Jameson and Discovery NZ Ltd - 2023-046 (30 August 2023)
- Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
- John Gillespie
- Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i
- Aroha Beck
- Scott Jameson
BroadcasterDiscovery NZ Ltd T/A Warner Bros. Discovery
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a joke made on 7 Days breached the offensive and disturbing content standard. The show featured a segment where comedians were asked to come up with scary kids’ shows, to which one of the responses was ‘High School Musical 4: The Active Shooter.’ The complainant alleged this joke was offensive due to recent school shootings in the United States. The Authority found the joke was not outside of audience expectations for the programme, and the nature of the content was sufficiently signposted through audience advisories. In this context, the joke was not likely to widespread undue offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards.
Not Upheld: Offensive and Disturbing Content
 During the programme 7 Days broadcast on 20 April 2023, a segment aired where the comedians featured on the show attempted to come up with scary kids’ shows. During this segment, comedian Lana Walters made the following joke: ‘Coming to cinemas this summer, High School Musical 4: The Active Shooter.’
 Scott Jameson complained that the broadcast breached the offensive and disturbing content standard of the Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand for the following key reasons:
- The joke was in ‘extremely bad taste’ considering the ‘prolific rate of mass shootings of children in schools in the USA this past year.’
- ‘subjects of this nature are not acceptable to be made light of.’
 On referral to the Authority, the complainant added:
- ‘Jokes about these sorts of things are not acceptable at any time. There is no difference between the Christchurch mosque shootings and these shootings and if this “joke” had have been told (referring to the mosque shootings) just after that event there would be countless complaints.’
- ‘It is hard to be in a jovial mood watching one of your favourite comedy shows and trying to think of the funny side of the utter despair and anguish effecting all the victims of these heinous crimes.’
The broadcaster’s response
 Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) did not uphold Jameson’s complaint for the following key reasons:
- It considered the following contextual factors relevant:
- ‘The Broadcast was classified M with an audience advisory symbol L for language that may offend, S for sexual content and C for content that may offend. The M classification is defined as containing violence, sexual material, offensive language, adult themes, nudity, or other content that some children and parents find challenging. The programme may contain content with a moderate impact and themes that require a mature outlook.’
- The classification and advisory symbols ‘gave viewers a clear indication of the programme’s nature which allowed them to make an informed viewing decision. In addition to the M-LSC rating, there is a high level of audience expectation that 7 Days will regularly contain challenging material, including potentially coarse language and adult comedic material. Such content is acceptable to screen in programmes rated M and scheduled at 7.30 pm.’
- ‘7 Days is a well-known local comedy programme that has been a part of Three’s comedy line-up since 2009. [WBD] considers there to be a very high level of audience awareness of the show’s nature and therefore a high level of expectation that it regularly contains challenging content. The programme routinely features outlandish jokes and [WBD] maintains this episode was no exception.’
- ‘The adult jokes included in the Broadcast fall within the boundaries of what is allowed in content rated M which is defined as content that may contain offensive language and adult themes.’
- ‘Humour is subjective and what may not be funny to some viewers, is to others.’
- WBD was ‘satisfied that the broadcast was in keeping with the audience’s expectations of 7 Days and would not have surprised regular viewers of the show. Given the show’s M-LSC rating and the high level of audience expectation for the content it was likely to include, we are satisfied that viewers had ample information to make an informed viewing decision that reflected their own sensibilities.’
- ‘The purpose of this standard is not to prohibit challenging material, or material that some people may find offensive. Its purpose is to ensure sufficient care is taken so that challenging material is played only in an appropriate context, and that the challenges are not so offensive that they are unacceptable regardless of context. For the reasons above, [WBD] believes that sufficient care has been taken to ensure the material was acceptable in its context and therefore has not found a breach of Standard 1.’
 The purpose of the offensive and disturbing content standard1 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.2 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.
 We have watched the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
 As a starting point, we considered the right to freedom of expression. It is our role to weigh up the right to freedom of expression against any harm potentially caused by the broadcast. We may only intervene when the limitation on the right to freedom of expression is demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.3
 Attitudes towards taste and decency differ widely and continue to evolve in a diverse society such as ours. The standard does not prohibit challenging material, but rather ensures that broadcasts fall within the broad limit of not causing widespread disproportionate offence or distress or seriously undermining widely shared community standards.4
 A key issue under the standard is whether the broadcaster provided reliable information to the audience about the nature of the programme, to enable them to exercise choice and control over their viewing.5
 Context is crucial for complaints made under this standard.6 We consider the following contextual factors to be relevant in this case:
- The broadcast of 7 Days was recorded live and aired at 7.30pm.
- The programme was classified M-LSC (Suitable for mature audiences 16 years and over / Language may offend / Sexual content may offend / Content may offend). Programmes rated M are allowed to air at or after 7.30pm.7
- 7 Days has been regularly broadcast since 2009. It is a comedy satire show which is known for containing material and language that is at times provocative, or that some viewers may find challenging.8 There are established audience expectations for the type of humour included in the programme, which is frequently about current events from the previous week.9
- The joke ‘High School Musical 4: The Active Shooter’ was not repeated or sustained.
 While we acknowledge the complainant’s concerns, in this context, we do not consider the joke ‘High School Musical 4: The Active Shooter’ went beyond the type of humour the audience could reasonably expect from the programme. Further, the broadcaster provided sufficient information to enable the audience to exercise choice and control over their viewing, by providing advisories onscreen indicating the programme was appropriate for mature audiences 16 and over, and contained content that may offend. In these circumstances, we do not consider the joke was likely to have caused widespread disproportionate offence or distress or seriously undermined widely shared community standards.
 Although the humour may not have been to everyone’s taste, humour and satire are forms of speech that are valued and protected by the right to freedom of expression. The broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression allows the broadcast of such jokes, provided they do not breach standards. On this basis, we have not found any harm arising from the broadcast that warrants regulatory intervention or restricting the right to freedom of expression.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
30 August 2023
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Scott Jameson’s formal complaint to WBD - 22 April 2023
2 WBD’s decision on the complaint - 22 May 2023
3 Jameson’s referral to the Authority - 26 May 2023
4 WBD confirming no further comments - 31 May 2023
1 Standard 1, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand
2 Commentary, Standard 1, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand at page 8
3 Introduction, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand at page 4
4 Commentary, Standard 1, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand at page 8
5 Guideline 1.3
6 Guideline 1.1
7 Guideline 1.16
8 YouTube “7 Days NZ” <www.youtube.com>; see also: Hall and Discovery NZ Ltd, Decision No. 2021-051 at 
9 IMDb “7 Days” (accessed 8 August 2023) <www.imdb.com>