Hutt and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2023-040 (12 September 2023)
- Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
- John Gillespie
- Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i
- Aroha Beck
- Anthony Hutt
BroadcasterTelevision New Zealand Ltd
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that an episode of The Feed discussing issues faced by rainbow communities breached multiple standards. The complaint alleged the programme, which was aimed at children, was one-sided in favour of the ‘trans lifestyle’ and did not include balancing content about the ‘heterosexual lifestyle’, and accordingly amounted to illegal gender reassignment therapy or grooming. The Authority found the programme content carried high value and public interest by raising and exploring issues and perspectives in relation to rainbow communities, and through promoting diversity and inclusion. It was satisfied the programme would not cause widespread offence or adversely affect children. The other standards either did not apply or were not breached.
Not upheld: Offensive and Disturbing Content, Children’s Interests, Promotion of Illegal or Antisocial Behaviour, Balance, Accuracy, Fairness
 During an episode of The Feed, an after-school programme described as ‘Ronnie & Monique are here to bring the hype! With an afternoon featuring awesome content creators, challenges and viral TikTok videos from across Aotearoa and the world’,1 several segments were included featuring people from the rainbow community.2 The episode was broadcast at 4.10pm on TVNZ 2 on 14 April 2023, and was introduced by hosts Ronnie Taulafo and Monique Clementson as follows:
Ronnie: We hope you’ve enjoyed your first week of your school holidays thus far. I know you’re relaxing and chilling just like Mon and Ron. And how are you feeling today, Mon?
Monique: I'm going to be completely honest, Ron, I'm actually feeling a little bit disappointed.
Ronnie: Oh, it wasn't me?
Monique: It was not you, I promise. No, a couple of weeks ago, there was a protest in Tāmaki Makaurau and this video came on my feed.
TikTok video, posted by trans-rights activist:
Activist: I was heading down Queen Street, and I just intercepted the Brian Tamaki stuff [protest]. And they're all trying to talk to me ’cause I got my trans rights sign.
[Onscreen subtitle quoting passer-by: ‘“how to protect the kids??” maybe.’]
…Now they're all screaming at me from behind.
Protester: We come in peace and love, you might be protecting trans, but I’m protecting children.
[Onscreen subtitle: ‘Oh man that lady really came at me haha.’] [Onscreen subtitle: ‘Trans are also children?!’]
Excuse me, don't talk to me.
Ronnie: See, I know how that video makes me feel, but how do you feel Mon when you see that?
Monique: Ronnie, it just honestly makes me devastated. It feels so strange that people who are meant to be full of faith and love and seemingly promoting love and safety for others could hold so much fear and hate for their peers, like they're just trying to be themselves and love honestly. And if we were really protecting our children, we'd create a loving space where people could find themselves in this already weird world that we’re living in, already full of so much judgement and hate, and for people to care so much about how other people choose to live their life is genuinely baffling to me.
Ronnie: Absolutely. And I couldn't have said it any better. I'm a person of faith myself, and I do believe I was brought up in Sunday school saying ‘thou shalt not judge’. So I do not know why people tend to judge.
Monique: I guess that’s just got me in a bit of a funk right now, and I can only really think of one way to bring me out of it…
Ronnie: How would we do that?
Monique: To have a big ol’ queer show!
 The episode then featured a ‘lip sync’ performance by, and interview with, drag queen Little Miss Cinnamon and an interview with Young New Zealander of the Year, Shaneel Lal. It also included segments featuring rainbow content from social media and comments from the hosts supporting this community, for example making several observations about the rainbow community in New Zealand such as:
- New Zealand was the first country to have an openly transgender MP.
- New Zealand has the highest proportion of takatāpui MPs of any Parliament in the world.
- New Zealand legalised same-sex marriage and adoption in 2013.
- The New Zealand military has made huge pushes for integration of LGBTQIA+ members.
- Auckland has been rated as one of the top gay-friendly cities in the world.
- Conversion therapy was banned in 2022.
 The Feed was broadcast live, meaning it was not required to carry a classification (however broadcasters must be mindful of children’s interests and broadcast audience advisories as appropriate).3
 Anthony Hutt complained that the broadcast breached the offensive and disturbing content, children’s interests, promotion of illegal or antisocial behaviour, balance, accuracy and fairness standards of the Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand on the basis:
- The Feed is not appropriate for children as it was one-sided towards trans people without showing anything about cis or heterosexual people.
- The programme amounted to ‘illegal’ gender reassignment therapy/coercion, and ‘grooming’ for the particular lifestyle featured.
