The Broadcasting Standards Authority has not upheld a complaint that a clip from Family Guy, featured in a promo montage for upcoming programmes on TVNZ, breached the good taste and decency standard. The clip showed Peter Griffin, a male cartoon character, sitting on a chair and opening his legs to show his genitals (which were pixelated). The Authority found that, given the time of the broadcast was after 9pm, the fact that Family Guy is a cartoon comedy and that the scene was brief, the promo was not outside audience expectations and did not undermine current norms of good taste and decency. The Authority therefore found any restriction on the right to freedom of expression would be unjustified.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that two answers provided during Mastermind New Zealand, about historical New Zealand events, were inaccurate and unbalanced. The Authority noted that both questions appeared to have been answered accurately by the contestant. Viewers were unlikely to be left misled or misinformed by the omission of further context around these answers, particularly given the well-known quiz format of the programme. The programme did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance, given historical events were raised only briefly in the form of quiz questions, and the requirements of the balance standard therefore did not apply.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance
The Authority did not uphold a complaint that an item on 1 News, which reported on the United States (US) government shutdown, breached the accuracy standard. The Authority found the statement: ‘The crisis began after Democrats refused to sign off on the President’s demands for eight and a half billion dollars to build a border wall with Mexico’, was unlikely to mislead or misinform viewers about the latest events in the US government shutdown, reported on during the item. The Authority noted that in the context of the item as a whole, the presenter’s comment was an acceptable shorthand introduction to the key issues reported on. Finally, in this case the Authority found that the broadcaster was not required, in the interests of accuracy, to specify that the amount sought for the border wall was reported in New Zealand dollars.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
The Authority has not upheld two complaints about episodes of Shortland Street, which followed the ongoing storyline of a threesome between a married couple and their nanny. The Authority acknowledged that some viewers might find this storyline distasteful and that some scenes and references might have raised questions for children. However, the Authority found that various contextual factors, including audience expectations of the long-running television drama and a warning for sexual material, prepared audiences for the likely content and minimised the potential for undue harm. The sexual material and references contained in these episodes were relatively inexplicit, with no nudity or sexual activity beyond kissing shown. Finally, the fictional sexual activity took place between consenting adults and no illegal or seriously antisocial activity was portrayed during the programme. The Authority therefore found no grounds to justify restricting the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Law and Order
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that an episode of Sunday, which investigated gay conversion therapy in New Zealand, was unbalanced and inaccurate. The Authority found the existence of differing viewpoints was pointed to throughout the programme, with balancing comments provided by those featured and in final comments from the presenter. The broadcaster made reasonable efforts to ensure the accuracy of the programme, relying on authoritative medical opinion from health experts regarding current views on gay conversion therapy and the potential harm that could be caused by the practice. In making these findings, the Authority recognised the high public interest in this story and found that upholding the complaint would represent an unjustified and unreasonable limit on the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy
The Authority has not upheld complaints from seven members of the public about an episode of Sunday, which investigated gay conversion therapy and whether this practice was happening in New Zealand. Three individuals were filmed covertly during the programme, appearing to offer gay conversion therapy to an undercover reporter, ‘Jay’, who posed as a young Christian ‘struggling with same sex attraction’. The Authority found that the broadcaster’s use of a hidden camera in this case represented a highly offensive intrusion upon the three individuals’ interest in seclusion. All three individuals were discussing a sensitive matter and could not have reasonably expected their one‑on-one conversation to be recorded in its entirety and broadcast. The Authority found that on its face the broadcast breached the privacy of these individuals. However, in this case the Authority recognised the legitimate public interest in the issue of gay conversion therapy in New Zealand, and the role of investigative journalism in disclosing issues such as this to the New Zealand public. The Authority found that the high level of public interest, both in the programme as a whole and in the hidden camera footage, justified the broadcaster’s use of a hidden camera and therefore did not uphold the privacy complaints.
Not Upheld: Privacy
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that an episode of Breakfast, in which the phrase ‘he rooted my missus’ was read out on air, breached the good taste and decency standard. The Authority found that while the phrase was coarse and may have offended some viewers, the term ‘rooted’ was unlikely to undermine or violate widely shared community norms. Overall, the Authority found that any potential for harm did not justify a restriction on the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency
The Authority has not upheld complaints from two complainants, a Christian organisation and its director, about an episode of Sunday which investigated gay conversion therapy and whether this practice was happening in New Zealand. The director, ‘X’, was filmed covertly during the programme, appearing to offer gay conversion therapy to an undercover reporter, ‘Jay’, who posed as a young Christian ‘struggling with same sex attraction’. The Authority found that the broadcaster’s use of a hidden camera in this case represented a highly offensive intrusion upon X’s interest in seclusion and that, on its face, this broadcast breached their privacy. However, the Authority found that the high level of public interest, both in the programme as a whole and in the hidden camera footage, justified the broadcaster’s use of a hidden camera. Further, the broadcaster complied with its obligations under the fairness standard, providing the complainants with sufficient information about the nature of the broadcast and X’s participation, and a fair and reasonable opportunity to comment in response to the issues raised by the programme. Finally, the Authority found that the broadcast accurately and fairly portrayed the nature of the conversation between X and Jay, and the support and services being offered to him.
