BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Shields and TV3 Network Services Ltd - 2001-218

Members
  • P Cartwright (Chair)
  • B Hayward
  • R Bryant
  • J H McGregor
Dated
Complainant
  • Jackie Shields
Number
2001-218
Channel/Station
TV3

Complaint
Flirting with Disaster – comedy movie – scene during which wife and husband engage in oral sex while he holds their baby – bad taste – unsuitable for children

Findings
Standard G2 – context – no uphold

Standard G12 – upheld by TV3 – action taken sufficient

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

[1] Flirting with Disaster, a comedy movie, was broadcast on TV3 at 8.30pm on 10 August 2001.

[2] Jackie Shields complained to TV3 Network Services Ltd, the broadcaster, about a scene during the movie where the main character’s wife appears to be engaging in oral sex while he holds their baby. She considered this material was "totally unacceptable" at the time it was broadcast, and unsuitable for children.

[3] TV3 declined to uphold the standard G2 aspect of the complaint. It maintained that the material was acceptable in the context of an AO movie, and that the scene was "very discreet", "relatively brief" and important to the storyline. However, TV3 did uphold the standard G12 aspect of the complaint, acknowledging that an "incorrect and inappropriate warning" had been screened before the movie. It advised that it would undertake a review of how this had occurred and what could be done to prevent any recurrence.

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

For the reasons given, 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 listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines this complaint without a formal hearing.

The Programme

[6] Flirting with Disaster, a comedy movie, was broadcast on TV3 at 8.30pm on 10 August 2001. The movie is about a young man who goes on a road trip to find his birth parents, with his wife, baby and an incompetent case worker.

The Complaint

[7] Jackie Shields complained to TV3 about a scene which occurred about five minutes after the start of the movie. In the scene, the main character’s wife appears to be engaging in oral sex while he holds their baby. She considered this material was "totally unacceptable" at the time it was broadcast, and was unsuitable for children.

The Standards

[8] TV3 considered Ms Shields’ complaint in the context of standards G2 and G12 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. Those standards require broadcasters:

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.

G12  To be mindful of the effect any programme may have on children during their normally accepted viewing hours.

TV3’s Response to the Complaint

[9] TV3 declined to uphold the complaint as a breach of standard G2. It maintained that the material was acceptable in the context of an AO movie, and that the scene was "very discreet", "relatively brief" and important to the storyline.

[10] TV3 upheld the standard G12 aspect of the complaint, as it acknowledged that an "incorrect and inappropriate warning" had been screened before the movie. TV3 advised that a warning which was less comprehensive than that actually assigned to the programme had been used. It commented:

While obviously due to human error, the [TV3 Standards] Committee has addressed the issues raised by [Ms Shields’] complaint with TV3’s Head of Operations, who will look at how this error occurred and how steps can be taken to ensure no future reoccurrence.

[11] TV3 also expressed to the complainant its "deep regret" that the error had taken place and apologised for any offence caused.

Ms Shields’ Referral to the Authority

[12] In her referral to the Authority, Ms Shields said that she was totally dissatisfied with TV3’s ruling. She said that the scene she complained about was inappropriately screened at 8.35pm:

… when so many young people are still watching TV, especially when they have a set in their bedrooms.

[13] Ms Shields said she "felt so sad, that our young people ha[d] to be exposed to this".

The Authority’s Determination

[14] The Authority’s task in assessing this complaint under standard G2 is to determine whether the material complained about breached currently accepted norms of good taste and decency, in the context in which it 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 Authority considers that the relevant contextual factors include the movie’s AO rating and its broadcast during AO time. The Authority also considers it relevant that the movie was a comedy, and that the brief scene was both farcical and relevant to the movie’s storyline.

[16] Taking into account the contextual matters referred to in the above paragraph, the Authority concludes that standard G2 was not breached.

[17] The Authority 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 New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. It prefers to adopt an interpretation of the standard which is consistent with the Bill of Rights.

[18] As to whether the broadcaster’s action in upholding the standard G12 aspect of the complaint was sufficient, the Authority notes that TV3 acknowledged that the warning it had broadcast before the movie had not been adequate. The Authority accepts TV3’s explanation that this was the result of an operational mistake. TV3 explained to the complainant that the issues raised by the complaint had been addressed with its Head of Operations, who would look at how the error occurred and how recurrence could be prevented. TV3 also apologised to Ms Shields for any offence caused. The Authority considers that the action taken by TV3 was sufficient, given the nature and extent of the error and declines to uphold this aspect of the complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
17 December 2001

Appendix

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

1. Jackie Shields’ Formal Complaint to TV3 Network Services Ltd – 13 August 2001
2. TV3’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 10 September 2001
3. Ms Shields’ Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 14 September 2001
4. TV3’s Response to the Authority – 15 October 2001