BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Atkinson, Davies and Dove and TV3 Network Services Ltd - 1996-183, 1996-184, 1996-185

Members
  • J M Potter (Chair)
  • R McLeod
  • L M Loates
  • A Martin
Dated
Complainant
  • Bob Atkinson, Evan Davies, Maria Dove
Number
1996-183–185
Programme
Sex/Life
Channel/Station
TV3


Summary

Sexual issues were explored on the series Sex/Life broadcast on Wednesday on TV3 at

8.30pm. Oral sex and sexual positions were the topics for the last items in the

programmes broadcast on 16 September and 2 October 1996 respectively. A promo

for a programme in the series was also broadcast at 8.46pm on 20 August 1996.

Mr Atkinson and Ms Dove respectively complained to TV3 Network Services Ltd

about the Sex/Life programmes on 16 September and 20 October and Mr Davies

complained to TV3 that the series as a whole and the promo in particular were in his

view degrading. Mr Atkinson's concern was that the programme was broadcast too

early in the evening, and that the item about oral sex encouraged its practice. Ms Dove

was of the view that the physical demonstrations and verbal descriptions of sexual

positions in the relevant item were unsuitable for television viewing, and that the

programme promoted sex as an act for sexual pleasure without reference to its place in

a committed loving relationship.

TV3 explained to the complainants that the series Sex/Life was classified as Adults

Only with the specific items complained about being broadcast around 9.30pm. It

considered the 8.30 time slot was appropriate for the series given its aim to inform

through entertainment. It said that explicit warnings were given as to the programme's

content, and referred to viewers' expectations from its title and previous similar

programmes. It declined to uphold the specific complaints.

Dissatisfied with TV3's decision Mr Atkinson, Mr Davies and Ms Dove referred the

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

Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons below, the Authority upholds the complaints made by Mr Atkinson and

Ms Dove, but declines to uphold the complaint made by Mr Davies.


Decision

The members of the Authority have viewed the programmes and promo complained

about, and have read the correspondence (summarised in the Appendices). As is its

practice, the Authority determines the complaints without a formal hearing.

The series Sex/Life broadcast on TV3 at 8.30pm on Wednesday between August and

December 1996 dealt with a variety of sexual matters. The final item screened on 16

September and 2 October dealt with respectively, sexual positions and oral sex. A

promo for a particular programme in the series was broadcast at 8.46pm on 20 August

1996.

Mr Atkinson complained to TV3 Network Services Ltd that 8.30pm was too early in

the evening for the 2 October 1996 programme to be broadcast. He believed that the

programme, and in particular the item about oral sex, encouraged young people to

indulge in deviant behaviour. He considered that the woman who was leading the item

about oral sex encouraged people to indulge in it, which in his view was dangerous

given the diseases able to be contracted during oral sex.

TV3 assessed his complaint under standards G1 and G2 of the Television Code of

Broadcasting Practice which require broadcasters:

G1   To be truthful and accurate on points of fact.

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.


TV3 explained that the programme Sex/Life was AO classified and was preceded by a

strong warning about its contents. It argued that the subject matter of the programme

was precisely defined by its title Sex/Life so the audience should have had a realistic

expectation of its contents. In relation to the item about oral sex, TV3 explained that

the last item on the programme always dealt with the emotional rather than medical

aspects of sex, the medical being dealt with earlier in the programme. However, TV3

pointed out that it was stated in the specific item about oral sex that "some STDs can

be transferred by oral sex". The programme Sex/Life, it said, actively promoted the

use of condoms for safer sex.

In referring his complaint to the Authority, Mr Atkinson reiterated his view that the

presenter encouraged people to experiment with oral sex, which he considered

objectionable on the basis that diseases were able to be passed from one person to

another during oral sex.

