BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Smith and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2007-031

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • April Smith
Rude Awakenings
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Rude Awakenings – scene in which man and woman have sex on a table – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency

Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – contextual factors – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1]  Rude Awakenings was a New Zealand drama series focussing on the lives of neighbouring Ponsonby families.  An episode screened at 8.30pm on Friday 16 February included a scene in which one of the central female characters – who was dissatisfied with her marriage – had sex with her personal trainer on a table.  The personal trainer continued to watch sport on television while having sex.

[2]  The scene was shot from behind the male character, whose naked buttocks were visible.  No female nudity was shown.


[3]  April Smith made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the scene was “pornographic” and breached the requirement for good taste and decency.  The complainant was particularly concerned that children may have been among the audience at that time of night.


[4]  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.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[5]  TVNZ declined to uphold the complaint.  Placing the scene into context, it noted that the female character had offered herself to her personal trainer, only to suffer more disappointment when he showed a lack of interest, watching television while having sex.  The scene was directly relevant to the story, it argued, as it represented the female character’s desperation, and her drive to make a new and exciting life for herself in the city. 

[6]  TVNZ noted that the programme was classified AO, and was preceded by a verbal and visual warning that alerted viewers to the presence of “sex and language that may offend some people”. 

[7]  Responding to the complainant’s concerns about children, TVNZ noted that children’s normally accepted viewing times are usually up to 8.30pm, and the scene complained of did not screen until 9.15pm.

[8]  TVNZ declined to uphold the complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[9]  Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s decision, Ms Smith referred her complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.  In her referral, she argued that many parents exercise little control over children’s viewing and that, in any event, parents would not have expected such an explicit scene.

[10]  Ms Smith also said the scene was far too long and aggressive, and suggested that scenes such as this one be shown only after 9.30pm.

Authority's Determination

[11]  The members of the Authority 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.

[12]  When the Authority determines a complaint alleging a breach of good taste and decency, it is required to take into account the context in which the programme was broadcast. On this occasion, relevant contextual factors include:

  • the segment complained about was broadcast at 9.15pm – 45 minutes into the AO time band
  • the programme’s AO classification
  • the visual and verbal warning that preceded the programme
  • the fact that the scene contained only low-level nudity
  • the fact that the scene was relevant and important in the context of this episode, and the series as a whole.

[13]  In light of these factors, the Authority agrees with the conclusion reached by TVNZ that the broadcast did not breach standards of 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
8 June 2007


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

1     April Smith’s formal complaint to TVNZ – 19 February 2007 

2    TVNZ’s response to the formal complaint – 28 February 2007

3    Ms Smith’s referral to the Authority – 13 March 2007

4    TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 2 April 2007