out of order on a kids show".

[14]  In our view, while some adult viewers may have interpreted the comment as a double entendre, the programme’s child target audience would have understood it to simply be a reference to the Cinderella fairytale, in which Cinderella attended a ball. Any potential sexual connotations would have gone over the heads of younger child viewers, and in any case we are not satisfied that Mr Ellis intended for the comment to carry a sexually suggestive meaning. We therefore find that the comment was consistent with the programme’s G rating and time of broadcast.

[15]  Accordingly, taking into account the contextual factors listed above, we decline to uphold the Standard 1 complaint.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Radich
23 December 2010


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

1.          Sarah O'Neil's formal complaint – 16 August 2010

2.         TVNZ's response to the complaint – 13 September 2010

3.         Ms O'Neil's referral to the Authority – 17 September 2010

4.         TVNZ's response to the Authority – 8 November 2010