BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Shearman and Television New Zealand Ltd - 1995-096

Members
  • J M Potter (Chair)
  • R McLeod
  • L M Loates
Dated
Complainant
  • L Albert B Shearman
Number
1995-096
Programme
Open Home
Channel/Station
TV One


Summary

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.


Decision

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

standards.

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

 

Judith Potter
Chairperson
21 September 1995


Appendix

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

obscured.

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

1995

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

downright lie".

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

commented:

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

producer.

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

their viewers.