- The programme would be watched by children younger than the age range of TVNZ’s target audience (young people of intermediate or early-high-school age) as it aired at 4.10pm, and this content could cause long-term damage to children.
 Hutt also argued on referral that the programme included inaccuracies and hate speech regarding Christianity, in breach of the discrimination and denigration standard. These issues were not raised implicitly or explicitly in the original complaint, meaning we cannot consider them now.4
 We also note we are limited under the Broadcasting Act to considering complaints about a specific broadcast. Therefore we will not be addressing the complainant’s concerns generally about The Feed as a programme, or their ‘[expectation that] this programme [will] not be aired anymore’.
The broadcaster’s response
 TVNZ did not uphold Hutt’s complaint for the following key reasons:
Offensive and Disturbing Content, and Children’s Interests
- The Feed is broadcast live and is therefore not required to be classified. However, because it aired in a G/PG timeslot and was aimed at younger viewers, the content needed to be appropriate for the timeslot and expectations of the target audience.
- TVNZ was ‘satisfied that The Feed did not contain any material which was inappropriate for its target audience or the time slot in which it aired.’
- ‘The Feed regularly tackles social issues in a candid and conversational manner. Such material would be familiar to regular viewers of the show.’
- ‘The matter of sexuality, in the sense of sexual or gender identity, such as were contemplated in the episode, does not constitute 'sexual material' in the sense generally considered within the context of potentially 'offensive and disturbing content'.’
- ‘The Programme dealt with relatively sophisticated concepts, but we consider that these were handled with sensitivity and in terms appropriate for The Feed's intermediate and early high-school-aged target audience.’
- ‘The Programme celebrated the Rainbow community. Its intent was to foster a positive, supportive and safe environment for young LGBTQI+ people and to encourage young people to be their “true selves”.’
- TVNZ was ‘satisfied that it is well within the appropriate remit for a programme aimed at young people to talk about, and promote understanding of, diverse communities.’
- Referring to the same contextual factors as outlined under the offensive and disturbing content standard, TVNZ found no breach of this standard.
- The other standards raised did not apply to the content in the programme.
 Responding to Hutt’s referral of the complaint to the Authority, TVNZ added:
- ‘The Feed is not aimed at young children and it is unlikely to hold much appeal for them. In any case, we do not agree that there was any material in the episode that was likely to have disturbed or harmed young children.’
- ‘The complainant has not provided information to support his claim that the content of the Programme was likely to have been “damaging and confusing” for its target audience.’
- ‘The Programme did not depict or promote illegal activity.’
The relevant standards
 The purpose of the offensive and disturbing content standard5 is to protect audiences from viewing or listening to broadcasts that are likely to cause widespread disproportionate offence or distress or undermine widely shared community standards.6 The standard takes into account the context of the programme, and the wider context of the broadcast, as well as information given by the broadcaster to enable the audience to exercise choice and control over their viewing or listening.
 The children’s interests standard7 requires broadcasters to ensure children are protected from broadcasts which might adversely affect them. Material likely to be considered under this standard includes violent or sexual content or themes, offensive language, social or domestic friction and dangerous, antisocial or illegal behaviour where such material is outside the expectations of the programme’s classification.8
 We consider these two standards to be the most applicable to the complainant’s concerns. We deal briefly with the other standards raised in the complaint, at paragraph .
 We have watched the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
 As a starting point, we considered the important right to freedom of expression. It is our role to weigh up the right to freedom of expression – which includes the broadcaster’s right to offer a wide range of content and ideas, and the audience’s right to receive that – against any harm potentially caused by the broadcast. We may only intervene and uphold a complaint where the level of harm means that limiting the right to freedom of expression is demonstrably reasonable and justified.9
Offensive and Disturbing Content
 Attitudes towards taste and decency differ widely and continue to evolve in a diverse society such as ours. The right to freedom of expression protects broadcasters’ right to offer a wide range of content, to appeal to a broad audience. The standard does not prohibit the broadcast of material that is not to everyone’s taste or that some people may find challenging. Rather, it ensures that broadcasts fall within the broad limit of not causing widespread disproportionate offence or distress, or seriously undermining widely shared community standards.10
 Context is crucial when assessing complaints made under this standard.11 We considered the following contextual factors to be relevant in this case:
- This episode of The Feed was broadcast live at 4.10pm on a weekday.
- The programme was unclassified, due to it being broadcast live.
- The Feed is aimed at children of intermediate to early-high-school age (approximately ages 11-15).
