BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Fowles and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2008-138

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Paul France
  • Tapu Misa
  • Reg Fowles

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Homegrown – programme investigating history of beer in New Zealand – words "bastards", "bloody", "crap", "boobs or balls" and "shitloads" used – other words censored – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency

Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – contextual factors – language was humorous rather than abusive – worst language was censored – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1] An episode of Homegrown, a locally produced series which investigated various aspects of New Zealand culture and particularly produce, was broadcast on TV One at 7pm on Saturday 1 November 2008. This episode looked at the history of beer brewing in New Zealand.

[2] During the programme, the words "bastards", "bloody", "crap", "boobs or balls" and "shitloads" were used, predominantly by one of the interviewees. Some other words were bleeped out.

[3] Homegrown was preceded by the following verbal and written warning:

The following programme is rated PGR. It contains language that may offend some people and may not be suitable for a younger audience. We recommend the guidance of a parent or other adult.


[4] Reg Fowles made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the programme breached standards of good taste and decency because it screened at 7pm and included a warning for language that may offend. Mr Fowles said that he was amazed that "people making a local informational programme for early evening viewing cannot control their language".


[5] TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 1 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provides:

Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency
In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[6] TVNZ argued that to constitute a breach of Standard 1 (good taste and decency), the broadcast material must have been unacceptable to a significant number of viewers in the context in which it was shown, including the programme’s classification, the time of broadcast, and the use of warnings, if any.

[7] The broadcaster noted that Homegrown was rated PGR which meant the material was more suited for mature audiences but not necessarily unsuitable for child viewers when subject to the guidance of an adult. It was also restricted to a 7.30pm timeslot, it said. Further, a warning was displayed prior to the programme in accordance with guideline 1a to Standard 1. The warning selected was specific to the PGR timeslot, TVNZ said, and was chosen because children’s interests were being considered.

[8] TVNZ considered that the use of that particular warning was appropriate considering the language that was left audible in the programme. The terms "bloody", "shitloads" and "bastards" were audible in the episode, while more coarse language was bleeped to comply with the programme’s timeslot and classification. Further, the language included was the "parochial vernacular" of the people interviewed, TVNZ said, and it was not used with any invective.

[9] The broadcaster concluded that the language did not exceed the programme’s classification, and would not have offended a significant number of viewers. It declined to uphold the Standard 1 complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[10] Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Mr Fowles referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He noted that Homegrown had screened at 7pm, not 7.30pm as stated by TVNZ. Mr Fowles considered the broadcaster’s explanation that the coarse language had been bleeped to be inadequate, and reiterated his argument that it was unacceptable to include "obscene" language in a programme broadcast at 7pm when children could be watching. "No reasonable parent would expect PGR to cover such language", he wrote.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[11] TVNZ acknowledged that its response contained a typographical error referencing the programme’s timeslot restriction of 7.30pm. This should have read 7pm, it said.

Authority's Determination

[12] The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

[13] When the Authority considers a complaint that alleges a breach of good taste and decency, it is required to take into account the context of the broadcast. On this occasion the relevant contextual factors include:

  • Homegrown was broadcast at 7pm on a Saturday
  • the programme was rated PGR
  • it was preceded by a warning for language that may offend
  • Homegrown was a documentary-style programme with an adult target audience.

[14] The Authority notes that the language complained about came from one of the interviewees, and was not gratuitous but rather a true reflection of the interviewee’s colourful personality and manner of speaking, as a stereotypical "kiwi bloke". The worst of the language was censored, and the words that remained audible were low-level and delivered in a good-natured and humorous tone, as opposed to being abusive. In these circumstances, the Authority considers that it would not have been unsuitable for children under the guidance of an adult.

[15] Further, while the programme was broadcast during children’s normally accepted viewing times, the Authority considers that it was targeted at adults and was unlikely to have appealed to child viewers.

[16] Taking into account the above contextual factors - particularly the PGR rating and the pre-broadcast warning for language that may offend - the Authority declines to uphold the complaint that the language in Homegrown breached Standard 1 (good taste and decency).


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
17 February 2009


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

1.  Reg Fowles’ formal complaint – 3 November 2008
2. TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 5 December 2008
3. Mr Fowles’ referral to the Authority – 9 December 2008
4. TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 17 December 2008