BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Pridham and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2005-004

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • Vanessa Pridham
Fear Factor

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Fear Factor – episode showed contestant eating live dragonflies – complainant alleged such behaviour was barbaric – allegedly in breach of standards of good taste and decency

Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – well-established programme screened after the AO watershed – item distasteful but did not breach standards of good taste and decency – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1] An episode of Fear Factorwas screened on TV2 at 8.30pm on 18 December 2004. The broadcaster described Fear Factoras a reality programme in which contestants are challenged to take part in activities which they find frightening, repellent, or disgusting. The programme had a Christmas theme and the segment that was the subject of the complaint involved a contestant eating live dragonflies.


[2] Vanessa Pridham complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, about the “barbaric behaviour” shown in the item and the suitability of screening such an item with a Christmas theme.


[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.

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 (see Appendix 1). The examples are not exhaustive.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[4] In its response to the complainant, TVNZ commented:

…Having viewed a recording of the programme, the committee recognised why you found the scenes repugnant. However… the fact that some viewers find the scenes disturbing does not necessarily mean that they are in breach of broadcasting standards.

[5] Noting the popularity of Fear Factor, the broadcaster pointed out that there was an obligation to cater for the diverse tastes and interests of New Zealanders, and that a necessary corollary of this was recognising the impossibility of pleasing all of the viewers all of the time.

[6] In respect of Standard 1 (good taste and decency), TVNZ was of the view that the segment, while admittedly repellent to some, would not have been outside the expectations of regular viewers of the show.

[7] TVNZ noted that the issue of good taste and decency on Fear Factorhad come before the Authority in Decision No. 2004-076 and that the Authority had declined to uphold the complaint.

[8] The broadcaster further noted that when considering Standard 1, TVNZ was required by Guideline 1a to consider the context in which the activity occurred. Among the relevant contextual factors in Decision No. 2004-076 were deemed to be the fact that the programme was well-known and popular, viewer expectations of the programme, and the time of screening.

[9] TVNZ noted that in that decision, the item in question was shown at 7.30pm, while in the present complaint the item was screened at 8.30pm.

Referral to the Authority

[10] Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Ms Pridham referred her complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. She reiterated the points made in her original complaint to the broadcaster.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[11] TVNZ added nothing further to its original response to the complaint.

Authority's Determination

[12] 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.

[13] 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. The contextual factors relevant to this broadcast include the following:

  • Fear Factor is a well-established programme with a recognisable format and style
  • Viewer expectations of the programme
  • Time of screening (8.30pm, in the AO time-band)

[14] While the Authority considers that the item could fairly be described as distasteful, this sort of material is a common part of all Fear Factor shows and would not have surprised viewers.

[15] The programme was classified PGR and screened at 8.30pm, in an AO timeslot. The segment complained of did not screen until well into the programme, with ample signalling to viewers by way of clips of the forthcoming eating challenge.

[16] Accordingly, the Authority considers that the broadcast did not offend current norms of good taste and decency and thus did not amount to a breach of Standard 1.


For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
31 March 2005


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

  1. Vanessa Pridham’s Formal Complaint to Television New Zealand – 18 December 2004
  2. TVNZ’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 19 January 2005
  3. Vanessa Pridham’s Referral to the Authority – 26 January 2005
  4. TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 7 February 2005