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Antrobus and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2012-015

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Sarah Antrobus

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Promo for Bad Santa – promo screened during family Christmas movie The Santa Clause 2 – contained brief shots of “Bad Santa” smoking and throwing a rock at a car windshield – “Bad Santa” told child sitting on his knee that he “loved a woman who wasn’t clean” and when asked if that was Mrs Santa he replied “No, it was her sister” – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency and children’s interests standards

Standard 9 (children’s interests) – sexual references were implied and would have gone over the heads of younger viewers – promo was correctly rated PGR and did not contain any material which warranted a higher classification of AO – broadcaster adequately considered children’s interests – not upheld

Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – most viewers would not have been offended by the promo when broadcast in this context – not upheld

 This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1]  A promo for the movie Bad Santa was broadcast at approximately 8.15pm on 17 December 2011, during the family movie The Santa Clause 2 which was rated PGR. At the start of the promo a voiceover said, “You better watch out, Santa Claus is coming to town.” Brief shots of “Bad Santa” drinking, smoking and throwing a rock at a car windshield were shown. “Bad Santa” then had the following exchange with a child sitting on his knee:

Child:               [Looking at Santa’s beard] It’s not real.

Santa:              I got sick and all the hair fell out.

Child:               How’d you get sick?

Santa:              I loved a woman who wasn’t clean.

Child:               Mrs Santa?

Santa:             No, it was her sister.

[2]  Sarah Antrobus made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that “references were made to sleeping with Santa’s wife’s sister and Santa drinking alcohol”, and that the promo should not have been broadcast during a “Christmas children’s film”.

[3]  The issue is whether the promo breached Standards 1 (good taste and decency) and 9 (children’s interests) of the Free-to-Air 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 broadcaster adequately consider children’s interests?

[5]  Standard 9 requires broadcasters to consider the interests of child viewers during their normally accepted viewing times – usually up to 8.30pm. Guideline 9a states that broadcasters should be mindful of the effect any programme or promo may have on children during these times, and avoid screening material that would disturb or alarm them.

[6]  The promo for Bad Santa was rated PGR and screened at approximately 8.15pm during the family movie The Santa Clause 2. The PGR classification explicitly allows for programmes containing material more suited for mature audiences, though not necessarily unsuitable for child viewers when subject to adult supervision (see Appendix 1 to the Code).

[7]  TVNZ maintained that the footage in the promo was “not explicit or inappropriate”, and that children’s interests had been considered by only including inexplicit references to sexual matters, which was acceptable in PGR time.

[8]  While we can understand the complainant’s view that the scheduling of a promo depicting a “bad santa” during a children’s movie about Santa Claus was somewhat surprising, we are satisfied that the promo did not contain any material that was likely to disturb or alarm children, or which warranted a higher classification of Adults Only. While adults would have noted the visual suggestion that “Bad Santa” was drunk, there was no explicit reference to Santa drinking alcohol. Any implicit reference to sexual activity – that is, “Bad Santa’s” comment, “I loved a woman who wasn’t clean”, and the following comment that the woman was Mrs Santa’s sister – would have gone over the heads of younger viewers, and was intended to be comedic. Accordingly, the content was consistent with its PGR rating, and was not unsuitable for child viewers under the guidance of an adult.

[9]  We consider that the potential harm caused in terms of the objectives of Standard 9 would have been minimal, and not at a level which would justify restricting the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression. We are satisfied that the broadcaster adequately considered children’s interests, and we therefore decline to uphold the complaint that Standard 9 was breached.

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

[10]  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

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

  • the promo was broadcast at 8.15pm on a Saturday, during children’s viewing times
  • the promo was broadcast during a family movie, The Santa Clause 2, which was rated PGR
  • the host programme’s target audience
  • Bad Santa was classified AO and screened at 9pm.

[12]  We do not consider that most viewers would have been offended by the promo when screened in this context, for the reasons outlined in relation to Standard 9 above.

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


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Radich
1 May 2012


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

1                  Sarah Antrobus’ formal complaint – 17 December 2011

2                 TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 7 February 2012

3                 Ms Antrobus’ referral to the Authority – 8 February 2012

4                 TVNZ’s response to the referral – 15 February 2012

5                 Ms Antrobus’ final comment – 23 February 2012

6                 TVNZ’s final comment – 8 March 2012

1Turner and TVNZ, Decision No. 2008-112

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