BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Palmer and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2010-137

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Tapu Misa
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
Dated
Complainant
  • C J Palmer
Number
2010-137
Channel/Station
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Skoda Game On – Extra Time
– contained interview with a New Zealand weightlifter – interviewer left chalk handprints on the backside of the weightlifter’s tracksuit pants – weightlifter bench-pressed interviewer after which she commented on how "rock hard" his body was – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency


Findings

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

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]  An episode of Skoda Game On – Extra Time, broadcast on TV One at 1pm on Sunday 15 August 2010, included an interview with a Russian-born New Zealand weightlifter who was part of the New Zealand Commonwealth Games team.

[2]  At one point during the interview, the female interviewer dipped her hands in weightlifting chalk and deliberately left hand prints on the backside of the weightlifter’s tracksuit pants. The man laughed and showed the camera the result.

[3]  Later in the interview, the weightlifter took part in the Skoda Game On 60-second challenge, which required him to bench-press the reporter. He succeeded in bench-pressing her and they briefly discussed the experience. During this discussion, the reporter told the weightlifter she enjoyed the experience, saying it was "better than a ride at Rainbow’s End" before asking him how he was feeling. As she asked this question, the reporter patted the weightlifter’s chest and arms and told viewers they felt "rock hard".

[4]  The weightlifter was then told that, because he had successfully completed the challenge, he would be awarded $100 to donate to a charity of his choice.

Complaint

[5]   C J Palmer made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the programme had breached standards of good taste and decency.

[6]  The complainant argued that the female interviewer had "indulged in behaviour that was not only offensive to my family who were watching, but insulting to men in general".

[7]  C J Palmer noted that the female reporter had left chalk hand prints on the weightlifter’s buttocks and had "clutched" his muscles while commenting on how "hard" his body was. The complainant contended that if the gender roles were reversed, there would have been "absolutely no question" that the reporter’s actions would have been "unacceptable to many viewers".

Standards

[8]  TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standards 1 and 7 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provide:

Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency

Broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency.

Standard 7 Discrimination and Denigration

Broadcasters should not encourage discrimination against, or denigration of, any section of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, occupational status, or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religion, culture or political belief.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[9]  The broadcaster 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 time of broadcast, the programme’s classification, the target audience, and the use of warnings. It argued that Skoda Game On was broadcast during the PGR timeslot and had an adult target audience.

[10]  TVNZ noted that the Authority had previously stated that standards relating to good taste and decency were primarily aimed at broadcasts containing sexual material, nudity, violence or coarse language and argued that the item did not contain any such material.

[11]  The broadcaster contended that the interview was intended to be light-hearted and humorous, and that the interviewer’s actions were not meant to be taken seriously. It considered that the weightlifter "had no problem with the treatment he received from the female reporter" and was aware that the interview would have a humorous element.

[12]  TVNZ was of the view that the segment was not "sexist" and that its contents would not have offended a significant number of viewers. It declined to uphold the complaint that the broadcast breached standards of good taste and decency.

[13]  Turning to Standard 7, TVNZ stated that the term "denigration" had consistently been defined by the Authority as blackening the reputation of a class of people. It also noted that the term "discrimination" had been defined by the Authority as encouraging the different treatment of members of a particular group, to their detriment.

[14]  The broadcaster stated that a high threshold needed to be crossed before a breach of the standard would be found. It said that "comments will not always breach the prohibition against denigration simply because they are critical of a particular group, because they offend people, or because they are rude". It maintained that the interview was intended to be comedic and light-hearted, and to provide publicity for a sport that was not often profiled.

[15]  TVNZ argued that the reporter’s actions did not reach the required threshold to "discriminate against all men" and it declined to uphold the complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[16]  Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, CJ Palmer referred the complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

[17]  The complainant considered that it was irrelevant that the interview was intended to be light-hearted and humorous. CJ Palmer contended that the weightlifter "looked bemused" and was "hardly in a position to complain given, as TVNZ has stated, it was a rare opportunity for exposure of his sport".

[18]  CJ Palmer stated that, "I did not suggest [the segment] was sexist and this response misses the point. The interviewer’s behaviour would have been completely unacceptable if the interviewer had been a male and the subject female".

[19]  The complainant maintained that the broadcast had breached Standard 1.

Authority's Determination

[20]  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.

[21]  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:

  • Skoda Game On  Extra Time was broadcast at 1pm, during children’s normally accepted viewing times
  • the programme was classified G
  • it had an adult target audience.

[22]  The complainant argued that the female interviewer had "indulged in behaviour that was not only offensive to my family who were watching, but insulting to men in general".

[23]  In our view, the segment was an attempt to be light-hearted with the interviewer using an "entertainment" approach to tell the story. Her attempt at humour would have fallen short for many viewers. However, while the weightlifter did appear uncomfortable at times with the approach taken and the body contact, he did willingly engage with her.

[24]  Taking the above contextual factors into account, we decline to uphold the complaint that the broadcast breached Standard 1 (good taste and decency).

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
23 December 2010

Appendix

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

1.          C J Palmer’s formal complaint – 24 August 2010

2.         TVNZ’s response to the formal complaint – 20 September 2010

3.         C J Palmer’s referral to the Authority – 8 October 2010

4.         TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 10 November 2010