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Hales and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2019-014 (4 June 2019)

  • Paula Rose QSO
  • Wendy Palmer
  • Susie Staley MNZM
  • Julie Hales
Family Guy promo
TV One


[This summary does not form part of the decision.]

The Broadcasting Standards Authority has not upheld a complaint that a clip from Family Guy, featured in a promo montage for upcoming programmes on TVNZ, breached the good taste and decency standard. The clip showed Peter Griffin, a male cartoon character, sitting on a chair and opening his legs to show his genitals (which were pixelated). The Authority found that, given the time of the broadcast was after 9pm, the fact that Family Guy is a cartoon comedy and that the scene was brief, the promo was not outside audience expectations and did not undermine current norms of good taste and decency. The Authority therefore found any restriction on the right to freedom of expression would be unjustified.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency


The broadcast

[1]  A promo montage for upcoming programmes on TVNZ included a brief excerpt from Family Guy showing Peter Griffin, a male cartoon character, sitting on a chair and opening his legs to show his genitals, which were pixelated.

[2]  The promo was broadcast on TVNZ throughout January 2019. For the purposes of this complaint, the complainant has identified a specific instance of the promo screened on TVNZ 1 at 9.22pm during an episode of Coronation Street.

The complaint

[3]  Julie Hales complained that the broadcast breached the good taste and decency standard of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, for the following reasons:

  • The excerpt was an indecent, confronting and very offensive soft porn image.
  • Although intended to be light-hearted and humorous, the brief excerpt was taken out of context, and for viewers who did not recognise or know the excerpt from Basic Instinct, the clip simply seemed suggestive.
  • Regardless, the scene being parodied was pornographic itself.
  • Being shown in the AO time and being brief does not make the clip acceptable.
  • The clip was not always pixelated.
  • The broadcaster could have chosen a different scene to promote Family Guy.
  • This image feeds a ‘societal environment’ encouraging family violence and violent sexual crimes.

[4]  We note that while the complainant identified a specific instance of the promo for the purpose of making a formal complaint, she was concerned about the promo generally, not just in this specific context.

The broadcaster’s response

[5]  TVNZ responded:

  • The promo complained of screened at 9.22pm, almost an hour after the 8.30pm AO watershed.
  • The promo complained of in this instance screened during Coronation Street which is certified PGR, aimed at older viewers, not considered to be ‘children’s programming’ and scheduled in a line-up aimed at older viewers.1
  • Promos for AO programmes can be broadcast during G and PGR programmes as long as the promo conforms with the classification of the host programme.
  • The references in the promo were intended to be light-hearted and humorous. Peter was re-enacting a notorious scene from Basic Instinct where Sharon Stone is interviewed by police. It was a very small part of the promo.
  • The nudity was completely covered by pixilation in all versions of the promo and would not offend viewers. It was not pornographic, as it did not depict a sex act nor was it designed to invoke sexual arousal or create sexual excitement.
  • The promo was not intended to promote men exposing themselves.
  • The footage did not require an AO classification in the context of screening. There was no sexualised commentary outside the PGR classification included in the promo. No material in the promo was explicit or inappropriate in the context of Coronation Street.

The standard

[6]  The purpose of the good taste and decency standard (Standard 1) is to protect audience members from viewing broadcasts that are likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards.2

[7]  The context in which the content occurs and the wider context of the broadcast are relevant to assessing whether the broadcast has breached the standard.3 Audience expectations are crucial. Audiences who know what they are getting can usually avoid this material or supervise their children’s exposure to it.4

Our findings

[8]  In New Zealand we value the right to freedom of expression. We also recognise that it is not an absolute right, and where harm may be caused by the exercise of the freedom, we may step in to limit the right and uphold a complaint.  Accordingly, in considering this complaint our task is to consider the harm that may be caused and weigh that against the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression. In undertaking this assessment we consider the actual and potential harm and also the context of the broadcast.

[9]  Guideline 2e to the programme information standard states that promos for programmes should comply with the classification of the programme during which they screen, which in this case was PGR. TVNZ has referred to this guideline in its submissions, though we note that the complainant has not raised this standard in her complaint. It is, however, relevant to the context in which the promo was aired.

[10]  While we consider that the Family Guy clip featured in this promo may have pushed the boundary of the PGR classification, overall the montage promo in this case complied with the PGR classification of the host programme, Coronation Street. PGR Programmes contain material more suited for mature audiences but not necessarily unsuitable for child viewers when subject to the guidance of a parent or adult.5

[11]  The Authority has previously found that during children’s normally accepted viewing times, sexual content or references should be subtle and inexplicit, or in the nature of sexual innuendo that would be likely to go over the heads of child viewers.6 While the implied nudity required parental guidance, it was brief, and there was no implied or explicit sexual activity inappropriate for the PGR classification. The contextual factors listed below also lead to this classification.

[12]  Ms Hales raised the good taste and decency standard in her complaint, in which the context of the broadcast and audience expectations are crucial. The relevant contextual factors in this case include:

  • The promo was screened during Coronation Street, which was classified Parental Guidance Recommended (PGR).
  • The promo was screened at 9.22pm, after the 8.30pm Adults Only (AO) watershed and outside of children’s normally accepted viewing times.
  • The Family Guy excerpt of the promo complained about was brief, approximately 1 second long.
  • Family Guy is a cartoon and the implied nudity in the excerpt was pixelated in all versions of the promo, as confirmed by the broadcaster.7
  • The scene was a spoof of a well-known movie scene and in our view was not pornographic, as it was not designed to invoke sexual arousal8 or intended to titillate.  Rather, it was intended to reflect the humour of the show promoted.  We acknowledge that that humour may appeal to some but not all people.

[13]  Taking into account the contextual factors listed above, particularly the time of the broadcast, the brevity of the clip and that Family Guy is a cartoon comedy, we consider that the promo would not have been outside audience expectations for the host programme, or the time in which the promo screened.

[14]  Accordingly we do not uphold this complaint.

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority




Paula Rose


4 June 2019


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

1.               Julie Hales’ formal complaint – 7 February 2019

2.               TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 4 March 2019

3.               Ms Hales’ referral to the Authority – 19 March 2019

4.               TVNZ’s confirmation of no further comment – 30 April 2019


1 It screened after 10K Holiday Home and before 1 News Tonight.
2 Commentary – Good Taste and Decency, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 12
3 Guideline 1a
4 Commentary – Good Taste and Decency, as above.
5 Definitions – Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 9.
6 Ngapo and Tolungamaka and Television New Zealand, Decision No. 2018-099.
7 TVNZ has also confirmed that the episode itself was pixelated, as that is how it received the episode, meaning it would be impossible for a non-pixelated version of the scene to be screened.
8 13 Complainants and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2017-101 at [24] and Six Complainants and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2018-010 at [32]