BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Walker and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2000-160

Members
  • P Cartwright (Chair)
  • J H McGregor
  • R McLeod
  • R Bryant
Dated
Complainant
  • Dennis Walker
Number
2000-160
Channel/Station
TV One

Complaint
Documentary New Zealand: "The Real New Zealand" – gay homestay – promotion of homosexuality – omission of information and warning about sexually transmitted diseases – unbalanced

Findings
(1) Standard G2 – action taken sufficient – no uphold

(2) Standard G6 – no uphold

(3) Standard G20 – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

An episode of Documentary New Zealand: "The Real New Zealand" about New Zealand homestays included a segment about a homestay designed for gay visitors. The programme was broadcast on TV One at 8.30pm on 21 August 2000.

Dennis Walker complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, about the footage, which he considered promoted homosexuality and contained scenes of nudity among homosexuals which would have been offensive to a majority of viewers. He also considered that the item had omitted to include information about the risks of sexually transmitted diseases or to warn potential visitors that they might share facilities with men with such diseases.

TVNZ upheld the aspect of the complaint in relation to some of the nudity portrayed in the programme, commenting that it would have found the footage equally inappropriate if it had involved heterosexuals. TVNZ declined to uphold the balance aspect of the complaint. It did not consider that a discussion about homosexual practices and sexually transmitted diseases was relevant in the context of a documentary about homestays. It also disagreed that the programme had "promoted" homosexuality.

Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Mr Walker referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons given below, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Decision

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 this complaint without a formal hearing.

An episode of Documentary New Zealand: "The Real New Zealand" about New Zealand homestays included a segment about a homestay designed for gay visitors. The programme was broadcast on TV One at 8.30pm on 21 August 2000.

Dennis Walker complained to TVNZ that the broadcast had breached standards G2, G6 and G20 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. The first two 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.

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

Standard G20 provides:

G20  No set formula can be advanced for the allocation of time to interested parties on controversial public issues. Broadcasters should aim to present all significant sides in as fair a way as possible, and this can be done only by judging every case on its merits.

Mr Walker considered that the programme would have been offensive to a majority of viewers, as he believed that the programme had promoted homosexuality – which he said was considered by the majority of New Zealanders to be "an undesirable lifestyle and offensive". He complained specifically about what he considered was unnecessary footage of nudity among male homosexuals.

Mr Walker also considered that the item had omitted to include information about the risks of sexually transmitted diseases or any warning that potential visitors to the homestay would be at risk of "sharing facilities with men with STDs". He believed this was required because, in his view, "homosexual bathhouses throughout the world [were] places of sexual activities and consequently the transmission of sexual diseases". In Mr Walker’s opinion, the homestay featured was "nothing more than an exclusive public bathhouse".

TVNZ assessed the complaint under the standards nominated by Mr Walker. It upheld Mr Walker’s complaint that standard G2 had been breached in relation to two scenes which contained nudity, and which it conceded were not suitable to include in a PGR rated programme broadcast without any prior warning about the nudity it contained. TVNZ explained that the scenes would have been equally unacceptable had they involved heterosexuals, and that the nudity was out of character with the rest of the documentary.

TVNZ declined to uphold the balance of Mr Walker’s complaint. In its view, standards G6 and G20 had little relevance to the programme. TVNZ wrote:

It was, after all, a discussion about homestays, not a debate about homosexual practices and sexually transmitted diseases. While there are documentary and current affairs scenarios in which such issues could legitimately be debated, such discussion in this context would take the programme down a path it was not intended to take.

TVNZ also disagreed that the programme had "promoted" homosexuality through depicting the lifestyle in a programme.

TVNZ then advised Mr Walker that the manner in which local programmes were appraised before broadcast was under review, and that TVNZ hoped that changes would result in such programmes being subject to more rigorous scrutiny. It described its broadcast of the nudity in the programme as a "genuine oversight which happened at a time when personnel changes were occurring".

Mr Walker referred to the Authority the aspects of his complaints which were not upheld by TVNZ. They were his complaints that standards G6 and G20 were breached. He wrote:

I believe that [TVNZ’s] comment that the programme was about homestays, not sexuality make my complaint even more relevant in that there would be people viewing who would not be aware of the implications of homosexuality.

If reaching a homestay involved walking an arduous route, undoubtedly there would be a warning that only persons having a certain degree of fitness would be advised to attempt the journey. Is it, therefore, logical to warn somebody of the danger of becoming over fatigued and not warn of the risk of a serious medical disease?

In its response to the referral, TVNZ advised that it had agreed with Mr Walker that the programme had breached standard G2:

mainly because the programme was incorrectly classified as PGR and because it did not have a warning about the presence of male nudity.

TVNZ then repeated the reasons it had declined to uphold the standard G6 and G20 aspects of Mr Walker’s complaint:

this was [not] an appropriate context in which to discuss sexually transmitted diseases or to reflect on homosexuality generally.

In Mr Walker’s final comment, he asked, in relation to the standard G2 aspect of his complaint:

What action is taken when a formal complaint is upheld by TVNZ?

The Authority’s Findings

The Authority considers first whether the action taken by TVNZ in upholding the standard G2 aspect of the complaint was sufficient. In its opinion, TVNZ acted appropriately. It explained to the complainant that the breach was the result of a genuine oversight which had occurred at a time of personnel change within TVNZ, and advised that the manner in which local programmes were appraised was under review. The Authority considers that the action taken by TVNZ was sufficient, having regard to the nature of the breach.

As to whether TVNZ breached standards G6 and G20, the Authority records that it has subsumed its consideration of standard G20 under standard G6, as it considers that the issues raised by the complainant overlap and are best dealt with under standard G6.

For standard G6 to apply, a programme must deal with an issue of a controversial nature. The programme was a documentary about New Zealand homestays. In the Authority’s view, it did not alter the programme’s focus that one of the homestays profiled was run by a homosexual couple, and featured visitors some of whom were assumed to be homosexual. It does not consider the programme dealt with any issue of a controversial nature. Furthermore as the programme focussed on homestays and not on the homosexual lifestyle, there was no need to include the information about homosexual practices and sexually transmitted diseases which Mr Walker suggested was required. The Authority declines to uphold this aspect of the complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
6 November 2000

Appendix

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

  1. Dennis Walker’s Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – 26 August 2000
  2. TVNZ’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 6 September 2000
  3. Mr Walker’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 7 September 2000
  4. TVNZ’s Response to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 18 September 2000
  5. Mr Shearer’s Final Comment – 28 September 2000