BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Burton and TV3 Network Services Ltd - 1997-021

  • J M Potter (Chair)
  • R McLeod
  • L M Loates
  • A Martin
  • Peggy Burton


Sexual issues were explored on the series Sex/Life broadcast on Wednesdays on TV3 at

8.30pm between August and December 1996. Menopause and the art of seduction

were two of the issues discussed in the programme broadcast on 11 September 1996.

Mrs Burton, in complaining to TV3 Network Services Ltd about the series Sex/Life as a

whole and the particular programme, expressed the view that the programmes,

broadcast at 8.30pm, were unsuitable for many viewers, particularly very young


TV3 explained that 8.30pm was the designated watershed at which television networks

may place Adults Only programmes. It considered that slot was appropriate for the

series Sex/Life given the series' aim to inform through entertainment. It said that

explicit warnings were given as to each programme's content, and referred to viewers'

expectations from its title and previous similar programmes. TV3 declined to uphold

the complaint.

Dissatisfied with TV3's response, Mrs Burton referred the complaint to the

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

For the reasons given below, the Authority upholds the complaint.


The members of the Authority have viewed a number of programmes from the series,

including the particular programme complained about, and have read the

correspondence relating to this complaint (summarised in the Appendix). As is its

practice, the Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

The series Sex/Life, broadcast on TV3 at 8.30pm on Wednesdays between August and

December 1996, dealt with a variety of sexual matters and, according to TV3, was

designed both to educate and to entertain. The programme broadcast on 11 September

1996 dealt with, among other things, aphrodisiacs, menopause and the art of seduction.

Mrs Burton complained to TV3 Network Services Limited that the material broadcast on

Sex/Life contained visually explicit sexual scenes, and as such was dangerous to many

viewers, particularly young people.

In response, TV3 advised that the programmes in the series were classified AO and

broadcast in the time slot designated for that classification. It noted further that

preceding each programme there was a strong warning about its explicit content and that

it was AO classified. TV3 said that the title clearly defined the subject matter of the

programmes and the audience should have had a realistic expectation of them.

TV3 emphasised that the aim of the series was to inform and entertain in a non-

judgmental way, and it considered that any discussion of morals in such a forum was

not appropriate.

In referring her complaint to the Authority, Mrs Burton made the point that not all

parents monitored their children's viewing, and she was concerned for the younger

children who may have seen the programmes. She expressed particular concern about

the programme broadcast on 11 September which was during the school holidays.

Mrs Burton complained both about the series as a whole and one particular programme

in the series.

The Authority refers to Decision Nos: 1996-183, 1996-184, and 1996-185, issued

jointly, in which it explained that its role under the Broadcasting Act 1989 is to consider

only nominated programmes. These Decisions, dated 17 December 1996, dealt with

complaints about Sex/Life. On this occasion the Authority is assessing the programme

in the Sex/Life series broadcast on 11 September 1996. The Authority considers the

complaint 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.

In the Decisions noted above, the Authority stated:

The Authority has given careful consideration to what was advertised and

described by TV3 as a series dealing with important sexual issues, including

relationship problems, in a non-threatening and open manner with a non-

judgmental stance, as well as a some items designed for entertainment. While

the Authority acknowledges that the series has a worthy social and educational

intent, the overall impression of the programmes at issue is that the programmes

are intended for adult entertainment. While this may be appropriate for a

9.30pm or later time slot, the Authority does not consider that the taste and

decency requirements are met by these programmes being broadcast at 8.30pm

on a free-to-air channel. The Authority in reaching this view takes into account

not only each item in the programmes, but also the overall impression given by

the programmes. Consequently, it upholds the complaints that it was

inappropriate to broadcast the programmes complained about at 8.30pm.

The Authority gains the overall impression from the programme broadcast on 11

September that it was designed for adult entertainment, and it endorses in respect of this

programme the comments made in its earlier decisions. It upholds the complaint that it

was inappropriate for the programme to be broadcast at 8.30pm.


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

programme in the Sex/Life series broadcast by TV3 Network Services

Limited on 11 September at 8.30pm breached standard G2 of the

Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

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

Broadcasting Act 1989. It does not do so on this occasion considering the fact that the

series has now ended, the programme was preceded by a warning as to its content, and

did have an educational intent which was in some part met.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Judith Potter
6 March 1997


Mrs Burton's Complaint to TV3 Network Services Ltd – 1 November

Peggy Burton of Wellington made an informal complaint to TV3 Network Services Ltd

on 11 September 1996 and, following the response she received, made a formal

complaint about the series Sex/Life, broadcast on Wednesdays, from August through to

December on TV3 at 8.30pm. She also referred to the particular programme broadcast

on 11 September 1996. She believed that much of the material broadcast during the

series was nothing but voyeurism and as such, was dangerous to many viewers,

particularly young people.

TV3's Response to the Formal Complaint – 19 November 1996

TV3 said that while it appreciated Mrs Burton's comments and concerns, it believed the

time slot at which the series was broadcast was appropriate given the programme's

focus to inform through entertainment, and the fact that it played in Adults Only time

with an explicit warning and censors' cuts. It said that there was an audience

expectation from its title, and other similar series broadcast, that it was a series which

dealt with explicit sexual matters.

Mrs Burton's Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 
1 December 1996

Dissatisfied with TV3's response, Mrs Burton referred her complaint to the

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

Mrs Burton reiterated her concerns that the series was harmful to those young people

watching it. She said that the particular programme on 11 September was broadcast

during the school holidays making it more likely that younger viewers would be

watching at 8.30pm. She believed that the warnings preceding the programmes were

enticements to younger viewers to watch the programmes.

TV3's Response to the Authority – 13 December 1996

TV3 advised that it had no further comments to make.