BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

McDonald and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2005-003

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Donald McDonald
Close Up @ 7
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Close Up at 7 item – item on “schoolies” week in Queensland, Australia – item included scenes of alcohol consumption, “mooning” and partying – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency

Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – item was newsworthy – mildly offensive conduct in this context did not amount to a breach of the standard – Not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1] An item on Close Up at 7, shown on TV One at 7pm on 6 December 2004, reported on “schoolies” week in Queensland, and showed newly graduated high school students gathering at beach resorts on the Gold Coast for a week of celebrations.


[2] Donald McDonald complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the item had breached broadcasting standards. He alleged that the item dealt with an end-of-school “orgy” of “alcohol, sex and booze”, and was contrary to the social good.

[3] Mr McDonald also alleged that a shot of several young men “mooning” (baring their buttocks) to the camera constituted indecent exposure, and was obscene. The complainant was also concerned that the depiction of young people smoking cigarettes could constitute a breach of broadcasting codes. In addition, the complainant felt that the item failed to offer a caution against the use of alcohol, particularly in light of the high number of traffic accidents involving young people and alcohol.


[4] TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 1 of the Free to Air Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provides:

Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.

Guideline 1a

Broadcasters must take into consideration current norms of decency and taste in language and behaviour bearing in mind the context in which any language or behaviour occurs. Examples of context are the time of the broadcast, the type of programme, the target audience, the use of warnings and the programme’s classification. The examples are not exhaustive.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[5] In its response to the complainant, TVNZ contended that Mr McDonald had perhaps missed the point of the item, or misunderstood the role of news and current affairs.

[6] The broadcaster noted that the purpose of the item was to inform New Zealanders of an increasingly popular “rite of passage” ritual occurring in Australia. The item also incorporated comment from adult volunteers monitoring the festivities, as well as a New Zealand perspective from three tourists.

[7] The committee noted that the “mooning” incident was

…included to ensure that the youthful ‘celebrations’ were not sanitised to the point that they no longer reflected the reality of the event.

[8] TVNZ pointed out that there was no code which specifically referred to cigarette smoking, and that in any case, the depiction of people smoking cigarettes in a news and current affairs context did not amount to advocating smoking.

[9] The broadcaster also pointed out the unclassified nature of the news, preserved in Appendix 1 of the Code, and noted that the role of news and current affairs is to show the world as it is, rather than as people would like it to be.

Referral to the Authority

[10] Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr McDonald referred his complaint to the Authority under s8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He did not elaborate on the points made in his original complaint to TVNZ.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[11] TVNZ added nothing further to its original response to the complaint.

Authority's Determination

[12] 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.

[13] The Authority considers that TVNZ gave a considered and well reasoned response to the complainant. The Authority agrees with the broadcaster’s response in the first instance and notes the following points:

  • News and current affairs programmes are unclassified;
  • The item was newsworthy;
  • The conduct displayed was only mildly offensive and did not threaten the good taste and decency standard.

[14] Accordingly, the Authority does not uphold the complaint.


For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
31 March 2005


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

  1. Donald McDonald’s Formal Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – 6 December 2004
  2. TVNZ’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 23 December 2004
  3. Donald McDonald’s Referral to the Authority – 21 January 2005
  4. TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 2 February 2005