Not Upheld: Privacy, Fairness, Accuracy
Warning: This decision contains language that some readers may find offensive
During an interview on Breakfast about a proposed cull of Himalayan tahr, the Minister of Conservation, Hon Eugenie Sage, appeared to use the word ‘cunters’ when referring to the educational effort undertaken by tahr hunters. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the Minister’s use of this word during this interview breached the good taste and decency and discrimination and denigration standards. The use of the word was an accidental slip of the tongue and it was clear that the Minister intended to refer to ‘hunters’ during this section of the interview. The use of the word was not deliberate nor was it used with any malice or invective. The Minister herself acknowledged that she could have enunciated the word ‘hunters’ more clearly during the interview and apologised for any offence it caused. Overall, the Authority found that the use of this term, in the particular context, did not meet the threshold tests for breach of the relevant standards.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about an item on 1 News, which reported on a recent win and the increasing success of the Black Ferns rugby team. The complainant alleged the item was inaccurate and misleading as the number of attendees at the game was incorrectly reported. The Authority found that while the number of attendees was stated incorrectly, this was immaterial to the focus of the item which was the Black Ferns’ win and growing success, and unlikely to affect the audience’s understanding of the programme as a whole.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
During an episode of Seven Sharp the presenter Hilary Barry welcomed a temporary presenter, Matt Chisholm, who responded by saying ‘it’s bloody good to be here’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the use of the word ‘bloody’ breached the good taste and decency standard, finding the use of the term in the context of this programme was not inappropriate or unnecessary. The Authority has consistently found this expression to be colloquial language commonly used as an exclamation in our society. The Authority noted that Seven Sharp is aimed at adult viewers and the expression was not intended to be aggressive or pejorative. Overall, the Authority found that any potential for harm by the use of this term did not justify a restriction on the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency
The Authority did not uphold three complaints about an episode of Sunday that discussed freedom of expression and hate speech and which featured edited excerpts of an interview with Canadian commentators, Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern. The Authority found the broadcast was balanced, containing a wide range of perspectives on a controversial issue of public importance, being the exercise of the right to freedom of expression in New Zealand. The Authority also found that the interview with Mr Molyneux and Ms Southern was used to illustrate points relevant to the wider topic but was not in itself the central focus of the item. The pending visit of Mr Molyneux and Ms Southern was therefore used to frame the issues in the item. The Authority further determined that, while an interview of Mr Molyneux was heavily edited, the extract was unlikely to mislead viewers or result in any undue harm to the reputations of Mr Molyneux or Ms Southern. Finally, the Authority emphasised the importance of public discussion and discourse about the issues of freedom of expression and harmful speech and the important role broadcasts like this play in that discussion.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy, Fairness
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a 1 News item, reporting on a national hikoi against the use of 1080, was unbalanced. The item focused on claims from the Department of Conservation (DOC) and Forest & Bird that the increased protest activity was resulting in a rise in threats to staff. The Authority recognised that the item addressed a controversial issue of public importance and found that it pointed to significant viewpoints on this issue, with comment sought from the hikoi organiser, as well as representatives from DOC, Forest & Bird and the Minister of Conservation. The issue was also widely reported in other news media, during the period of current interest, with viewers therefore likely to be aware of the main perspectives on this narrow issue associated with the 1080 debate. In these circumstances, the Authority found that upholding the complaint would represent an unreasonable and unjustified limit on the broadcasters’ right to editorial discretion and freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Balance
A complaint about the use of the term ‘holiday highway’ during a 1 News item, to refer to the road between Puhoi and Warkworth, was not upheld. The complainant submitted the term ‘holiday highway’ was ‘Labour Party propaganda’, and that its use minimises the seriousness of the road toll in that area and denigrates people who live in North Auckland or Northland. The Authority noted the term has been widely used in the media for a number of years to refer to the road, including prior to the recent General Election, and found it was not used with the malice or condemnation required to constitute a breach of the discrimination and denigration standard.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about an item on 1 News, which reported on the Government’s intention to remove a benefit reduction sanction that can apply to sole beneficiary parents who do not name the remaining parent. The complainant alleged the item was unbalanced and misleading, as the report omitted details about the exemptions that can apply to the sanction, including that a parent will not have to name the other parent where the child or sole parent could be at risk of violence. The Authority found that the focus of this item was the Government’s desire to remove the sanction. The omission of details about the exemptions was therefore not material to the overall focus of the item, and did not mislead viewers. The Authority also found that the balance standard did not apply, as the item was a brief, straightforward news report on the possible legislative change, and did not purport to be an in-depth discussion of the detail and merits of the existing law and proposed change.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Fairness
