BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Rutherford and TV3 Network Services Ltd - 2001-206

Members
  • P Cartwright (Chair)
  • B Hayward
  • R Bryant
  • J H McGregor
Dated
Complainant
  • Maureen Rutherford
Number
2001-206
Channel/Station
TV3

Complaint
Something for the Weekend fiancee asked to identify her fiance’s penis from those of four other men – exposing penises – offensive behaviour

Findings
Standard G2 – context – adult comedy and penises partly dressed – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

[1] Something for the Weekend was a British studio-based entertainment series broadcast on TV3 at 9.30pm each Saturday evening. It used fun and unusual games to look at love, sex and relationships. In a segment in the programme broadcast on 7 July 2001, Leanne, a contestant was asked to identify her fiance from a group of five men. Each man was concealed in a large filing cabinet and the penis was the only part of each man’s body that Leanne saw. Each penis had been "dressed" to represent a famous detective character.

[2] Maureen Rutherford complained to TV3 Network Services Ltd, the broadcaster, that she was offended both by the idea of the particular game, and by the exposure of the penises.

[3] In response, TV3 pointed to the time of the broadcast and the accompanying warning and argued that viewers would be well aware of the adult focus of the programme by the time of the broadcast of the segment complained about. It also pointed to the humorous nature of the item, and to the fact that the penises were substantially covered when they were dressed up. It declined to uphold the complaint.

[4] Dissatisfied with TV3’s reply, Ms Rutherford referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons below, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Decision

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

The Programme

[6] Something for the Weekend was a British studio-based entertainment series broadcast on TV3 at 9.30pm each Saturday evening. It used fun and unusual games to look at love, sex and relationships. In a segment in the programme broadcast on 7 July 2001, Leanne, a contestant, was asked to identify her fiance from a group of five men. Each man was concealed in a large filing cabinet and the penis was the only part of each man’s body that Leanne saw. Each penis had been "dressed" to represent a famous detective character such as Colombo, Sherlock Holmes, and Miss Marple.

The Complaint

[7] Maureen Rutherford complained to TV3 that the programme’s listing in the "Listener" gave no indication of the programme’s content. She said that she and her husband were "shocked" by the idea of the game. Moreover, she said it was illegal for people to expose themselves and she considered that the programme contravened the privacy of both the woman and her fiance. She concluded:

I am offended and outraged that you would consider this as entertainment and that you would programme it for a Saturday night in the school holidays when many young people would be allowed to watch programmes later than usual.

The Standard

[8] TV3 assessed the complaint under standard G2 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which requires broadcasters in the preparation and presentation of programmes:

G2  To take into consideration currently accepted norms of decency and taste in language and behaviour, bearing in mind the context in which any language or behaviour occurs.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[9] TV3 pointed out that the programme was rated AO and was broadcast one hour after the start of the 8.30pm watershed. It added that the series had been appraised by its appraisers and cuts made when appropriate. For the episode complained about, a verbal and visual warning had been added which stated, "This programme is recommended for adults only viewing. It contains nudity which may offend viewers".

[10] Focusing on the "Private Dicks" segment complained about, TV3 noted the contextual matters referred to and contended that, as the segment was well into the programme, viewers would have gained an understanding of its adult focus. TV3 argued that the material would be unlikely to offend a reasonable adult viewer and declined to uphold the complaint.

[11] In response to other matters raised in the complaint, TV3 said that the Broadcasting Standards Authority had previously ruled that 9.30pm on a Saturday was not usually considered to be a normally accepted viewing time for children. As the participants had obviously consented, it wrote, there was nothing to indicate a breach of privacy.

The Referral to the Authority

[12] When she referred her complaint to the Authority, Mrs Rutherford said that she had caught the "Private Dicks" segment during a commercial break in another programme. Accordingly, she was not aware of the warning and, as noted, the listing in the "Listener" did not record the AO classification. Mrs Rutherford wrote:

I was disgusted to think that this sort of garbage would be screened and that people would want to participate in making such a programme. I am also at a loss to understand why TV3’s Standards Committee should be called by that name. In my opinion they have no standards. I hope you do have. Whatever your response to this letter I want to protest and ask for a review of your definition of public decency.

The Complainant’s Final Comment

[13] In her final comment, Ms Rutherford reiterated her "disgust" at the broadcast. She pointed out again that she had not seen the warning, and was unaware of the programme’s classification.

The Authority’s Determination

[14] The Authority’s task in assessing this complaint under standard G2 is to determine whether the images complained about breached currently accepted norms of good taste and decency, in the context in which they occurred. The context is relevant, but not decisive, to the Authority’s determination of whether the programme breached standards of good taste and decency.

[15] The contextual matters the Authority considered relevant to its determination of Ms Rutherford’s complaint included the time of the broadcast (one hour after the AO watershed), the warning which preceded the programme, and the point that viewers who watched the broadcast would be aware of the programme’s approach by the time of the broadcast of the "Private Dicks" segment. Moreover, the penises shown were disguised to a considerable extent by the costume each one was wearing.

[16] While the Authority accepts that the segment could be described as of questionable taste, it considers that, when the contextual matters are taken into account, it does not amount to a breach of standard G2.

[17] The Authority also observes that to find a breach of standard G2 would be to interpret the Broadcasting Act 1989 in such a way as to place too great a limit on the broadcaster’s statutory freedom of expression in s.14 of the NZ Bill of Rights Act 1990. It prefers to adopt an interpretation of the standard which is consistent with the Bill of Rights.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
29 November 2001

Appendix

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

  1. Maureen Rutherford’s Complaint to TV3 Network Services Ltd – 9 July 2001
  2. TV3’s Response to the Complainant – 1 August 2001
  3. Mrs Rutherford’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 23 August 2001
  4. TV3’s Response to the Authority – 18 September 2001
  5. Ms Rutherford’s Final Comment – 2 October 2001