Mr Davies complained to TV3 that the series was inappropriate for a midweek mid-

evening audience as well as being offensive to most people. The promo broadcast on

20 August 1996 he considered to be degrading and pornographic.

TV3 considered Mr Davies' complaint under standard G2 of the Television Code of

Broadcasting Practice and, additionally, under standard G8 in which broadcasters are

required:

G8   To abide by the classification codes and their appropriate time bands as

outlined in the agreed criteria for programme classifications


While TV3's response to Mr Davies in regard to his concern about the programme

was similar to that sent to Mr Atkinson, in respect of the complaint about the promo

it commented that the Sex/Life promos were made in both G and PGR/AO classified

versions and were placed according to those classifications in the appropriate time

bands. The promo at issue, TV3 advised, was classified AO and played during an AO

classified programme and at 8.46pm, an AO time band. TV3 declined to uphold Mr

Davies' complaints.

In response to Mr Davies' referral of the complaint to the Authority, TV3 commented

that it did not believe that it was inappropriate to provide information that might

improve or, in the case of warning signs for STDs and cancers, featured in the

programmes in question, perhaps even save peoples' lives. TV3 stressed that the

series Sex/Life was rated AO, and that it screened at 8.30pm, in an Adults Only time

band and that the promo played in an AO programme in AO time.

Ms Dove complained to TV3 that she considered the Sex/Life programme broadcast on

18 September 1996 breached standards of good taste and decency. In particular she

objected to the graphic physical demonstrations of sexual positions and the explicit

clinical and verbal descriptions which she maintained would be offensive to many

people. She also believed that the programme devalued the act of sex, resulting in it

being portrayed as nothing more than a recreational pastime.

TV3 considered her complaint under standard G2 of the Television Code of

Broadcasting Practice. While the response was similar to that sent to Mr Atkinson in

relation to the item on sexual positions, TV3 argued that the item had dealt with the

matter in a highly professional and dignified manner, and lived up to the aim of the

Sex/Life series to inform in a non-judgmental way. It did not consider that a discussion

of morals in the particular forum of the programme was appropriate as everyone had

their own moral stance. TV3 declined to uphold Ms Dove's complaint.

The Authority has given careful consideration to what was advertised and described

by TV3 as a series dealing with important sexual issues, including relationship

problems, in a non-threatening and open manner with a non-judgmental stance, as well

as some items designed for entertainment. While the Authority acknowledges that the

series has a worthy social and educational intent, the overall impression of the

programmes at issue is that the programmes are intended for adult entertainment.

While this may be appropriate for a 9.30pm or later time slot, the Authority does not

consider that the taste and decency requirements are met by these programmes being

broadcast at 8.30pm on a free-to-air channel. The Authority in reaching this view

takes into account not only each item in the programmes, but also the overall

impression given by the programmes. Consequently, it upholds the complaints that it

was inappropriate to broadcast the programmes complained about at 8.30pm.

The role of the Authority in dealing with complaints is set out in the Broadcasting Act

1989. Section 6(1)(a) of that Act refers to a broadcasters' duty to receive and consider

formal complaints about any programme broadcast. Because of the specific reference

to "any programme" the broadcaster is under no duty to consider a complaint about a

series as a whole. The Authority under section 8 of the Act, considers complaints

made under section 6(1)(a), where the complainant is dissatisfied with the action or

decision taken by the broadcaster. In this case Mr Davies complained about a specific

promo for Sex/Life and, generally, about the series as a whole. Although TV3 supplied

the Authority with a copy of a particular programme, the Authority in this instance is

of the opinion that the complaint is one for which it does not have jurisdiction.

Accordingly, it declines to deal with the aspect of Mr Davies' complaint which

referred to the Sex/Life series.

In respect of Mr Davies' complaint about the promo, the Authority considers that the

promo had the capacity to mislead the viewer as to the actual content of the

programme given that the promo indicated a more sexually provocative programme

than that intended or indeed broadcast. However, the promo was classified as AO and

was broadcast in AO time and, in view of its brevity, its possibly misleading nature

was not such that it breached any standard. The Authority declines to uphold this

complaint.

 

For the reasons set forth above, the Authority upholds the complaints that the

programmes in the Sex/Life series broadcast by TV3 Network Services Limited

on 16 September and 2 October 1996 at 8.30pm breached standard G2 of the

Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.


