Shearman and Television New Zealand Ltd - 1995-096
- J M Potter (Chair)
- R McLeod
- L M Loates
- L Albert B Shearman
BroadcasterTelevision New Zealand Ltd
Architects Ian Athfield and Roger Walker were interviewed on Open Home broadcast
by TV One at 7.30pm on 30 June 1995.
Mr Shearman complained to Television New Zealand Ltd about the t-shirt worn by
Mr Athfield. It was clear that the words "fuck off" were carried on it which, Mr
Shearman said, breached the standard requiring good taste, especially at that hour.
Acknowledging that it was not acceptable to show at that time the wording
complained about on the t-shirt, TVNZ upheld the complaint. The programme's
producer, it reported, had been advised of the need to comply with the standards.
Dissatisfied with the action taken in view of what he regarded as a blatant breach of
the standards, Mr Shearman referred his complaint to the Broadcasting Standards
Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
For the reasons 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.
Wellington architects Ian Athfield and Roger Walker were interviewed on Open Home
programme broadcast by TVNZ at 7.30 pm on 30 June 1995. Mr Athfield was
wearing a t-shirt on which the words "fuck off" were printed twice in such a way as
to suggest Cyrillic lettering.
Pointing out that such an obscenity could have been removed through editing, Mr
Shearman said the broadcast of that material at that time breached the standard
requiring good taste.
TVNZ assessed 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.
TVNZ did not accept the programme producer's claim that the t-shirt was acceptable
because the interviewees were the rebels from the 1960s. Placing emphasis on the
time of the broadcast, TVNZ upheld the complaint. The producer, it added, had been
told of the need for greater care to ensure that Open Home complied with the
Dissatisfied with aspects of TVNZ's reasoning but, in particular, with the action
taken, Mr Shearman referred his complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority.
To indicate the seriousness of the breach, he recalled an occasion in London in the
1960s when a person wearing a similar t-shirt had been sent to prison.
The Authority agreed with TVNZ that the complaint should be upheld. The fame or
otherwise of an interviewee did not excuse the display of the t-shirt at a time when
younger viewers might well have been watching and, the Authority considered, Mr
Athfield should have been asked to wear other clothing, or the t-shirt's lettering
should have been excluded from the visuals. After examining the arguments, the
Authority also agreed that the action taken by TVNZ was appropriate. The t-shirt
should not have been shown and, following the ruling, it is very unlikely that similar
clothing will feature again. On this occasion, the Authority concluded that the action
taken by TVNZ, having upheld the complaint, was sufficient.
For the above reasons, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
21 September 1995
Mr Shearman's Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd - 8 July 1995
L Albert B Shearman of Auckland complained to Television New Zealand Ltd about
the episode of Open Home broadcast at 7.30pm on 30 June by TV One which he
alleged, breached the standard requiring good taste and decency.
Mr Shearman stated that one person being interviewed wore a t-shirt which carried
twice the words "fuck-off". Noting that the obscenity could have been removed
through editing, Mr Shearman also pointed to the hour of broadcast - 7.30pm - when
many younger viewers would have seen the programme. He wrote:
Television is here to entertain and educate. To include such filth in an otherwise
educational and entertaining programme calls into question the suitability and/or
intelligence of the director.
Furthermore, he said, his telephone complaint was received in a disparaging manner
which, he continued, suggested that the culture of TVNZ merited investigation.
TVNZ's Response to the Formal Complaint - 31 July 1995
Advising Mr Shearman that this complaint had been assessed under standard G2 of
the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, TVNZ said that the programme had
involved interviews with architects Roger Walker and Ian Athfield. Mr Athfield had
worn the offending t-shirt although, TVNZ continued, the words were considerably
TVNZ said that the t-shirt was considered acceptable by the producer as Mr Walker
and Mr Athfield were the architect rebels from the 1960s. However, placing
particular emphasis on the time of the broadcast, TVNZ's Complaints Committee
disagreed with the producer and upheld the complaint.
The producer, TVNZ added, had been advised of the need for greater care to ensure
that Open Home complied with the standards.
Mr Shearman's Complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority - 6 August
As Mr Shearman disagreed with the action taken, he referred his complaint to the
Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
He was also dissatisfied with the decision as the offending words were clear to see
and, he maintained, to propose that the words were nearly obscured, was "a
Referring to his experience in the fashion trade in London in the 1960s, Mr Shearman
said that if the architects' work was so outstanding, then it did not require to be
titivated especially by a garment which had no connection with housing. He also
mentioned an incident in Oxford Street from that time when a person wearing a t-shirt
similar to the one worn by Mr Athfield was arrested and later sent to prison. He
If the two Ôoutstanding' architects and the producer are so enamoured with the
1960's perhaps they would accept the same penalty as the above workman! I
feel sure the NZ courts would willingly oblige.
Observing that he was not a prude, Mr Shearman said that to display such an item at
7.30pm showed a total disregard for the feeling of viewers. Open Home on this
occasion, he concluded, reached the depths of depravity.
TVNZ's Response to the Authority - 14 August 1995
In its report to the Authority, TVNZ said that Mr Shearman seemed to have
misunderstood TVNZ's letter. TVNZ said that it had ruled that the programme
breached the standards and that the t-shirt should not have been shown. It concluded:
We were grateful to Mr Shearman for drawing this matter to TVNZ's attention
and we think the right and proper action once the complaint was upheld was to
draw the matter and the requirements of standard G2 to the attention of the
Mr Shearman's Final Comment - 18 August 1995
Suggesting that the lack of clarity in TVNZ's letter was the reason for TVNZ's
comment about misunderstanding, Mr Shearman stated that TVNZ's action - which
he described as "a slap on the wrist" - was insufficient.
Mr Shearman said that the display of the t-shirt was "well-orchestrated" and as the
producer should have been aware of the requirements in the standards:
To my mind a full public apology by TVNZ is the very least they should offer