- At the time of 4.10pm, children outside of the broadcaster’s target range may have been watching. The Authority considers programmes airing before 8.30pm to be within children’s normally accepted viewing times.12
- The Feed regularly tackles social issues in a candid and conversational manner. Such material would be familiar to regular viewers of the show. This episode focused on issues faced by the rainbow community, particularly in relation to trans people, and featured several people from the rainbow community.
- The Feed is broadcast each weekday. Other episodes broadcast the same week explored issues such as water quality and artificial intelligence.
 We are satisfied the content complained about was well within audience expectations for the programme, and was not likely to cause widespread offence or distress in the context of Aotearoa New Zealand society in 2023. The broadcast discussed important contemporary issues that affect many New Zealanders, including children, who may face violence, discrimination or bullying because of their gender or sexuality. It carried high value and public interest by raising awareness of such issues and discussing them in an inclusive and supportive way, celebrating diversity and self-acceptance.
 The simple depiction of the rainbow community and its lived experiences, as occurred in this broadcast, is not inherently offensive or ‘illegal’. It no more amounts to ‘grooming’ or ‘coercion’ than a programme featuring any other community would. To the extent the complainant is concerned with the focus of this programme on rainbow communities rather than cis or heterosexual people, this is a matter of personal preference which is not capable of being resolved by a complaints procedure.13
 For the reasons set out above, we do not uphold the complaint under this standard.
 The key question for the Authority under this standard is whether the broadcaster adequately enabled children to be protected from content that might adversely affect them.14 The same contextual factors outlined above at  apply here.
 As above, we emphasise that featuring or including perspectives relevant to the rainbow community is not automatically offensive or unsuitable for children or young people. We are satisfied that the content of this programme was consistent with audience expectations and the expectations of the target audience. We are also satisfied that it was scheduled in an acceptable timeslot, and very unlikely to adversely affect children in the manner alleged. The tone and main message of the programme was positive and inclusive, encouraging young people to be their ‘true selves’ and be kind to themselves.
 We find no breach of the children’s interests standard.
 The remaining standards either were not breached or did not apply:
- Promotion of Illegal or Antisocial Behaviour: The complainant has alleged the broadcast was illegal as it constituted ‘gender reassignment therapy/coercion’. As noted above, the broadcast did no more than feature people and stories from the rainbow community. Such subject matter, including in broadcasts aimed at children, is not illegal and does not in any way ‘coerce’ the audience to change their gender, or amount to ‘grooming’.
- Balance: The balance standard applies to news, current affairs and factual broadcasts, which discuss a controversial issue of public importance.15 The complainant’s concern is that the programme was ‘one-sided towards trans people without showing anything about cis or heterosexual people’. The broadcaster was not required to include ‘cis or heterosexual’ content or people and it is not a breach of standards not to do so. The complainant’s concerns in this respect are matters of personal preference and the broadcaster’s editorial discretion that cannot be determined under the broadcasting standards regime.16
- Accuracy: The accuracy standard requires broadcasters to make reasonable efforts to ensure programmes are accurate on material points of fact, and do not materially mislead the audience.17 The complainant did not identify any points he believed to be inaccurate or misleading (beyond those raised on referral with respect to Christianity, which are outside the scope of our jurisdiction). We also note The Feed primarily comprised opinions, commentary and analysis, to which the standard does not apply.18
- Fairness: The fairness standard applies only to individuals or organisations taking part or referred to in a broadcast.19 The complainant has not identified any individual or organisation they considered was treated unfairly, and on this basis the standard does not apply.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
12 September 2023
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Anthony Hutt's complaint to TVNZ - 17 April 2023
2 TVNZ’s decision on the complaint - 12 May 2023
3 Hutt’s referral to the Authority - 15 May 2023
4 TVNZ's comments on referral - 23 May 2023
5 Hutt confirming no further comments - 3 July 2023
1 TVNZ+ “The Feed” <tvnz.co.nz> (accessed 14 August 2023)
2 We use 'rainbow' as an umbrella term to describe all people whose sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or sexual characteristics are diverse, or differ from binary norms. We further note that the broadcast described this community as takatāpui or queer.
3 Guideline 1.4 and 1.5
4 HW and Sky Network Television Ltd, Decision No. 2022-120 at 
5 Standard 1, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand
6 Commentary, Standard 1, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand at page 8
7 Standard 2, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand
8 Guideline 2.2
9 Introduction, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand at page 4
10 Commentary, Standard 1, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand at page 8
11 Guideline 1.1
12 Guideline 2.1
13 Broadcasting Act 1989, s 5(c)
14 Guideline 2.1
15 Standard 5, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand
16 Broadcasting Act 1989, s 5(c)
17 Standard 6, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand
18 Guideline 6.1
19 Standard 8, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand