Gowardman and TV4 Network Ltd - 1999-082
- S R Maling (Chair)
- R McLeod
- L M Loates
- J Withers
- Nicola Gowardman
BroadcasterTV4 Network Ltd
Channel/StationTV4 # 3
A segment in the programme Eurotrash focussed on a "pornography king" and some of his activities. Another segment focussed on a large man whose naked body was treated as a work of art and displayed in some European art galleries. The programme was broadcast on TV4 on 18 February 1999, commencing at 8.30pm.
Ms Gowardman complained to TV4 Network Ltd, the broadcaster, that in viewing the segment she was confronted with full frontal and oral sex. The two items depicted shocking and indecent behaviour, and presented young people with incorrect perspectives on adult sexual relationships, she wrote.
TV4 responded that the programme was rated AO, and was preceded by a verbal and written warning. The broadcaster denied that the item contained full frontal and oral sex. It wrote that the study of naked human bodies had been considered art for centuries, and the display of the man’s body was not intentionally pornographic. It declined to uphold the complaints.
Dissatisfied with TV4’s response, Ms Gowardman referred her complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
For the reasons below, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the item complained about, and have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. On this occasion, the Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.
A programme in the series Eurotrash, broadcast by TV4 on 18 February commencing at 8.30pm, contained an item which focussed on the activities of a "porn king". It also included another item about a large man whose naked body was treated as a work of art, and displayed in various European art galleries.
Ms Gowardman complained to TV4 that the broadcast of the items failed to take into account any considerations of decency and taste in language and behaviour, and also failed to be mindful of its effect on children.
She described the contents of the programme as disgusting. She was subjected, she wrote, to "full-on oral sex and full frontal sex". In her view, it breached all sense of decency, and did not provide a proper perspective of adult sexual relationships for young people. Ms Gowardman said that she was shocked and appalled by the item about a "porn king" having sex with different women, and the type of work he did. The item failed to consider the mutuality involved in adult relationships, she added.
Ms Gowardman also complained about an item in the programme in which "another porn star maybe German and extremely obese" removed his clothes in front of about a dozen people as part of an art exhibition.
TV4 responded that the programme was a magazine format, featuring unusual and interesting stories from Europe, and was co-hosted by a famous French fashion designer. It was originally made for the British market, and part of its humour was to poke fun at the traditional rivalry between the French hosts and the British viewing public. It had a small following "who love it for its quirky stories", the broadcaster continued.
The programme was rated AO and that, TV4 emphasised, meant that it contained "adult themes or those which, because of the way the material is handled, would be unsuitable for persons under 18 years of age". The broadcaster also pointed out that the programme was preceded by the following verbal and written warning:
The following programme is recommended for ADULTS ONLY viewing. Certain scenes may offend and viewer discretion is advised.
TV4 considered the complaint in the context of standards G2 and G12 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. They require 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.
G12 To be mindful of the effect any programme may have on children during their normally accepted viewing times.
TV4 denied that the programme contained full oral and full frontal sex. What Ms Gowardman might have thought was a woman performing oral sex on a man in the "porno king item" was in fact the woman sucking the man’s big toe, it contended. It could find no example of what could be described as "full frontal sex" in the programme, the broadcaster said. What she believed were "graphic shots of his genitalia" were actually shots of the man’s big toe, it observed.
The depiction and study of naked human bodies had been considered art for centuries, TV4 noted. The item on the large man whose body was presented as a piece of art and was displayed in art galleries was therefore not pornography, it concluded. The focus of the item was not on the man’s genitalia or on sexual activity, but on the man’s body as a whole, the broadcaster continued, and it declined to uphold a breach of standard G2.
In considering standard G12, the broadcaster emphasised that the programme was rated AO and was screened in AO time. It said that the programme was preceded by a clear warning about the appropriateness of its contents. That would have given viewers enough time and information to decide whether they wished their children to view the segment, TV4 observed. It accordingly declined to uphold a breach of standard G12.
In referring her complaint to the Authority for review, Ms Gowardman wrote that the broadcaster had considered her complaint superficially and in a biased manner. When invited to respond further to the Authority, TV4 said that it had "no further comments" regarding the complaint. It advised that the series had been reassigned to screening after 10.00 pm, following a decision made on a different episode in another formal complaint.
The Authority’s Findings
In commencing its deliberations with standard G2, the Authority looks first to the contextual factors relevant to the items complained about, as required by that standard. The programme in which the items screened commenced broadcast at 8.30 pm. The Authority notes that the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice identifies the time from 8.30 pm until 5.00 am as suitable for programmes classified as Adults Only (AO). AO is defined in the Code as permitting:
Programmes containing adult themes or those which, because of the way the material is handled, would be unsuitable for persons under 18 years of age.
Here, the broadcaster screened the programme at 8.30pm, with an AO classification. Furthermore, as TV4 pointed out, the programme was preceded by a verbal and written warning of the potentially offensive nature of the programme’s content.
The Authority appreciates that the content may not have appealed to many viewers, however, it takes into account TV4’s advice that the programme has a small following "who love it for its quirky stories". Having viewed the items complained about, the Authority was unable to distinguish "full-on oral sex and full frontal sex". It believes that, in the "porn king" aspect of the complaint, Ms Gowardman might have mistaken toe-sucking for fellatio. The segment portraying the fat naked man provided carefully-focussed footage, it notes, and avoided showing his genitalia. The Authority concludes that in view of the quirky art-house approach of the programme and the restraint exercised in filming the more challenging material, the standard was not threatened.
Turning next to standard G12, the Authority notes first that 8.30 pm onwards is not deemed to be the "normally accepted" viewing time of children. The programme was classified AO, commenced broadcast at 8.30 pm and was preceded by a verbal and written warning. These are all factors which the Authority believes made it clear that the programme was not suitable for children, and contained adult and possibly offensive content. The Authority notes that the programme’s content became progressively more adult in nature after the watershed, so children were unlikely to be confronted by it immediately after their normal viewing hours. The Authority also notes that the programme has since been moved to a later evening time-slot, apparently in response to another complaint about a different episode. While the items complained about were provocative, and perhaps better suited to a later evening time-slot, the Authority is unable to perceive a breach of the standard.
For the reasons set forth above, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
24 June 1999
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1. Nicola Gowardman’s Complaint to TV4 Network Services Ltd – 6 March 1999
2. TV3’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 12 April 1999
3. Ms Gowardman’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority
– received 21 April 1999
4. TV3’s Response to the Authority – 6 May 1999