Catto and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2020-178 (22 June 2021)
- Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
- Leigh Pearson
- Paula Rose QSO
- Susie Staley MNZM
- Catherine Catto
BroadcasterTelevision New Zealand Ltd
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about the use of food in an episode of Taskmaster NZ, a game show in which comedians are tasked with completing strange and whacky challenges. The complaint was that the wastage of food and playing with food was offensive and disrespected tikanga. The Authority found in the context of a game show intended to be entertaining and humorous, the content did not undermine community standards or cause harm that justified limiting the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression. The Authority noted that the broadcaster acknowledged the complainant’s concerns relating to tikanga and had discussed this with its content team.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency
 Taskmaster NZ (TVNZ 2) is a local adaptation of a UK game show, in which five comedians are tasked with completing strange and whacky challenges for the purpose of humour and entertainment. In the 18 November 2020 episode, a number of the challenges involved food:
- Participants were told to blow an egg as far from the table it was sitting on as possible, in five minutes, or until the egg broke. Some of the participants’ eggs were eventually shown broken on the ground.
- The participants were given 10 seconds to be as unhealthy as possible. Most participants chose to eat some food as part of this challenge (among other unhealthy activities). One blended up a range of unhealthy food in a blender then drank it, in an attempt to consume as many calories as possible within the time limit.
- Tasked with doing the ‘most impressive thing hands-free’, one participant drank milk from a two-litre milk bottle, hands-free.
- Participants were given 100 seconds to spell the longest word possible using the letters from a bowl of alphabet soup.
 Catherine Catto complained the broadcast breached the good taste and decency standard:
This programme has little respect for food. Tonight's episode had a character drinking [two litres] of milk hands-free and spilling much of the contents on the ground. They further rolled eggs off the table that smashed on the ground. The previous week the characters of the programme also ‘played’ with large amounts of food, and thought it was funny. I was offended as there [is] little regard for the value of food. Food such as eggs and milk cost a considerable amount of any food budget. In these economic times, there are many families in NZ who cannot afford such luxuries. If you contact a food bank you will see the amount of this basic food that is given each week to families including eggs & milk. I wish you to investigate the Tikanga Māori of foods and understand ‘playing’ with food is disrespectful in bicultural Aotearoa NZ.
The broadcaster’s response
 TVNZ did not uphold Ms Catto’s complaint for the following reasons:
- The programme is rated ‘16L’ (16 - people under 16 years should not view; L - contains language that may offend)1 and targeted at an adult audience.
- ‘The [TVNZ Complaints] committee understand that it is wasteful to purposefully misuse food, but this was not the aim of the programme. While some of the tasks involved food items, most were used with the intention of being eaten. The two drinks were spilt while they were being drunk, and in the egg challenge some eggs were accidentally broken. The letters from the soup were used to form words. Wasting food was not the intent of the challenges or the focus of the humour.’
 TVNZ apologised to the complainant for the offence the programme caused her. TVNZ also acknowledged and thanked Ms Catto for her viewpoint on tikanga Māori in relation to food and advised it had discussed this with TVNZ’s content team.
 The good taste and decency standard2 states current norms of good taste and decency should be maintained, consistent with the context of the programme. The standard is intended to protect audiences from content likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards.3
 We have watched the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
 Our starting point is to recognise the important right to freedom of expression, which includes both the broadcaster’s right to offer ideas and information, and the audience’s right to receive those. Our task is to weigh the right to freedom of expression, in terms of the value and any public interest in the broadcast, against any harm potentially caused by the broadcast.4 We may only intervene and uphold a complaint where the potential harm justifies placing a reasonable limit on the right to freedom of expression.
Good Taste and Decency
 Looking at the potential harm in this case, we are mindful when we consider a complaint about taste and decency, we need to reflect current community standards and values within New Zealand’s diverse society.5 This includes recognising the cultural significance of tikanga Māori.6
 However, the context in which the content occurred, and the wider context of the programme, are highly relevant when determining whether a programme has breached this standard.7 The relevant contextual factors we have considered in this case are:
- Taskmaster NZ is a comedy game show where a group of New Zealand comedians are given a series of unusual or whacky challenges for the purpose of entertainment and humour. The programme is categorised by the broadcaster as comedy, ‘crack-up’ and ‘kiwi as’.8
- While there was some wastage of food and playing with food as part of some challenges, this did not dominate the programme; it formed only a small part of the one-hour broadcast.
- The remainder of the programme comprised light-hearted, comedic footage of the participants and banter between the hosts and the participants. Wasting or disrespecting the value of food was not highlighted or joked about, and as submitted by TVNZ nothing in the programme appeared intended to deliberately disrespect tikanga.
 The question is whether in this context, the broadcast exceeded audience expectations or what the community would consider to be acceptable. Taking the programme as a whole, we do not consider the programme material seriously violated community standards, or was likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress.9
 For these reasons, we find the broadcast did not cause actual or potential harm justifying regulatory intervention, or limiting the right to freedom of expression. We therefore do not uphold the complaint. We acknowledge that the broadcaster has taken on board the complainant’s concerns about respecting tikanga and discussed these with its content team.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
Judge Bill Hastings
22 June 2021
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Catherine Catto’s complaint to TVNZ – 19 November 2020
2 TVNZ’s decision on the complaint – 17 December 2020
3 Ms Catto’s referral to the Authority – 17 December 2020
4 TVNZ confirming no further comments – 1 March 2021
5 Further contextual information from TVNZ about when programme (including UK version) first aired – 11 May 2021
1 Guideline 2a
2 Standard 1 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice
3 Commentary: Good Taste and Decency, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 12
4 Commentary: Freedom of Expression, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 6
5 See Singh and Radio Virsa, Decision No. 2019-081 at . See also Cant and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2020-071 at .
6 See Takamore v Clarke  NZSC 116 at 
7 Commentary: Good Taste and Decency, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 12
8 TVNZ “Taskmaster NZ” <www.tvnz.co.nz>
9 Commentary: Good Taste and Decency, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 12