BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Mace and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2005-094

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Timothy Bennett Mace
Invader Zim

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Invader Zim – cartoon programme – allegedly in breach of children’s interests

Standard 9 (children’s interests) – not likely to disturb or alarm children – sufficiently unrealistic – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1] A cartoon programme called Invader Zim screened on TV2 at 7:45am on Sunday 17 July 2005. The cartoon follows Zim, a character bent on taking over the universe. After nearly destroying his own planet, he is banished to Earth where he attends “skool”, while furthering his plot to exterminate all humans.


[2] Timothy Bennett Mace complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the programme was not suitable for children. In particular, he was concerned that :

  • Invader Zim was “heavy on violence”
  • words like “stupid” were over-used
  • a child said “I’m gonna fudge your worm-hole” and punched the air with his fist
  • children were singled out by a “really scary” teacher
  • holes were blown in the classroom by a bomb
  • a bus fell on a woman
  • a child was beaten up by the police.

[3] Mr Mace was concerned that this programme was on immediately before What Now?, a programme aimed specifically at younger children.


[4] TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 9 and guidelines 9a, 9f and 9g of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provide:

Standard 9 Children’s Interests

During children’s normally accepted viewing times, broadcasters are required, in the preparation and presentation of programmes, to consider the interests of child viewers.


9a   Broadcasters should be mindful of the effect any programme or promo may have on children during their normally accepted viewing times – usually up to 8.30pm – and avoid screening material which would disturb or alarm them.

9f   "Scary" themes are not necessarily unsuitable for older children, but care should be taken to ensure that realistically menacing or horrifying imagery is not included.

9g   Children’s cartoons should avoid gratuitous violence, especially involving humans or human-like creatures unless, even to the youngest of viewers, the themes are clearly fanciful or farcical.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[5] TVNZ noted that guideline 9f allowed for “scary” themes for older children, and considered that Invader Zim fell into that category. It considered that the almost cubist animation separated the cartoon from any sense of realism, and that the cartoon did not contain any “menacing and horrifying imagery”. In TVNZ’s view, the programme was clearly “fanciful and farcical” in accordance with guideline 9g.

[6] Further, TVNZ considered that the programme would not have disturbed or alarmed children. It concluded that the programme was not contrary to children’s interests.

Referral to the Authority

[7] Mr Mace referred his complaint to the Authority, maintaining that the cartoon would disturb and alarm children. He also argued that Invader Zim was a “scary” cartoon and sufficiently real to be menacing and horrifying within the meaning of guideline 9f.

[8] Mr Mace contended that TVNZ had failed to address his concerns, particularly with regard to the scenes of police brutality. He also said that the bomb scene was “raw”, and suggested that that sort of material was inappropriate for children, and only appropriate in news programmes.

[9] Mr Mace maintained that the programme breached Standard 9.

Authority's Determination

[10] The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

[11] Standard 9 requires broadcasters to consider the interests of child viewers during their normally accepted viewing times. The Authority agrees with TVNZ that Invader Zim was unlikely to disturb or alarm children. It finds that the animated cartoon genre is familiar to children and although some incidents contained “scary” themes, they were highly exaggerated and far removed from reality.

[12] While the Authority considers that the cartoon did contain some gratuitous violence, it agrees with the broadcaster that the themes were clearly fanciful and farcical. The Authority therefore concludes that the broadcaster did sufficiently consider the interests of child viewers on this occasion.


For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
28 September 2005


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

  1. Timothy Bennett Mace’s formal complaint – 17 July 2005
  2. TVNZ’s decision on the formal complaint – 1 August 2005
  3. Mr Mace’s referral to the Authority – 3 August 2005
  4. TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 10 August 2005