BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Smits and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2002-004

  • P Cartwright (Chair)
  • B Hayward
  • R Bryant
  • J H McGregor
  • Phillip Smits

Space – music video – Massive Attack – focused on stripper – full frontal nudity – offensive behaviour

Standard G2 – acceptable in context – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1] A music video by the band Massive Attack was included as the final item on Space broadcast on TV2 on Friday 17 October 2001, between 10.30 and midnight. The video showed a stripper going through her routine and finishing with full frontal nudity. Space is a magazine programme containing live music, music videos, and other multi-media events.

[2] Mr Smits complained to Television New Zealand Limited, the broadcaster, that the strip routine containing full frontal nudity was offensively gratuitous, and in breach of the standards relating to taste and decency.

[3] In response, TVNZ argued that the video was not offensive in the context of the time of broadcast, a warning, and target audience. It declined to uphold the complaint.

[4] Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s decision, Mr Smits 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.


[5] The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the episode 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] Space is broadcast weekly by TV2 on Fridays at 10.30pm for 90 minutes. It is a magazine programme in which two hosts present live music, video clips and other multi-media material. The episode broadcast on 17 October 2001 concluded with a music video featuring the band Massive Attack. It showed a woman going through a strip routine which ended with scenes of full frontal nudity.

The Complaint

[7] Mr Smits complained to TVNZ that the item breached standards of good taste and decency. It was not, he wrote, a music video, but the televised broadcast of full strip routine. Full frontal nudity, he continued, was not appropriate on free-to-air television.

The Standard

[8] TVNZ assessed the complaint under standard G2 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. It 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] TNVZ said that it had checked and had made sure that it was "a genuine music video". It then referred to the contextual issues which it considered relevant. They were the time of broadcast – shortly before midnight; the target audience – young adults and late teens; the warning which had told viewers that the programme included nudity; the AO classification for the programme; and, it said, that the item had been presented as tawdry rather than erotic.

[10] In his complaint, Mr Smits referred to an earlier complaint involving lap dancing on Space which TVNZ had upheld. TVNZ distinguished the present performance from the previous upheld complaint which, while not showing total nudity, had included simulated sex acts and offensive language.

[11] TNVZ concluded:

In considering standard G2 it was the conclusion of the [complaints] committee that in the context of a sequence shown close to midnight, to an audience which is part of a particular late-teenage/young adult culture, in a programme rated AO and preceded by a warning, this music video (which although ending with the "woman" nude still essentially showed a dance rather than a sex act) did not breach the standard. Your complaint was not upheld.

The Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority

[12] When he referred the complaint to the Authority, Mr Smits said that other programmes which included strip scenes had not shown the stripper going "fully nude". The performance on this occasion, he insisted, was gratuitous and standard G2, he added, was designed "to prevent this sort of thing".

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[13] In its response to the Authority, TVNZ repeated the contextual matters noted above, adding that the band Massive Attack was well-known among young adults.

The Complainant’s Final Comment

[14] In his final comment Mr Smits disputed TVNZ’s argument that the young adult audience’s expectations included full frontal nudity.

The Authority’s Determination

[15] 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.

[16] The Authority considers that the relevant contextual factors include the programme’s AO rating, the warning, and the time of its broadcast (nearly midnight). The Authority also considers it relevant that the item was a music video and that young adults and late teenagers were the target audience.


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

[18] 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 New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. It adopts an interpretation of the standard which is consistent with the Bill of Rights.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Cartwright
24 January 2002


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

  1. Phillip Smits’ Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – 14 October 2001
  2. TVNZ’s Response to Mr Smits – 5 November 2001
  3. Mr Smits’ Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 11 November 2001
  4. TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 28 November 2001
  5. Mr Smits’ Final Comment – 5 December 2001