Kingston and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2022-100 (22 November 2022)
- Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
- John Gillespie
- Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i
- Aroha Beck
- Carroll Kingston
BroadcasterTelevision New Zealand Ltd
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a 1 News item, reporting on the sustainability implications of the Government’s programme providing free period products to schools, breached the offensive and disturbing content broadcasting standard. The broadcast outlined types of sustainable period products and included a demonstration on how to wash period underwear, using red-tinted liquid. The Authority found the content was within audience expectations of the item, and news programming more generally, and unlikely to cause widespread undue offence or distress or undermine widely shared community standards.
Not Upheld: Offensive and Disturbing Content
 An item on 1 News, broadcast on 31 July 2022, investigated the sustainability implications of the Government’s initiative to provide free period products to schools. In doing so, it included interviews with companies that produce biodegradable and reusable period products; Associate Minister of Education Jan Tinetti; and students at schools benefitting from the initiative.
 The item included footage displaying the various types of sustainable products, and a demonstration on how to wash period underwear. This demonstration showed the underwear: being worn; rinsed in a sink with red‑coloured water draining into a basin; added into a washing machine; and then hung on a washing line to dry.
 In a subsequent shot, it also showed red liquid being poured onto the underwear.
 Carroll Kingston complained the broadcast breached the offensive and disturbing content standard of the Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand as the broadcast contained ‘inappropriate material and graphics for family viewing time’.
The broadcaster’s response
 TVNZ did not uphold the complaint, considering the broadcast was unlikely to have caused widespread undue offence for the following key reasons:
- ‘1 News is an unclassified news programme that screens at a scheduled time each day and has an adult target audience.’
- It referred to previous BSA decisions finding children are unlikely to watch the news unattended,1 and adult supervision is expected for unclassified news programmes as these programmes are likely to contain material that is inappropriate for children.2
- ‘Access to period products for school students is a health (and socioeconomic) issue affecting a significant proportion of the population. It was in the public interest for viewers to be informed about the success of the free period product initiative, and also the legitimate criticism that has been made about the programme's sustainability.’
- The contextual footage was relevant to the issue of sustainable period products, was matter-of-fact, and informative.
- In light of the issue of ‘period shame’,3 ‘open and frank communication in relation to periods and period products is likely to benefit a significant number of people.’
 The purpose of the offensive and disturbing content standard4 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.5 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.6
 In this instance, we have not found a level of harm justifying regulatory intervention. The item was of public interest, providing criticism of a Government programme. Further, the content was justified and well within audience expectations of the item (focusing on sustainable period products) and news programming more generally.
 In reaching this finding, we note context is crucial in assessing complaints under the standard.7 In this case, we identified the following relevant factors:
- 1 News is a current affairs programme aimed at an adult audience.
- News and current affairs programmes are unlikely to be viewed by unsupervised young children.8
- News items often involve challenging material which reflects the world we live in.9
- The item focused on the sustainability implications of the Government’s initiative to provide free period products to schools and demonstrated the use of alternative products.
- The demonstration appears to use artificially coloured water (rather than actual blood).
 In light of the above context, we do not consider the broadcast was likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress or undermine widely shared community standards. Recognising also the public interest in the item (given its messaging around sustainable period products) and the value of open and frank communication around periods,10 we are confident the programme caused no harm at a level which justifies restricting the broadcaster’s freedom of expression.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
22 November 2022
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Carroll Kingston’s formal complaint – 31 July 2022
2 TVNZ’s response to complaint – 22 August 2022
3 Kingston’s referral to the Authority – 5 September 2022
4 TVNZ’s confirmation of no further comment – 5 September 2022
1 Citing Barker and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2000-033
2 Citing Bracey and Ee and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2013-084 at 
3 TVNZ referred to Australian research suggesting ‘the shame of menstruation is so bad’ that almost 70% of adolescents would rather fail a subject than have their peers know: Grace Back “Period Shame Is So Bad That 25 Per Cent Of Australian Girls Are Too Afraid To Buy Sanitary Products” Marie Claire (online ed, 19 August 2019)
4 Standard 1, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand
5 Commentary, Standard 1, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand at page 8
6 Introduction, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand at page 4
7 Guideline 1.1
8Williamson and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2022-010 at 
9 As above
10 Brittany Keogh and Caroline Williams “Period shaming: Three in four Kiwi women say menstruation is stigmatised” Stuff (online ed, 19 August 2019)