BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Smits and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2002-033

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

Space – interview with two female porn actors – promoted their profession and business interests – no information about full activities of interviewees – unbalanced – abusive and objectionable language in complainant’s final comment

Standard G6 – decline to determine

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1] Two visiting female porn actors were interviewed on Space, broadcast on TV2 between 10.25pm and midnight on 9 November 2001. The questions focused mainly on how they became involved in the industry, and one of the interviewees asked viewers interested in entering the industry to contact them.

[2] Phillip Smits complained to Television New Zealand Limited, the broadcaster, that the interview was unbalanced as no one spoke about the degrading aspects of the industry.

[3] On the basis that the interviews were human interest pieces and did not constitute an issue-related debate about pornography, TVNZ 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 determine the complaint.


[5] The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the item 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 about 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 9 November 2001 included what TVNZ described as a live interview with two visiting female porn actors.

The Complaint

[7] Mr Smits complained to TVNZ that the item lacked balance. The porn "queens", he wrote, were allowed to promote themselves and seek "talent" from the viewers while no effort was made to present the true profiles and activities of the interviewees.

[8] It was a statutory requirement, Mr Smits maintained, for balance to be provided when interviewing people.

The Standard 

[9] TVNZ assessed the complaint under standard G6 which requires broadcasters in the preparation and presentation of programmes:

G6  To show balance, impartiality and fairness in dealing with political matters, current affairs and all questions of a controversial nature.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[10] TVNZ initially considered the point whether it was necessary to provide balance to the interviews complained about. It pointed out that the interviews were "essentially human interest personality pieces" in which the women talked about the way they became involved in the industry and a small number of other matters. It was not an interview on the issues surrounding pornography, TVNZ maintained.

[11] TVNZ noted that both the standard, and the statutory provision on which it was based (s.4(1)(d) of the Broadcasting Act 1989), applied to interviews dealing with "controversial" issues of public importance. While it accepted that the standard would apply to a debate about pornography, TVNZ continued, the "human interest piece" on Space had not dealt with controversial issues.

[12] Turning to the aspect of the complaint that the interviewees sought "talent" from viewers, TVNZ said the comment arose spontaneously in a live interview and viewers were given no information on how to contact the women. TVNZ concluded:

As indicated above it was the [complaints] committee’s conclusion that there is no statutory requirement to balance human interest interviews and that G6 was not breached by this broadcast. It further noted that the interview was contained within a late night programme, aimed at young adults and late teenagers and carrying an AO (Adults Only) certificate. In that context it did not believe that the interview with the two Americans was inappropriate.

The Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority

[13] Mr Smits dealt with a number of points in his lengthy letter of referral to the Authority.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[14] TVNZ’s Programme Standards Manager objected to some of the abusive terms which had been used by Mr Smits when referring to him in his referral letter.

The Complainant’s Final Comment

[15] In his final comment, Mr Smits was extremely abusive, first about TVNZ’s complaints process, and then about members of the Authority.

The Authority’s Determination

[16] Mr Smits has been warned in the past about using personal abuse and objectionable language in his correspondence. Because of the offensive material, the Authority declined to determine one earlier complaint (No: 1996-013).

[17] In his final comment on this complaint, Mr Smits acknowledged that the personal abuse and objectionable material contained in his letter could well result in the Authority declining to determine this complaint. Mr Smits is correct. The Authority reaffirms its position. Since the content of his referral to the Authority on this occasion contained material which was gratuitously offensive, the Authority exercises its discretion and decides not to determine the complaint.


Pursuant to its powers under s.11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989, the Authority declines to determine the complaint in all the circumstances.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Cartwright
21 March 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 – 12 November 2001
  2. TVNZ’s Response to Mr Smits – 4 December 2001
  3. Mr Smits’ Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority (plus attachments) – 1 January 2002
  4. TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 17 January 2002
  5. Mr Smits’ Final Comment (plus attachments) – 13 February 2002