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Brock and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2008-004

Members
  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • Diane Musgrave
Dated
Complainant
  • Jim Brock
Number
2008-004
Programme
Eating Media Lunch
Channel/Station
TV2

Complaint under section section 8(1B)(b)(i)
Eating Media Lunch – “channel-surfing” segment – brief shot of “viewer’s” hands masturbating a penis-shaped dildo in front of the television – allegedly in breach of standards of good taste and decency

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – penis was obviously not real – contextual factors – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]    An episode of Eating Media Lunch, broadcast at 10pm on TV2 on 16 November 2007, contained a segment in which a “viewer” channel-surfed through a number of television programmes, some fabricated. The segment was constructed from the viewer’s point of view, so that the audience could see only the viewer’s hands. On three occasions, the viewer changed the channel to TV3, which was screening the breakfast show Sunrise. Each time, the viewer’s hands were shown doing something in the foreground. The first part of the segment showed the viewer dunking a tampon into a teacup. The second time the viewer changed to TV3, his hands were shown masturbating a penis-shaped dildo in front of the television. The third part of the segment showed a toy gun move off-screen, followed by the sound of a gunshot.

Complaint

[2]   Jim Brock complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the programme breached Standard 1. He said:

I object to the way an erect penis was waved and whacked about in the forefront of the screen in the item satirising infomercials.

[3]   Mr Brock said that it “was obviously a calculated affront to good taste and was essentially pornographic and depraved”.

Standards

[4]   Standard 1 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice is relevant to the determination of this complaint. It provides:

Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[5]   TVNZ contended that to constitute a breach of Standard 1, the broadcast material must be unacceptable to a significant number of viewers in the context in which it was shown, including the time of broadcast, the programme’s target audience, its classification, and the use of warnings.

[6]   The broadcaster pointed out that the programme was rated Adults Only, screened at 10pm, and was preceded by a verbal and visual warning: “This programme is rated Adults Only. It contains language that may offend some people.” It argued that the rating and warning gave a precise indication that the material in the programme would be adult in nature, and gave viewers ample opportunity to decide if they wanted to watch the programme. TVNZ said that as the programme screened one-and-a-half hours after the AO watershed, there was some expectation that the content would be more challenging than material shown in an AO programme at 8.30pm. It also noted that the segment was in the second part of the programme.

[7]   TVNZ argued that the skit satirised the “wholesome” advertising campaign for the breakfast show Sunrise, which showed a viewer having breakfast while watching the programme.

[8]   The broadcaster maintained that the masturbating skit was not pornographic as no actual masturbation took place. It said it was staged using a dildo, which was handled in a way that was “patently ridiculous and over the top... designed to be humorous and nothing else”, and was not intended to arouse or titillate viewers. TVNZ maintained that the Sunrise skit was obviously constructed and did not include any real sexual material or full-frontal nudity.

[9]   TVNZ emphasised that Eating Media Lunch was in its seventh season and the type of material it contained was well-known to its intended audience. It said that Eating Media Lunch has “earned itself a reputation for presenting satirical matter in such an outrageous fashion that it makes fun of the very concept of ‘taste’”. TVNZ maintained that the Sunrise skit was obviously satirical and the intended audience of Eating Media Lunch would have understood it as such.

[10]   TVNZ concluded that the “channel surfing” skit would not have offended a significant number of viewers in the context of a satirical programme such as Eating Media Lunch which was rated AO, screened after 10pm and preceded by a warning indicating that the programme contained “adult” content. It declined to uphold the complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[11]   Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Mr Brock referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

[12]   The complainant described the section of the programme he objected to, saying “a dildo which had the appearance of a large erect penis was manipulated in the forefront of the screen while other activity took place behind”. He said that, on reflection, he accepted TVNZ’s assertion that this depiction was not “pornographic in nature”, but he still believed it was obscene and in breach of Standard 1.

[13]   Mr Brock argued that regardless of what preceded or followed this part of the programme, “it was clearly not in good taste or decent”. He said that he felt that the majority of the general public of New Zealand would agree with him.

[14]   The complainant said he accepted TVNZ’s assertion that Eating Media Lunch had gained notoriety and viewers were therefore aware of its likely content, but that this “in no way excuses the programme makers from their statutory obligations regarding ‘Good Taste and Decency’”.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[15]   In response to Mr Brock’s referral, TVNZ said that a number of different programmes on many different television stations had included footage of dildos.

Authority's Determination

[16]   The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.  The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

Standard 1 (good taste and decency)

[17]   When the Authority considers a complaint which alleges a breach of good taste and decency it is required to take into consideration the context of the broadcast. On this occasion the relevant contextual factors include:

  • the programme was broadcast at 10pm, one-and-a-half hours after the AO watershed
  • the programme was classified AO
  • the adult target audience of the programme
  • the programme was preceded by a verbal and visual warning
  • Eating Media Lunch is well-known for its satire and challenging content
  • the expectations of regular viewers.

[18]   The Authority agrees with TVNZ that the skit satirised the advertising campaign for the breakfast programme Sunrise, which showed a viewer eating breakfast and drinking coffee in front of the television while watching the programme.

[19]   The Authority finds that it would have been clear to viewers that the dildo was not a real penis and that the unseen character in the skit was not really masturbating, especially given the programme’s reputation and satirical nature. The Authority notes that the masturbation sequence was extremely brief, lasting only a few seconds.  

[20]   Further, the preceding part of the segment showed the “viewer” dunking a tampon into his teacup, and the third section showed a toy gun and implied the “viewer” had shot himself. The opening section clearly indicated the farcical and satirical nature of the segment, and by the time the skit concluded with the staged suicide, it would have been abundantly clear to the audience that the “masturbation skit” did not involve a real penis.

[21]   Although the obvious nature of the joke did not make the skit more acceptable to the complainant, it is nevertheless a relevant consideration for the Authority in the context of a satirical programme which, by its very nature, will often challenge and push boundaries of good taste. Taking into account the contextual factors outlined above, the Authority finds that Standard 1 was not breached on this occasion.

 

For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
30 April 2008

Appendix

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

1.           Jim Brock’s formal complaint – 18 November 2007
2.           TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 18 December 2007
3.           Mr Brock’s referral to the Authority – 28 December 2007
4.           TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 13 March 2008