BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Lowe and Television New Zealand Ltd - 1996-034

  • J M Potter (Chair)
  • A Martin
  • L M Loates
  • R McLeod
  • John Lowe


A view of male genitalia was electronically obscured during a sequence in the

programme Heartland: Glenorchy in which three naked men were shown sliding along a

patch of wet grass. The programme broadcast on TV One at 8.35pm on 9 January 1996

was a repeat broadcast.

Mr Lowe complained to Television New Zealand Ltd that the use of the electronic

technique breached a number of broadcasting standards as it encouraged unhealthy

attitudes by implying that parts of the body should be hidden.

Pointing out that Mr Lowe's complaint on similar grounds had not been upheld by the

Authority when the item was broadcast in March 1994, TVNZ declined to uphold this

complaint as, it maintained, the earlier reasoning remained valid. Dissatisfied with both

TVNZ's decision and aspects of the Authority's reasoning on the earlier decision, Mr

Lowe referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of

the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons given below, the Authority, declines to determine the complaint.


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.

Following the broadcast of Heartland: Glenorchy on 15 March 1994, Mr Lowe

complained to TVNZ that the electronic masking of the genitalia of three naked men

shown sliding naked through the wet grass breached the programme standards. TVNZ

declined to uphold the complaint and it was referred to the Authority. After assessing

the complaint under standards G1, G2, G3, G5, G7, G12, G13 and G19 of the

Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, the Authority wrote (No: 51/94, 30 June


In assessing the complaint, the Authority focused on the standard G2 requirement

for good taste and decency in context. It agreed with TVNZ that it would

contravene the accepted norms of decent behaviour to show, without good

reason, a close-up of male genitalia on a programme which TVNZ explained was

targeted at a family audience. Indeed, the Authority would like to commend

TVNZ for the compromise involved in the broadcast. As noted, the portrayal of

male genitalia would likely have given rise to complaints while the deletion of the

segment would have removed part of the programme which depicted some

exuberant behaviour. The Authority believed the compromise retained the light-

hearted aspects of the item in such a way which did not focus on the technique

used to remove the broadcast of the genitalia.

It declined to uphold the complaint.

A repeat of Heartland: Glenorchy was broadcast on 9 January 1996. Mr Lowe again

complained about the electronic technique used to mask the genitalia of three naked men

sliding in the grass. On this occasion, he alleged breaches of standards G1, G5, G12

G13 and G19 of the Code. TVNZ declined to uphold the complaint and, when it was

referred to the Authority, suggested that the Authority use its powers in s.11 of the Act

to decline to determine the complaint.

Having examined the papers, the Authority is of the opinion that the relevant issues

were addressed in Decision No: 51/94. Accordingly, it is adopting TVNZ's proposal.


For the above reasons, the Authority declines to determine the complaint

in all the circumstances under s.11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Judith Potter
21 March 1996


John Lowe's Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd - 10 January


Mr Lowe of Oakura complained to Television New Zealand Ltd about the broadcast of

Heartland: Glenorchy on 9 January 1996. At about 9.25pm, he wrote, a 15 second

sequence showed three naked men skidding on their stomachs on the wet grass. He


For just one second, as one of the participants stood, his penis (already largely

obscured by his arm) was electronically masked. At the point in question that

person was framed: "medium shot" (head to groin) putting the pubic hair at the

bottom of the frame, largely out of the "action area".

Mr Lowe maintained that the broadcast breached standards G1, G5, G12, G13 and G19

of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. Standard G1 requires factual accuracy

and was contravened, he said, as the item hid the fact that a male has a penis. Under

standard G5, broadcasters are required to respect the principles of law which, Mr Lowe

argued, was transgressed as nakedness in a public place is not illegal unless reasonable

people find it annoying or insulting and uncommon in the place it occurs. He


I accept that it may be uncommon to see naked men on a race course but it was

clear in these circumstances, none of the persons present were annoyed or

insulted: quite the contrary.

