BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Campbell and Television New Zealand Ltd - 1996-019

Members
  • J M Potter (Chair)
  • R McLeod
  • L M Loates
  • A Martin
Dated
Complainant
  • D R Campbell
Number
1996-019
Channel/Station
TV One


Summary

"Stop pissing around" was a phrase included in a promo for Goodnight Sweetheart

broadcast at 7.05pm on 17 November 1995.

Mr Campbell complained to Television New Zealand Ltd about the general crudity of

the promo and referred in particular to the above phrase. He stated that it breached the

broadcasting standard requiring good taste and decency in context.

Maintaining that the phrase was not inappropriate in the PGR time band given the style

of the unusual comedy promoted, TVNZ declined to uphold the complaint. Dissatisfied

with TVNZ's decision, Mr Campbell referred the complaint to the Broadcasting

Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons below, the Authority upholds the complaint.


Decision

The members of the Authority have viewed the item complained about and have read the

correspondence (summarised in the Appendix). As is its practice, the Authority

determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

A trailer for the forthcoming episode of Goodnight Sweetheart was screened on TV One

at 7.05pm on 17 November. The trailer concluded with the main character being told

by his wife to "stop pissing around". Mr Campbell complained to TVNZ about the

"general crudity" of the promo and objected specifically to the expression quoted. He

referred to a concern about a promo for Class Act when, in February 1995, TVNZ had

upheld his complaint that the inclusion of the words "bloody" and "piss off" in a trailer

broadcast in the "G" timeband breached standards G2 and G12 of the Television Code

of Broadcasting Practice. At the time, he had been advised by TVNZ that his concern

would be drawn to the department which made promos in the hope that there would be

no recurrence.

In view of the language contained in the promo for Goodnight Sweetheart, he

questioned the value of TVNZ's assurances.

TVNZ assessed the complaint on this occasion under standard G2 of the Television

Code of Broadcasting Practice which requires broadcasters:

G2  To take into consideration currently accepted norms of decency and taste in

language and behaviour, bearing in mind the context in which any language

or behaviour occurs.


Expressing the opinion that the phrase complained about was very much in the style of

the programme promoted, which was based in the East End of London, TVNZ stated:


The comment is certainly delivered in a comedic way which we consider was

entirely appropriate to include in a promo for the particular episode.


When he referred his complaint to the Authority, Mr Campbell maintained that the

standards which applied were those which reflected New Zealand values – rather than

those of the East End of London or elsewhere. He again referred to TVNZ's decision

in his complaint about a promo for Class Act.

In its report to the Authority, TVNZ reiterated the point that the phrase contained in the

promo accurately reflected the style of the programme being promoted. Most viewers,

it continued, would have found it amusing. As for Mr Campbell's reference to its

earlier decision, TVNZ said that the difference was explained by the time in which the

respective promos had been broadcast. The first one referred to a promo broadcast at

"G" time while the promo for Goodnight Sweetheart had been broadcast in the "PGR"

timeband.

In its consideration of the promo, the Authority focusses on the phrase "stop pissing

around". It accepts, as TVNZ has argued, that the phrase in the context of the

programme is unlikely to be offensive. It could well be seen, as TVNZ maintained, as

humorous.

However, the Authority is not required to decide whether the use of the phrase during

the programme transgresses the standard. The complaint requires it to consider whether

the words in a promo broadcast in "PGR" time would be offensive to a viewer who

may well not be familiar with the style of Goodnight Sweetheart. The relevant aspect of

context – to which the standard refers – is the time of broadcast, which on this occasion

was "PGR" or Parental Guidance Recommended. This point is addressed below.

Although the phrase complained about is not an uncommon colloquial usage, the

Authority is not prepared to consider it part of the New Zealand vernacular. It believes

that it is not acceptable within the currently accepted language norms for all ages. It still

has the potential to shock the listener, and its inclusion in the promo is evidence of that

point. For that reason, the Authority decides that the phrase has, at least, the potential

to breach standard G2.

