BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Ross and CanWest TVWorks Ltd - 2006-029

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • Alison Ross
Campbell Live
CanWest TVWorks Ltd
TV3 # 2

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Campbell Live – item about the forthcoming South Park “Bloody Mary” episode – item’s introduction included references to religious and cultural beliefs and to media freedom, and showed the alcoholic drink called a “Bloody Mary” – allegedly compared menstrual blood with a cocktail in breach of good taste and decency

Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – introduction simply a play on words – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1] The debate about the forthcoming screening of the South Park “Bloody Mary” episode was dealt with in an item broadcast on TV3’s Campbell Live at 7.00pm on 20 February 2006. The introduction began:

"Tonight the Catholic Church, media freedom, South Park¸ and the episode that dare not speak its name. For our adult viewers, here's a clue. What's this vodka-based drink called?"

[2] A picture of a Bloody Mary cocktail was screened.


[3] Alison Ross complained to CanWest TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, that the item’s introduction breached the standards relating to good taste and decency, and denigration.

[4] The introduction and the visual of the “Bloody Mary”, Ms Ross wrote, combined with the presenter’s salacious manner, was a clear attempt to lower religious and sexual standards. Further, the introduction reduced religious beliefs and women’s sexuality “to a level of smutty playground humour”. Ms Ross added that she was not a Catholic and did not hold religious views.


[5] Standard 1 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice is relevant to the determination of this complaint. Together with the guidelines, it reads:

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.


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.

1b   Broadcasters should consider – and if appropriate require – the use of on-air visual and verbal warnings when programmes contain violent material, material of a sexual nature, coarse language or other content likely to disturb children or offend a significant number of adult viewers. Warnings should be specific in nature, while avoiding detail which may itself distress or offend viewers.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[6] Explaining that Campbell Live was an unclassified lifestyle current affairs programme targeted at an adult audience and screened each weekday, CanWest contended that the humour shown on this occasion did not breach the good taste and decency standard.

[7] It also declined to uphold the denigration complaint. The humour was no more than mildly suggestive, it wrote, and the play on the words “Bloody Mary” was neither inappropriate nor unfair. It did not accept that the item’s introduction encouraged denigration, or discrimination against, Catholics, Christians or women.

Referral to the Authority

[8] Dissatisfied with CanWest’s response, Ms Ross referred her good taste and decency complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

[9] She argued that a broadcast which, at 7.00pm, compared female menstrual blood with the cocktail called a Bloody Mary was shocking, and contrary to the standards of New Zealanders and, accordingly, breached the good taste and decency standard.

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] The Authority considers that the introduction to the item simply involved a play on words about the title of a forthcoming controversial episode of South Park; instead of saying the title of the episode, the presenter showed a cocktail of the same name – Bloody Mary. The Authority does not agree with the complainant’s contention that the introduction compared the Bloody Mary cocktail with menstrual blood.

[12] Accordingly, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint that the broadcast breached Standard 1 (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
28 June 2006


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

  1. Alison Ross’s formal complaint – 21 February 2006
  2. CanWest TVWorks Ltd’s response to Ms Ross – 23 March 2006
  3. Ms Ross’s referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 13 April 2006
  4. CanWest’s response to the Authority – 24 April 2006