During an episode of Shortland Street, characters Lincoln and Jack took Nicole out for drinks to take her mind off her attacker. Lincoln, who was previously in a relationship with a man, was shown taking an illegal drug which he gave to Nicole. Later in the episode, Lincoln and Nicole were shown in bed together. In the episode broadcast the following evening, Jack asked Lincoln about being gay and sleeping with Nicole. Lincoln replied that he did not have to ‘put a label on it’, saying, ‘I’m just me’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the programme’s portrayal of Lincoln’s sexuality, by a straight actor, could have damaging effects on young viewers or those struggling with their sexuality. The character explained that he preferred not to use labels and there was no suggestion that Lincoln’s sexual orientation changed under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or that his sexual orientation was ‘a phase’. While the Authority acknowledged that ensuring diversity in casting was an important issue, the casting of straight actors to play gay or queer characters was a decision for the broadcaster. The actor’s portrayal of Lincoln was part of the programme’s fictional narrative, which in context was not in breach of standards. The Authority therefore did not identify any grounds which would justify restricting the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression or dramatic license in this case.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Programme Information, Violence, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Alcohol, Balance, Accuracy, Fairness
A complaint about a promo for Children Who Kill, broadcast at 5:30pm on a weekday during an episode of The Chase, has not been upheld by the Authority. The promo featured footage of a young boy and girl, with a voiceover explaining that the young boy murdered the girl and asking ‘should children who commit murder die behind bars?’ The Authority did not uphold this complaint under the children’s interests or violence standards. The Authority found the promo did not go beyond the expectations of The Chase or TVNZ 1’s mature target audience. The Authority further noted that while murder and death are adult themes, the promo itself did not contain any unduly disturbing or graphic images or detail that required the restriction of the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Children’s Interests, Violence
The Authority has declined to determine a complaint that an interviewee’s reference to ‘the Queen of England’, during an episode of Waka Huia, was inaccurate and discriminatory towards those in the United Kingdom who were not English. The complainant has previously referred a number of complaints about this issue to the Authority, which were either not upheld, with comprehensive reasons given for the Authority’s decision, or which the Authority declined to determine. The complainant’s appeal of a previous decision to the High Court on a similar issue was also dismissed. The Authority therefore declined to determine the complaint under section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989, on the grounds that it was trivial and vexatious.
Declined to Determine: Accuracy, Discrimination and Denigration
The Authority has not upheld two complaints about two episodes from the second season of British dating game show, Naked Attraction, broadcast on TVNZ 2 at 9.30pm on Friday 27 July 2018 and Friday 3 August 2018. During each episode, a clothed individual selected a date from six naked individuals, who were gradually revealed in stages from the feet up, with no blurring or pixelation of nudity. The complaints alleged these episodes of Naked Attraction contained a high level of full-frontal nudity and sexual discussion, which was offensive and contrary to standards of good taste and decency. The complainants also submitted that the programme was degrading and breached the privacy of the participants. The Authority found that while the programme may not have been to everybody’s taste, it was preceded by a clear warning, contained many body-positive messages and those involved in the programme spoke positively of their experiences. Given the tone of the programme, there was no element of exploitation or humiliation of participants and it was clear that they had given their consent to appear on the programme. Overall, the Authority did not consider that the alleged harm caused by the broadcast outweighed the important right to freedom of expression, taking into account the above contextual factors and the protections available to viewers, including a detailed warning, to help them make an informed choice about whether to watch the programme.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration, Privacy
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about an item on 1 News reporting on the separation of migrant families in the United States. The complaint was that references to President Donald Trump’s ‘immigration crackdown’ and ‘Trump’s policy’ of separating children from their parents were misleading, unbalanced and unfair as the relevant law pre-dated Trump’s presidency. The Authority concluded the broadcast did not breach the accuracy, balance or fairness standards, as the references reasonably reflected the Trump administration’s position regarding the enforcement of criminal prosecutions for illegal immigrants. The Authority emphasised the high level of public and political interest in the story and found that any limitation on the right to freedom of expression on this occasion would be unjustified.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Fairness