Samuel and TVWorks Ltd - 2011-097
- Peter Radich (Chair)
- Leigh Pearson
- Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
- Mary Anne Shanahan
- Elizabeth Samuel
Channel/StationTV3 # 3
Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Big – reality television series about obese people trying to lose weight – contained brief footage of naked woman in the shower – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency, responsible programming and children’s interests standards
Standard 1 (good taste and decency), Standard 8 (responsible programming) and Standard 9 (children’s interests) – viewers would expect to be warned for nudity broadcast at 7.30pm – however nudity was extremely brief and incidental – consistent with PGR rating and timeslot – most viewers would not have been offended or disturbed by the content – upholding the complaint would unreasonably restrict broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 An episode of Big, a reality series following obese people as they tried to lose weight and improve their health, was broadcast on TV3 at 7.30pm on 23 June 2011. At 7.32pm, the programme introduced the woman featuring on the programme that week. Footage of her in the shower was shown for approximately seven seconds, in which her breast and buttocks were briefly visible.
 Elizabeth Samuel made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the nudity breached standards relating to good taste and decency, responsible programming and children’s interests. She pointed out that there was no warning that the programme contained nudity, so there was no opportunity to change the channel. Noting that the programme was rated PGR, she considered that “it is difficult for a parent to adequately guide a child about material they are unprepared for viewing themselves”.
 Ms Samuel noted that by the time the nudity was shown, there had already been numerous shots of obese people wearing underwear, which was “plenty of information to introduce us to the concept of the programme”. She therefore considered that the naked shots of the woman were unnecessary.
 Ms Samuel nominated Standards 1, 8 and 9, and guidelines 1a, 1b, 8a and 9a 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.
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.
1b The use of visual and verbal warnings should be considered when content is likely to disturb or offend a significant number of viewers except in the case of news and current affairs, where verbal warnings only will be considered. Warnings should be specific in nature, while avoiding detail which may itself distress or offend viewers.
Standard 8 Responsible Programming
Broadcasters should ensure that programme information and content is socially responsible.
Broadcasters should use established classification codes.
- Warnings should be considered when programme content is likely to offend or disturb a significant number of the intended audience.
Standard 9 Children’s Interests
During children’s normally accepted viewing times (see Appendix 1), broadcasters should consider the interests of child viewers.
Broadcasters should be mindful of the effect any programme or promo may have on children during their normally accepted viewing times – usually up to 8.30pm – and avoid screening material that would disturb or alarm them.
Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant
 TVWorks maintained that the nudity at the beginning of the programme was “not unduly challenging given the subject matter of the programme and its PGR rating”. It argued that the nudity occurred in a “non-sexual, matter-of-fact context and was not intended to be salacious or titillating”. It noted that the premise of the programme was following dangerously obese people as they attempted to lose weight and regain a satisfactory level of health under the guidance of personal trainers. “It is clear that the programme deals with human anatomy”, TVWorks said, and it considered that, in this context, the brief shot of the naked woman would not have offended most viewers.
 With regard to Standard 8, TVWorks said that its programme appraiser did not consider bare breasts warranted a warning, “particularly when occurring in a non-sexual context”, and taking into account the factual nature of the programme, its PGR rating, and its adult target audience. It said that the appraiser was also satisfied that the content would not disturb or alarm children.
 Accordingly, TVWorks declined to uphold the complaint.
Referral to the Authority
 Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Ms Samuel referred her complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. She maintained that the nudity was unexpected in the context of a programme screened at 7.30pm, when there was no warning. The complainant noted that other weight loss programmes did not usually contain nudity, and that nudity in other programmes at 7.30pm was often pixellated. She questioned whether TVWorks considered the nudity to be “non-sexual” and “matter-of-fact” simply due to the woman’s size.
 Ms Samuel maintained that the nudity breached Standards 1, 8 and 9.
 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.
Standard 1 (good taste and decency), Standard 8 (responsible programming) and Standard 9 (children’s
 When we consider an alleged breach of these standards, we take into account the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, the relevant contextual factors include:
- Big was broadcast at 7.30pm during children’s viewing times
- it was rated PGR
- the programme was not preceded by a warning
- the programme’s subject matter
- the programme’s target audience
- audience expectations.
 At the outset, we accept that most viewers would expect to be warned if a programme screening at 7.30pm contained nudity, and we acknowledge the complainant’s concerns in this respect. Because there was no warning, viewers were not given an opportunity to exercise discretion with regard to their children’s viewing, or to make a different viewing choice.
 However, we note that on this occasion, the nudity was fleeting, matter-of-fact, and incidental rather than dwelt upon. It was used as part of a number of establishing shots which served to set the tone of the programme, and to introduce the woman featuring in this particular episode. In addition, we consider that regular viewers of programmes of this nature, about dangerously obese people, expect to be presented with some degree of challenging content, which might include naked flesh, discussion of medical matters, and surgical scenes. In this context, we consider that, notwithstanding the absence of a warning, the nudity would not have offended or disturbed most viewers.
 For the same reasons, we also consider that the content was consistent with the programme’s classification and time of broadcast, and that it was not unsuitable for children under the supervision of an adult. The Authority has previously stated that the objective of Standard 9 (children’s interests) is to protect children from material that might adversely affect them. In our view, non-sexualised, fleeting nudity of this nature is not inherently harmful to children, and we do not consider that it would have disturbed or alarmed them when presented in this context.
 Taking all of these factors into account, we find that upholding the complaint based only on the absence of a warning would place an unreasonable restriction on the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
 Accordingly, we decline to uphold the complaint that the broadcast breached Standards 1, 8 and 9.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
18 October 2011
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Elizabeth Samuel’s formal complaint – 23 June 2011
2 TVWorks’ response to the complaint – 30 June 2011
3 Ms Samuel’s referral to the Authority – 27 July 2011
4 TVWorks’ responses to the Authority – 19 and 31 August 2011