The Authority is now required by the complaint to examine whether the broadcast is

excused by its inclusion in the "PGR" timeband.

"PGR" signifies to parents and caregivers that the material may be more suitable for

adults and that they should exercise some control. The promo containing the phrase

complained about was broadcast in such a way as not to give a parent any chance to

have an opinion about the promo's quality. The Authority considers that broadcasters

must exercise particular caution in respect to content on such occasions and does not

consider that the reference to the "PGR" timeband is an appropriate justification in itself

for the broadcast.

On the basis that the phrase "stop pissing around" is inappropriate for broadcast at a

time when children could well be watching television, and as caregivers would have had

no opportunity to exercise control, the Authority concludes that the broadcast breaches

standard G2.

 

For the reasons above, the Authority upholds the complaint that the

broadcast by Television New Zealand Ltd of a promo for Goodnight

Sweetheart at about 7.05pm on 17 November 1995 breached standard G2

of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.


Having upheld a complaint, the Authority may impose an order under s.13(1) of the

Broadcasting Act 1989. On the basis that it accepts that the phrase would have been

unlikely to be offensive in the context of the full programme, it does not regard the

breach as sufficiently serious to justify an order.

Promos it notes are in effect advertisements for forthcoming programmes. The

Authority considers that the broadcaster, by asking itself whether the language or

visuals used would be considered offensive if contained in an advertisement at that

hour, will be able to come to a decision as to whether it will be considered offensive

under the broadcasting standards.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Judith Potter
Chairperson
29 February 1996


Appendix

D R Campbell's Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd - 17

November 1995

Don Campbell of Papamoa complained to Television New Zealand Ltd about the

"general crudity" of a promo for Goodnight Sweetheart screened at 7.05pm on 17

November 1995. The promo had included the phrase "Stop pissing around" to which

he specifically objected. Mr Campbell alleged that the broadcast of the promo breached

standard G2 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. He expressed

disappointment that the assurances, given by TVNZ in February 1995 when he had

complained about a promo for Class Act, appeared to be of little worth.

TVNZ's Response to the Formal Complaint - 6 December 1995

Assessing the complaint under standard G2 which requires consideration of the

currently accepted standards of taste and decency, TVNZ argued that the phrase

objected to was "very much in the style of this unusual comedy". Emphasising that the

comedy was based on characters from the East End of London, TVNZ stated that the

remark was delivered in a comedic way and was appropriately included in the promo.

Mr Campbell's Complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority - 22

December 1995

Dissatisfied with TVNZ's response, Mr Campbell referred the complaint to the

Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He

also enclosed TVNZ's reply (dated 13 February 1995) when it had upheld his complaint

about a promo for Class Act.

Again expressing concern at the general crudity of the Goodnight Sweetheart promo,

Mr Campbell argued that the standards in New Zealand - not East London - were the

appropriate ones under which to judge the complaint.

Further, TVNZ's defence on his occasion ran counter to its decision in February 1995

when it ruled that the word "bloody" and the phrase "piss off" in a promo for Class Act

when broadcast in G time breached standards G2 and G12.

TVNZ's Response to the Authority - 17 January 1995

In its report to the Authority, TVNZ argued that context was "all important" when

assessing complaints made under G2. It maintained that the phrase "stop pissin'

around" was not unacceptable in the context of a trailer for a well-established series with

a distinctive style.

TVNZ also pointed out that the promo complained about was broadcast in the PGR

timeband whereas the other one he referred to - Class Act - was broadcast in the G

timeband.

Mr Campbell's Final Comment - 23 January 1996

As TVNZ maintained that the different decisions on his complaints was the result of the

differing timebands in which the promo was screened, in his response to TVNZ Mr

Campbell suggested that it was now TVNZ's responsibility to advise the Authority of

all the times at which the promo for Goodnight Sweetheart had been screened.