BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

New and Television New Zealand Ltd - 1994-063

  • I W Gallaway (Chair)
  • J R Morris
  • L M Loates
  • R A Barraclough
  • Maurice New


Grace Under Fire is the title of an American comedy series about a single mother who

works in an oil refinery. It is broadcast on Channel 2 at 8.30pm on Wednesdays.

Mr New complained to Television New Zealand Ltd that a promo for the series, broadcast

at about 8.30pm on Saturday 30 April, contained unacceptable "below the belt" humour.

Acknowledging that the trailer was suggestive, TVNZ said the humour was similar to that

found in a number of British and American programmes. It declined to uphold the

complaint. Dissatisfied with TVNZ's decision, Mr New 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 declined to uphold 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 has

determined the complaint without a formal hearing.

A promo advertising the series Grace Under Fire was broadcast on Channel Two on 30

April 1994 just before 8.30pm and contained a series of ribald one-liners from an

upcoming episode. Mr New complained that the humour was embarrassing and

objectionable "below the belt comedy" regarding how women could use vegetables. He

added that he had seen an episode the previous week and considered it to be 30 minutes

of lewd and offensive innuendo. However, he noted, at least he could choose not to watch

it again whereas he had no such choice about watching a promo.

TVNZ reported that it had assessed Mr New's 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.

TVNZ acknowledged that the humour had been suggestive, but argued that it hardly

seemed to qualify as indecent or lacking in taste as defined in standard G2. It maintained

that the promo accurately reflected the type of innuendo which is a characteristic of Grace

Under Fire, arguing that it is a type of humour which has been common in British and

American comedy for many years, not only in television but in the theatre and cinema as

well. While it apologised for offence caused to Mr New, it did not believe that standard G2

was breached by the screening of the promo and declined to uphold the complaint.

The Authority accepted Mr New's argument that viewers have a choice about whether or

not to watch a programme whereas there is no choice about a promo, and accordingly

made the observation that broadcasters should be particularly careful about the content of

the promos screened. It accepted that this promo was designed to capture the essence of

the programme, as well as to arouse interest among potential viewers. In the compilation

of promos, the excerpts chosen may be somewhat provocative and consequently

broadcasters must be careful when showing brief extracts out of context. Heard out of

context a remark may be more likely to cause offence, especially if the material is shown

during family viewing periods or at the beginning of the Adults Only classification period.

Turning to the actual content of this promo, the Authority agreed that the humour could

be regarded by some as being coarse and suggestive, and containing sexual innuendo,

especially when taken out of context and juxtaposed with a number of other suggestive

lines. However, the Authority considered that it was unlikely to have caused offence to

many adult viewers, and that children would not have understood the innuendo because,

while it was possible to interpret the remark about vegetables as sexually suggestive, it

was also possible to put other meanings on it. Accordingly, the Authority declined to

uphold the complaint.


For the reasons set forth above, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Iain Gallaway
15 August 1994


Mr New's Complaint to Television New Zealand Limited

In a letter dated 1 May 1994, Mr Maurice New of Auckland complained to Television New

Zealand Ltd about the promo for the programme Grace Under Fire broadcast just before

8.30pm on Channel 2 on 30 April.

Describing the promo as "below the belt humour" about the use of vegetables by women,

Mr New stated that this type of humour was unacceptable. He noted that he had seen an

earlier episode of the programme containing "lewd and offensive innuendo" and that he

could choose not to watch it again. However, the promo was broadcast without warning.

TVNZ's Response to the Formal Complaint

TVNZ advised Mr New of its Complaints Committee's decision in a letter dated 31 May

1994. It reported that the complaint had been considered under standard G2 of the

Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

While accepting that the trailer broadcast in "PGR" time was suggestive, TVNZ denied that

it was indecent in contravention of the standard. It argued that the trailer portrayed the

type of innuendo in the programme which reflected humour common to British and

American audiences. Similar innuendo, it continued, had been used by Lucy Arnez and

Carol Burnett, and Benny Hill and Dick Emery had gone further.

It declined to uphold the complaint.

Mr New's Complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority

Dissatisfied with TVNZ's decision, in a letter dated 6 June 1994 Mr New referred the

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

Act 1989.

Expressing his strong disagreement with TVNZ's ruling, Mr New maintained that the

promo implied that women stick vegetables in their vaginas. Such humour, he added,

breached the currently accepted norms of language and behaviour.

Mr New stated that he had watched many programmes containing the American actresses

that TVNZ had referred to but could not recall either woman making or implying a similar

suggestion. He concluded by asking:

(a) was the innuendo shown in the promo also in the programme when

broadcast in full.

(b) Could TVNZ provide footage of either of the two American actresses

mentioned "implying that they too think it's funny to suggest that they stick

vegetables up their vaginas"?

TVNZ's Response to the Authority

As is its practice, the Authority sought the broadcaster's response to the referral. Its letter

is dated 9 June 1994 and TVNZ's reply, 14 June.

Stating that it had little new to add, TVNZ repeated, first, that "saucy innuendo" was and

had been the mainstay of television comedy for many years and, secondly, that the

example in the trailer represented nothing new.

Mr New's Response to the Authority

When asked for a brief comment on TVNZ's reply, in a letter dated 25 June 1994 Mr New

referred to the time the promo was broadcast - before 8.30pm - and disagreed with TVNZ

that the trailer represented nothing new. He wrote:

I have never previously heard this sort of thing implied by innuendo on any

publicly broadcast television show.