Baldwin and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2016-082 (15 December 2016)
- Peter Radich (Chair)
- Paula Rose QSO
- Leigh Pearson
- Alan Baldwin
ProgrammeThe Hard Stuff with Nigel Latta
BroadcasterTelevision New Zealand Ltd
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
An episode of The Hard Stuff with Nigel Latta focused on issues around retirement. At the beginning of the episode, Nigel Latta was transformed into an elderly man using special effects make-up. He reacted to his transformation with the exclamation, ‘Oh my God!’ The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this language was offensive and that presenters of current affairs or documentary programmes should be required to use a higher standard of language. The Authority followed its findings in previous decisions that expressions such as ‘Oh my God’ are often used as exclamations and are not intended to be offensive. It was satisfied that in the context it was used by the presenter, the expression would not generally be considered to threaten current norms of good taste and decency.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency
 An episode of The Hard Stuff with Nigel Latta focused on issues around retirement. At the beginning of the episode, Nigel Latta was transformed into an elderly man using special effects make-up. He reacted to his transformation with the exclamation, ‘Oh my God!’
 Alan Baldwin complained that this language was offensive and that presenters of current affairs or documentary programmes should be required to use a higher standard of language than, for example, interviewees or members of the public.
 The issue is whether the broadcast breached the good taste and decency standard, as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.
 The programme was broadcast at 8.30pm on 23 August 2016 on TV ONE. 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?
 The purpose of the good taste and decency standard (Standard 1) is to protect audience members from viewing broadcasts that are likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards.
The parties' submissions
 Mr Baldwin submitted that the use of the phrase ‘Oh my God’ was objectionable and that, while fictional drama programmes may have more leeway, ‘presenters of documentaries, news programmes and lifestyle programmes should work to a high standard of presentation and should not use words or phrases objectionable to significant segments of the population’.
 TVNZ submitted that the phrase ‘Oh my God’ was acceptable in G and PGR programming. In the episode complained about, the words were used as a mild exclamation because the presenter was shocked at his appearance, and were not intended to offend. TVNZ cited previous decisions by the Authority that found exclamations such as ‘Jesus Christ’, ‘Christ’ and ‘God’ did not offend standards of good taste and decency for a majority of New Zealanders.
 We acknowledge that some people consider the use of expressions containing the word ‘God’ offensive. However, the Authority has previously found that expressions of this nature are commonly used as exclamations, without any intention to be offensive.1 We have recognised that, in many cases, the use of these expressions will not breach broadcasting standards.
 We consider that the same reasoning applies in this case. The presenter appeared to be merely expressing his shock at his appearance following the application of special effects make-up. His comment was an off-the-cuff remark that was not intended to offend.
 We accept the complainant’s argument that our consideration of whether language used is acceptable will differ depending on the context of the programme (for example, whether the speaker is an interviewee or presenter, or whether the programme is a fictional drama programme or a news and current affairs or documentary series). Mr Latta’s remark was made in the context of an important documentary series covering challenging issues, which carried high public interest and high value in terms of the exercise of freedom of expression.
 In the context of the programme as whole, we do not think that the language used by Mr Latta would generally be considered to threaten current norms of good taste and decency. Mr Latta’s style of presentation, and the purpose of the programme, is to present an authentic view on challenging or controversial information. The exclamation by Mr Latta was his genuine reaction to what he saw in the mirror and we do not wish to limit authentic language where the threshold for offence is not reached.
 We therefore do not uphold the complaint under Standard 1.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
15 December 2016
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Alan Baldwin’s formal complaint – 7 September 2016
2 TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 4 October 2016
3 Mr Baldwin’s referral to the Authority – 25 October 2016
4 TVNZ’s confirmation of no further comment – 2 December 2016
1 For example, see Davie and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2015-090