BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Swinerd and TVWorks Ltd - 2012-030

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Anne Swinerd
TVWorks Ltd
TV3 # 3

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Homeland – programme contained brief nudity and sex scene – pre-broadcast warning for “sexual material” – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency, and responsible programming standards

Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – warning for “sexual material” was adequate to cover the content in the programme – contextual factors – not upheld

Standard 8 (responsible programming) – programme correctly classified and preceded by an adequate warning – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision. 


[1]  An episode of Homeland, a drama series in which the CIA investigates a possible terrorist threat, was broadcast on TV3 at 8.30pm on 20 February 2012. At approximately 8.50pm a woman was shown topless, being interviewed to be part of a Saudi prince’s harem. The woman interviewing her briefly touched her through her underwear and commented that she would “need to get that waxed”. Later in the programme, there was a brief flashback of a sex scene, in which the interviewer’s breasts were visible.

[2]  The programme was preceded by the following visual and verbal warning:

This programme is rated Adults Only and is recommended for a mature audience. It contains sexual material and language that may offend some people.

[3]  Anne Swinerd made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the programme’s warning did not accurately reflect its content. She considered that “sexual material” did not adequately indicate that the programme would contain female nudity and sex scenes, in breach of standards relating to good taste and decency, accuracy and responsible programming.

[4]  Ms Swinerd explicitly identified the 20 February episode in her original complaint, although in the text of her complaint she also made reference to “the show the week before”. She referred to episodes on 13, 20 and 27 February in her referral. TVWorks assessed the complaint only in relation to the 20 February episode, noting that the details of her complaint related to that episode, and she had not identified any particular content in the previous week’s episode. However, it considered that its arguments applied in respect of both. We have limited our determination to the 20 February episode, on the basis that this was the main focus of the original complaint.

[5]  Ms Swinerd also accepted in her referral that she had misunderstood the meaning of “accuracy”. We agree with TVWorks that the accuracy standard applies only to news, current affairs and factual programmes. Homeland was a drama, and therefore the accuracy standard does not apply. We have therefore limited our determination to the other standards raised.

[6]  Accordingly, the issue is whether the 20 February episode of Homeland, and specifically the pre-broadcast warning, breached Standards 1 (good taste and decency) and 8 (responsible programming) of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[7]  The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Did the broadcast threaten current norms of good taste and decency?

[8]  Standard 1 states that broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency. The standard is primarily concerned with the broadcast of sexual material, nudity, coarse language or violence.1 The Authority will also consider the standard in relation to any broadcast that portrays or discusses material in a way that is likely to cause offence or distress.2

[9]  When we consider an alleged breach of good taste and decency, we take into account the context of the broadcast, which here includes:

  • Homeland was classified AO and broadcast at 8.30pm in the AO time-band
  • the nudity and sex scene referred to in the complaint screened at approximately 8.50pm
  • it was preceded by a warning for “sexual material and language that may offend”
  • the programme’s adult target audience
  • audience expectations
  • publicity surrounding the show.

[10]  TVWorks accepted that Homeland contained some challenging material, but considered that viewers would expect this given the show’s AO rating, 8.30pm time of broadcast, the specific warning, and publicity surrounding the show. It maintained that the material cited by Ms Swinerd fell within the term “sexual material” and that the warning was adequate to inform viewers of the type of content that might be in the programme. It argued that the programme appraiser usually reserved a specific nudity warning for full-frontal nudity, and that bare breasts in this episode did not necessitate a specific nudity warning.

[11]  In our view, the footage of the topless woman was brief and innocuous. Similarly, the sex scene, including footage of the woman’s breasts, was extremely brief and relatively tame. We are satisfied that, taking into account the factors listed above, most viewers would not have been surprised or offended by this material. The scenes were consistent with viewer expectations of the series, and the pre-broadcast warning for “sexual material” – notwithstanding that it did not specifically refer to “nudity” or “sex scenes” – was adequate to give an indication of the type of material the episode would contain.

[12]  We therefore find that the broadcast did not threaten current norms of good taste and decency, and we decline to uphold the complaint under Standard 1.

Did the broadcast, and specifically the warning, breach standards relating to responsible programming?

[13]  Ms Swinerd’s concern was that the pre-broadcast warning was inadequate. Guideline 8a to Standard 8 states that, “Warnings should be considered when programme content is likely to offend or disturb a significant number of the intended audience.”

[14]  As discussed in relation to Standard 1, we consider that the warning for “sexual material” was adequate to cover the programme’s content, specifically images of breasts and a brief sex scene. We do not think that the content went beyond audience expectations of the meaning of “sexual material”, or would have offended most viewers in the context in which it screened.

[15]  Accordingly, we decline to uphold the complaint that Standard 8 was breached.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Radich
8 June 2012


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

1                  Anne Swinerd’s formal complaint – 28 February 2012

2                 TVWorks’ response to the complaint – 29 February 2012

3                 Ms Swinerd’s referral to the Authority – 15 March 2012

4                 TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 4 April 2012

1Turner and TVNZ, Decision No. 2008-112

2Practice Note: Good Taste and Decency (Broadcasting Standards Authority, November, 2006)