BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Maharey and Television New Zealand Limited - 2021-040 (21 July 2021)

Members
  • Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Paula Rose QSO
  • Susie Staley MNZM
Dated
Complainant
  • Laura Maharey
Number
2021-040
Programme
Sunday
Channel/Station
TV One

Summary  

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

The Authority has not upheld a complaint a Sunday feature about sexually explicit social media sites breached the good taste and decency and children’s interests standards. In the context, particularly noting the public interest value of the feature, audience expectations, and nature of the programme, the Authority considered the broadcast was unlikely to cause widespread undue offence, or undermine widely shared community standards. The Authority found the content did not go beyond what the audience could reasonably expect of the programme, and the introduction was sufficient to signpost the type of content to be expected.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency and Children’s Interests


The broadcast

[1]  A broadcast of Sunday on 21 March 2021 at 7.30pm on TVNZ1 included a feature titled ‘Risqué Business’ which reported on the increased popularity of the sexually explicit social media sites and the risks of posting images online. The introduction to the item follows:

X-rated social media sites like ‘Only Fans’ have skyrocketed in popularity since COVID lockdowns, but it's not porn stars. Many of these women are regular sorts, looking for a bit of fun and income. In fact, some are even becoming millionaires. But when your images are being seen by thousands, sometimes millions of anonymous viewers, is the payoff really worth it? Tonight, Sarah Arbo on the risk of being risqué.

[2]  The first half of the feature included interviews with two members of ‘Only Fans’ who talked about their experiences and how they have become millionaires through posting content on the site. The story provided a behind the scenes look into their motivations and how they have developed their ‘Only Fans’ accounts into lucrative careers. The segment included clips from photoshoots and the interviewees posing in underwear and swimwear for images to be uploaded onto their accounts.

[3]  The second half focused on the risks of online images being stolen to create fake ‘Only Fans’ accounts. The reporter interviewed a young woman who had images stolen from her Instagram account, and engaged the services of a company who developed a computer programme to scan the internet removing stolen pictures.

The complaint

[4]  Laura Maharey complained the broadcast breached the good taste and decency and children’s interests standards for the following reasons:

  • The broadcast included multiple images of women wearing very little clothing and in suggestive poses.
  • There were a number of images repeatedly displayed without prior warning. Ms Maharey says the use of the images was gratuitous as the same point could have been made with fewer images or blurring of the images.
  • The item was broadcast at around 8.15pm. The children’s interests standard provides that children’s viewing hours are until 8.30pm. The sexual material and themes were inappropriate for children or teens.
  • The content in the first half of the feature advertised the high income earned by the content creators on ‘Only Fans’. While the second half of the feature warned of the possible negative consequences of posting online content, this was separated by an ad-break and was viewed as a separate item.   

The broadcaster’s response

[5]  TVNZ did not uphold her complaint for the following reasons:

  • Sunday is aimed at an adult audience. While within children’s viewing times, there is an expectation that parents exercise discretion around viewing news and current affairs programmes with their children.
  • Sunday features stories from a wide variety of sources and diverse communities.
  • The feature was of public interest given the increasing popularity of ‘Only Fans’ and similar subscription based services and the success of the content creators.
  • A warning was not required as the story did not contain sexual material, nudity or offensive language.
  • The story referred to the amount of money content creators claimed to be making which was relevant to the story. It did not encourage viewers to pursue careers in the field.
  • There was a cautionary element through the interview with one woman whose photos were stolen from Instagram and used by scammers.
  • The presenter also appended the story with a warning from Netsafe in relation to the risks associated with putting content online.
  • There were signposts to the subject matter: a teaser aired at the top of the programme, a coming up teaser at the end of the preceding segment and the introduction of the story which included a detailed description of the upcoming subject matter.
  • The signposting provided sufficient information for viewers to make an informed viewing decision for themselves or any children.
  • While some viewers may not agree with the choices of the content creators the material was not likely to cause widespread offence in its context.

The standards

[6]  The good taste and decency standard1 states current norms of good taste and decency should be maintained, consistent with the context of the programme. The standard is intended to protect audiences from content likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards.2

[7]  The children’s interests standard3 requires broadcasters to ensure children are protected from broadcasts which might adversely affect them. Material likely to be considered under this standard includes violent 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.4

Our analysis

[8]  We have watched the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

[9]  As a starting point, we considered the right to freedom of expression. As we may only intervene when the limitation on the right to freedom of expression is reasonable and justified, we weigh the right to freedom of expression against any harm potentially caused by the broadcast.5

Contextual factors

[10]  Context is crucial in the consideration of harm under the good taste and decency and children’s interests standards.6 In assessing this complaint we considered the following contextual factors to be relevant:

  • The nature of the programme: Sunday is an unclassified current affairs programme.
  • Audience advisory or warning: There was no audience advisory or warning prior to the broadcast of the item. However, the introduction, which highlighted images on ‘x-rated’ social media sites, signalled the type of content to be expected.
  • The programme’s scheduling:  The programme was broadcast from 7.30pm. The broadcast screened during the PGR timeslot.
  • The target audience and audience expectations: The target audience was adults and any child viewers would likely be supervised.7
  • Public interest value: The programme has public interest value in highlighting the risks of sharing photos online.

Good Taste and Decency

[11]  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 seriously violating community norms of taste and decency.8

[12]  News and current affairs programmes such as Sunday often cover difficult and challenging material and it is not the intention of the standards to shield audiences from such material.9 Television is a visual medium and we consider the use of the images gave the issue some context and had the effect of highlighting the scope of the issue.10 The content did not contain material we consider to be beyond what a reasonable audience could expect from the programme. The introduction to the programme gave viewers sufficient information regarding the content to be expected.

[13]  Considering the contextual factors, and for the above reasons, we find the broadcast was unlikely to cause widespread offence or undermine community standards.

[14]  We therefore do not uphold the complaint under the good taste and decency standard.

Children’s interests

[15]  As we have discussed above, we do not consider the broadcast contained material outside audience expectations.11 Given the programme’s introduction, we find viewers had sufficient information to enable them to make informed decisions about the broadcast and to protect children in their care from material that had the potential to unduly disturb them.12

[16]  We therefore do not uphold the complaint under this standard.

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Judge Bill Hastings

Chair

21 July 2021

 


Appendix

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

1  Laura Maharey’s original complaint to TVNZ – 22 March 2021

2  TVNZ’s response to Ms Maharey – 19 April 2021

3  Ms Maharey’s referral to BSA – 26 April 2021

4  TVNZ’s final comments – 30 April 2021


1 Standard 1, Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice
2 Commentary: Good Taste and Decency, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 12
3 Standard 3, Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice
4 Guideline 3a
5 Freedom of Expression: Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 6
6 Guideline 1a and Guideline 3c
7 See, for example, Nelson and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2019-113 at [11]
8 Commentary: Good Taste and Decency, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 12
9 Pask and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2019-057 at [14]
10 See Nelson and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2019-113 at [13]
11 Guideline 3d and 3e
12 Judge and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2020-027 at [14] and [20]