Standard G12 requires broadcasters to be mindful of the effect of a programme on

children which, Mr Lowe said, while acknowledging that the PGR rated programme

was screened outside children's normal viewing hours, could corrupt children's attitude

to their bodies.

As programmes which displayed naked black men did not use masking, Mr Lowe

claimed, its use when naked white men were shown encouraged discrimination. Finally

he wrote, the standard G19 requirement that editing not distort was breached as the

programme was not clearly a "reflection" of the original event.

Mr Lowe concluded:

My concern is that deliberate, mandatory concealment of the human form, blocks

an aspect of development in the child: there is a simple need to know the true form

of one's own species. Maintained through puberty, that block creates a

potentially serious confusion between sex and nudity. It leads to deviant

behaviour such as voyeurism, at the lower end of the scale and exacerbates

molestation and abuse in the worst cases.

TVNZ's Response to the Formal Complaint - 18 January 1996

TVNZ recalled that Mr Lowe's complaint about the programme when first screened in

March 1994 had been declined by the Authority and it had written (No: 51/94):

" ... the Authority believed TVNZ took the sensible course in screening the item

in the format shown ..."

TVNZ continued:

We do not propose to repeat the arguments we used in declining to uphold your

earlier complaint about this programme but believe they remain valid.

As some different arguments had been advanced on this occasion, TVNZ responded

briefly to each one. Masking had not suggested that men did not have penises - rather,

it said, "waving them about on national television" was an unacceptable form of

expression. The item had not suggested that anything illegal was occurring, and was

not shown in children's normal viewing hours. Describing the discrimination argument

as "nonsense" as there was no evidence in support, TVNZ also maintained that as it was

quite clear what was occurring, the event had not been distorted.

Declining to uphold the complaint, TVNZ concluded:

Finally we make the observation that a series like "Heartland" is not one in which

the viewer would expect to be confronted by a male penis. By masking the penis,

a device which in no way detracted from the storyline, we spared many viewers

embarrassment and avoided giving unnecessary offence.

Mr Lowe's Complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority - 13

February 1996

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

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

At considerable length, he advanced a number of arguments which, overall, supported

the view advanced in William Hartman's "Nudist Society" (p292) which he quoted.

There is a quality of honesty and forthrightness in not hiding genitals as

something precious or disgusting, and an ability to be proud of self as an

acceptable unit rather than accentuating one body part or another. In this situation

there is a reduction of tension. ... Along with reduction of tension there is

reduction of hostility. ... In team sports there was competition, skill and

enthusiasm but there was no show of hostility toward team mates who goofed or

toward opponents. ... This reduction of hostility was strikingly evident in the

kindly way in which the children were treated. They were dealt with by the

parents and others as worthwhile individuals.

TVNZ's Response to the Authority - 19 February 1996

When asked to comment on the referral, TVNZ said that as Mr Lowe had lodged a

complaint on similar grounds about the March 1994 broadcast, it submitted that the

Authority should decline to determine the present complaint on the grounds that it was


Mr Lowe's Final Comment - 29 February 1996

In response to TVNZ's suggestion that the Authority decline to determine the complaint

as vexatious, Mr Lowe stated that he regarded the complaint about the rebroadcast as an

opportunity to have clarified the Authority's reasoning on the individual standards

which he alleged had been breached on each occasion. He considered that to be

important as he was not aware of complaints about programmes which TVNZ had

broadcast which contained explicit innocent nudity.

Explaining that an appeal to the High Court was fiscally untenable, Mr Lowe concluded:

I have received and understood the BSA's view under G2 and therefore remove

that, along with G3 and G7, from this complaint. The Authority's views on the

remainder of the codes are keenly sought. The Authority claims to respond to a

complainant's real concerns: that I would greatly appreciate. Also appreciated

would be elucidation of just what "valid points" the Authority has perceived me

to have made.