It declines to uphold the complaint about the promo broadcast on 20 August

1996, and declines to determine the complaint about the series.

Having upheld a complaint, the Authority may make an order under s.13(1) of the

Broadcasting Act 1989. It does not do so on this occasion in respect of the

complaints from Mr Atkinson and Ms Dove, considering the fact that the programmes

were preceded by a warning as to their content and did have an educational intent

which was in some part met.


Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Judith Potter
Chairperson
17 December 1996

Appendix I


Bob Atkinson's Complaint to TV3 Network Services Ltd – 11 October 1996

Bob Atkinson of Nelson complained to TV3 Network Services Ltd about the

programme Sex/Life and in particular the episode broadcast on 2 October 1996 at

8.30pm. In the later part of that episode, he said that the woman who was talking was

encouraging people to indulge in oral sex, which in his view was a dangerous practice

in that participants may contact diseases especially V.D. He said that he also objected

to the time the programme was shown (8.30pm). He considered that many people of

a very impressionable age could be watching and encouraged, not knowing any better,

to indulge in deviant behaviour.

TV3's Response to the Formal Complaint – 30 October 1996

Assessing the complaint under standards G1 and G2 of the Television Code of

Broadcasting Practice, TV3 explained that Sex/Life was an AO rated programme and

was proceeded by the strong warning:

"The following programme Sex/Life deals with issues of human sexuality

including explicit content and some nudity and is intended for adults only.

Content may offend some viewers."


TV3 also noted that censorship cuts had been made to the programme before its

screening in New Zealand. It argued that the subject matter of the programme was

precisely defined by its title Sex/Life so the audience should have a realistic

expectation of the show. In relation to the particular complaint about oral sex, TV3

stated:

...the topic of oral sex was discussed by Dr Janet Hall, a qualified sex therapist.

This specific segment has always dealt with the emotional aspects of sex rather

than the medical. Medical advice to do with sex is dealt with in detail by Dr

Caroline West earlier in the programme. However, Dr Hall's segment did state

that, "some STDs can be transferred by oral sex." We would also point out that

Sex/Life actively promotes the use of condoms for safer sex.


In regard to Mr Atkinson's view of oral sex as deviant behaviour, TV3 responded that

what was considered normal for one person might not be normal for another and the

programme Sex/Life was aimed to help all sections of society by a frank discussion of

different aspects of sex and sexual health.


Mr Atkinson's Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 4 November
1996

Dissatisfied with TV3's decision Mr Atkinson referred the complaint to the

Broadcasting Standards Authority under s. 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

Mr Atkinson maintained the view that the presenter of the part of the programme

dealing with oral sex encouraged people to experiment with oral sex which he

considered was objectionable on the basis that diseases were able to be passed from

one person to another during oral sex.

TV3's Response to the Authority – 12 November 1996

TV3 had no further comment to make on the complaint.


Appendix II


Mr Davies' Complaint to TV3 Network Services Ltd – August 1996

Evan Davies of Hamilton complained to TV3 Network Services Ltd, through the

Broadcasting Standards Authority, about the series Sex Life broadcast on TV3 on

Wednesdays at 8.30pm. He also complained about the promos for the programme,

referring specifically to one broadcast between 8:00–8:30pm on Tuesday 20 August

1996.


Describing the programme as offensive and unnecessary, Mr Davies requested that it

either be removed altogether or broadcast at a later hour.

In a second letter, dated 28 August, Mr Davies said that he wanted his concerns to be

treated as a formal complaint alleging a breach of standards G2 and G8 of the

Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

TV3's Response to the Formal Complaint – 25 September 1996

Assessing the complaint under the nominated standards, TV3 advised that Sex/Life

was classified as AO and broadcast in the AO time band. It pointed out the

programme was introduced with a strong warning.

Further, TV3 advised, censorship cuts had been made before the material was screened

in New Zealand and, it wrote:

The subject matter of the programme is precisely defined by its title Sex/Life so

the audience should have a realistic expectation of the show. Also, as you may

be aware, 8:30pm is the designated watershed for which networks may place

Adult Only programming.


