BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Worthington and SKY Network Television Ltd - 2014-082

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • John Worthington
SKY Sport channels

Summary [This summary does not form part of the decision.]

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), featuring cage fighting, was broadcast on SKY Sport. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the sport was too violent and inappropriate for broadcast at 5pm. This was a legitimate sport, broadcast on a niche channel dedicated to sport, and was appropriately classified M, indicating it was suitable for mature audiences aged 16 and over. Filtering technology allowed parents to block the content if they wished.

Not Upheld: Children, Violence, Law and Order


[1]  An Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) tournament, featuring cage fighting, was broadcast at 5pm on a SKY Sport channel, on Monday 21 April 2014. It was classified M (suitable for mature audiences 16 years and over).

[2]  John Worthington made a formal complaint to SKY, alleging that the programme showed ‘the most violently aggressive assault on a person imaginable’, and that the time of broadcast was inappropriate as children could be watching.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the children (P3), violence (P4) and law and order (P5) standards, as set out in the Pay Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  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 programme breach broadcasting standards?

[5]  Mr Worthington complained that SKY was promoting the sport of cage fighting ‘under the misleading guise of “sport”’. In his view the sport was ‘animalistic’ and a ‘sickening assault between two men doing their level best to seriously maim one another’.

[6]  SKY responded that its audience ‘have an understanding of what fight sports are, and these athletes have made a choice to do this event’. The broadcaster noted that this programme – as well as all fight sports – was classified M, indicating it was intended for a mature audience aged 16 years and over. The classification was clearly displayed at the beginning of the programme, as well as in SKY’s electronic and printed TV guides, it said. In addition, SKY pointed out that its ‘filtering technology (parental locks with PIN access) provides an important layer of protection for young viewers from this content, and also allows other viewers to limit access to unwanted content’.

[7]  Our task is to determine whether programme standards has been breached, not whether cage fighting is worthy of being characterised as a legitimate sport. Programme selection and scheduling is ultimately at the broadcaster’s discretion, so long as standards are maintained; the programme must be appropriately classified and otherwise adhere to broadcasting standards.

[8]  The programme was classified M, indicating it was only suitable for mature viewers aged 16 years and over. It was not targeted at children. Parents could utilise SKY’s filtering technology and block programmes rated M and above, if they wished. In addition, the programme’s title gave the audience a fair indication of its likely content and a reasonable opportunity to exercise discretion, if the filtering technology was not already activated.

[9]  We are satisfied that the standards nominated were not breached, because:

  • SKY adequately ensured that children were protected from unsuitable content, by classifying the programme M and by making filtering technology available if parents wished to block this content. UFC was not targeted at children and did not screen adjacent to content aimed at children (Standard P3 and guidelines (a) and (c))
  • The violent material was appropriate to the context of the programme – featuring fight sports – and appropriately classified M (Standard P4)
  • The fight sports programme did not encourage viewers to break the law or otherwise promote or condone criminal activity (Standard P5).

[10]  We therefore decline to uphold the complaint.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Radich
25 September 2014


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

1                 John Worthington’s formal complaint – 1 May 2014

2                 Mr Worthington’s letter to SKY – undated

3                 Mr Worthington’s referral to the Authority, on the basis of no response – 13 June 2014

4                 Mr Worthington’s follow-up letter to the Authority – 30 June 2014

5                 SKY’s response to the Authority – 16 July 2014

6                 Mr Worthington’s final comment – 23 July 2014

7                 SKY’s confirmation of no final comment – 15 August 2014

8                 Further comments from Mr Worthington – 18 August 2014