BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Conn and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2011-106

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Leigh Pearson
Dated
Complainant
  • Carey Conn
Number
2011-106
Channel/Station
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Promos for Nothing Trivial – broadcast during Emmerdale – contained comments, “one guy who’s in serious need of a root” and, “when your husband can’t keep his dick in his pants” – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency and children’s interests standards

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – Emmerdale aimed at adult audience – contextual factors – not upheld

Standard 9 (children’s interests) – broadcaster adequately considered children’s interests by broadcasting the promo during Emmerdale – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcasts

[1]  Two promos for Nothing Trivial, a drama following the personal lives of members of a pub quiz team, were broadcast on 1 and 5 July 2011 on TV One between 12.30pm and 1.30pm, during Emmerdale which was rated PGR.

[2]  In the first promo, the characters were shown talking about their quiz topic strengths, while thinking about their personal lives. A male character was shown thinking, “I do know one guy who’s in serious need of a root,” while looking across the table at his male team mate.

[3]  The second promo focused on one of the female characters who was going through a difficult divorce. The character said in a voiceover, “I’m not an unreasonable woman... but when your husband can’t keep his dick in his pants, tries to steal your self respect, and your business...”

Complaint

[4]  Carey Conn made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the characters’ comments in the promos, “he needs a good root” and “your husband can’t keep his dick in his pants” were inappropriate for broadcast during the day when young children could be watching. He considered that the language was offensive and breached standards relating to good taste and decency and children’s interests.

Standards

[5]  TVNZ assessed the complaints under Standards 1 and 9 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provide:

Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency

Broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency.

Standard 9 Children’s Interests

During children’s normally accepted viewing times (see Appendix 1), broadcasters should consider the interests of child viewers.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[6]  TVNZ contended that to constitute a breach of Standard 1, the broadcast material must be unacceptable in the context in which it was shown, including the programme classification, time of broadcast, target audience, and the use of warnings. It noted that on this occasion, the promos screened during Emmerdale which was rated PGR and broadcast during the Adults Only time-band during a school term when it could be expected that school age children were at school. TVNZ considered that the content of the promos would have been consistent with viewers’ expectations of the Emmerdale series, which had previously contained storylines involving domestic violence, rape, murder, affairs and “one-night-stands”. The broadcaster was of the view that the comments subject to complaint were expressed in colloquial terms, and pointed out that they were not explained or elaborated on in the promos.

[7]  The broadcaster also noted that research conducted by the Authority indicated that the word “dick” was considered acceptable by 70 percent of people surveyed, while the word “root” was not listed in the study.1 TVNZ pointed out that the Authority had previously declined to uphold a Standard 1 complaint about the use of the word “root” in the context of a radio broadcast on a Saturday afternoon during children’s normally accepted listening times, which was targeted at adults. It noted that in that case the word was used in a colloquial manner and that the Authority considered it unlikely that children would be listening without the guidance of an adult.2

[8]  TVNZ concluded that the content of the promos was consistent with Emmerdale’s PGR classification and it declined to uphold the complaint under Standard 1.

[9]  For the same reasons, the broadcaster maintained that it had adequately considered children’s interests in screening the promos during Emmerdale, and it declined to uphold the complaint that the promos breached Standard 9 (children’s interests).

Referral to the Authority

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

[11]  The complainant questioned how the word “root” could be deemed to be inoffensive when broadcast on daytime television, if it had not been tested as part of the Authority’s research. With regard to the Authority’s previous decision, Mr Conn considered that young children were less likely to listen to radio programmes, but “highly likely” to be around while the television was on. He noted that, while school children would be at school, preschool-aged children would be at home and within earshot of the television, and could have picked up the language in the promos. In his view, while Emmerdale sometimes contained adult themes, it did not usually contain bad language.

Authority’s Determination

[12]  The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcasts 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)

[13]  When we consider an alleged breach of good taste and decency, we take into account the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, the relevant contextual factors include:

  • the promos were broadcast between 12.30pm and 1.30pm, during which time PGR and AO programmes may be broadcast (see Appendix 1 to the Code)
  • the promos were broadcast during the school term
  • the promos were broadcast during Emmerdale which was rated PGR
  • Emmerdale’s adult target audience
  • expectations of regular viewers of Emmerdale
  • Nothing Trivial was classified AO and broadcast at 8.30pm.

[14]  We note that the PGR classification is defined as follows in Appendix 1 to the Code:

PGR – Parental Guidance Recommended

Programmes containing material more suited for mature audiences but not necessarily unsuitable for child viewers when subject to the guidance of a parent or an adult.

PGR programmes may be screened between 9am and 4pm, and after 7pm until 6am.

[15]  In our view, Emmerdale is clearly an adult drama, and not targeted at, or likely to appeal to children. While we agree that the promos contained themes and references targeted at an adult audience, we consider that the comments subject to complaint would have gone over the heads of younger viewers, including pre-school-age children who could have been at home at that time. We do not consider that the promos contained any material which warranted a higher classification of Adults Only (although we note that, in accordance with Appendix 1, broadcasters are permitted to screen Adults Only programmes between 12pm and 3pm on weekdays, except during school holidays). We therefore find that the content in the promos was not unsuitable for supervised child viewers, and that it was consistent with Emmerdale’s PGR rating.

[16]  Taking into account the above contextual factors, we find that the promos did not breach Standard 1.

Standard 9 (children’s interests)

[17]  Standard 9 requires broadcasters to consider the interests of child viewers during their normally accepted viewing times – usually up to 8.30pm.

[18]  For the reasons discussed above, we are satisfied that the broadcaster adequately considered children’s interests in screening the promos during Emmerdale. We therefore decline to uphold the complaint under Standard 9.

 

For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
18 October 2011

Appendix

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

1                  Carey Conn’s formal complaint – 7 July 2011

2                 TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 1 August 2011

3                 Mr Conn’s referral to the Authority – 11 August 2011                 

4                 TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 1 September 2011


1See What Not to Swear: The Acceptability of Words in Broadcasting (Broadcasting Standards Authority, 2010)

2See Fearon and RadioWorks, Decision No. 2010-118