Explaining the range of sexual issues covered in the series, TV3 said that they were

dealt with in "a non-threatening and open manner with a non-judgmental stance, as

well as including some items designed for entertainment".

As for the promos used, TV3 stated that they were made in both G and PGR/AO

versions and were broadcast according to these ratings in the appropriate time bands.

The promo which played on Tuesday 20 August was rated AO and played at 8:46pm

during NYPD Blue, an AO rated programme. TV3 contended:

The AO rated promos for Sex/Life did contain more mature material. However,

this material accurately conveyed the nature of the programme and did not

breach G2 for what as acceptable in AO time.


In conclusion, TV3 wrote:

Given then that the programme's focus is to inform through entertainment and

that it plays in Adults Only time, with an explicit warning and censor cuts, and

that the audience expectation from its title and knowledge of its sister show

"Sex" (which played on Television new Zealand and was a "tougher" programme

than Sex/Life), is for a show which deals frankly with sexual questions and that

the promos for Sex/Life are given a censorship classification and play within the

time bands for that classification as permitted in G22, the TV3 Standards

Committee declines to uphold that G2 and G8 of the Broadcasting Codes have

been breached.


Mr Davies' Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 22 October 1996

Dissatisfied with TV3's decision , Mr Davies referred the complaint to the

Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

TV3's Response to the Authority – 15 November 1996

Enclosing a copy of the tape of the promo broadcast on 20 August and a tape of the

programme broadcast on 21 August (as the closest to the date of Mr Davies'

complaint), TV3 commented:

For the past nine weeks Sex/Life has been viewed by a panel of doctors from the

Auckland Sexual Health Service and information relevant for New Zealand has

been added in a billboard at the end of each programme. Much of the content of

the show has relevance and is important for a large section of the community.

Sex/Life serves to convey information about sexual problems, both medical and

emotional.


Disagreeing with Mr Davies that it was "indecent" to provide people with important

and possibly life-saving advice, TV3 stressed that the programme was rated "AO" and

screened in "AO" time. The specific promo complained about, it added, was also

rated AO and shown only in AO time.


Mr Davies' Final Comment

Mr Davies did not respond to the Authority's invitation to comment on TV3's

report.


Appendix III


Maria Dove's Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – (Undated)

Maria Dove of Auckland complained to TV3 Network Services Limited about an

episode in the series Sex/Life broadcast on TV3 on 18 September 1996, and in

particular the last item dealing with positions to improve a person's sex life.

Ms Dove considered that the programme promoted sex as an act of sexual pleasure

without reference to its place in a committed and loving relationship. She believed that

the programme by doing this devalued the act of sex.

TV3's Response to the Formal Complaint – 30 October 1996

TV3 considered the complaint under standard G2 of the Television Code of

Broadcasting Practice. It explained that Sex/Life was an AO rated programme and

8.30pm was the designated watershed at which networks may place Adults Only

programmes. Sex/Life it said dealt with important sexual issues, in a non-threatening

and open manner. The series also emphasises loving relationships and working out

relationship problems. With particular reference to the item about sexual positions, it

said that it was led by a qualified sex therapist and was dealt with in a highly

professional and dignified manner. It declined to uphold the complaint.

Ms Dove's Referral to the Authority – 17 November 1996

Dissatisfied with TV3's response, Maria Dove referred the complaint to the

Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

Ms Dove believed that the programme pushed all the limits of what it was permissible

to broadcast. She believed that boundaries needed to be put in place to protect the TV

viewers of the future. She disagreed with TV3's view that values and moral

viewpoints could not be part of the programme stating:

...as I think there is a strong moral and value base to what is being shown – that

being that sex is all about sensuality and enjoyment – it is stressing the

physical side of the sexual act – promoting physical pleasure far above any

emotional relationship or commitment. This is portraying the value to young

people that sex is an act purely for physical and sensual enjoyment – it

devalues sex to a mechanical act and even to being a recreational pastime. I find

this most disturbing.


TV3's Response to the Authority – 28 November 1996

TV3 had nothing further it wished to add.