BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

McKane and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2020-118 (9 March 2021)

Members
  • Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Paula Rose QSO
  • Susie Staley MNZM
Dated
Complainant
  • Clive McKane
Number
2020-118
Programme
House Rules
Channel/Station
TV One

Warning: This decision contains language that some readers may find offensive.

Summary  

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

The Authority has not upheld a complaint that the use of exclamations including ‘oh my God’, ‘holy crap’ and ‘bloody’ in an episode of House Rules, broadcast at 7.30pm, breached the good taste and decency standard. In this context, the language used would not have caused audiences undue offence or harm and it was not beyond what viewers would reasonably expect from the programme.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency


The broadcast

[1]  House Rules is an Australian reality television show where teams comprising two individuals renovate each other’s homes with the renovations being assessed by a panel of judges. An episode broadcast on 14 August 2020, at 7.30pm on TVNZ included the following exclamations:

  • ‘Holy crap’
  • ‘This is bloody epic.’
  • ‘It’s a bloody ripper.’
  • ‘That’s bloody amazing.’
  • ‘Oh my God’
  • ‘Holy f***’ (censored in the broadcast).

The complaint

[2]  Mr McKane complained the broadcast breached the good taste and decency standard on the basis of the language being offensive to Christians.

The broadcaster’s response

[3]  TVNZ did not uphold Mr McKane’s complaint for the following reasons:

  • The language was at the very low end of the offensive language scale and well within audience expectations.
  • The language was broadly within the PG classification.
  • The language was unlikely to have caused widespread offence among regular viewers.

The standard

[4]  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

Our analysis

[5]  In considering this complaint we have viewed the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

[6]  The right to freedom of expression is an important right in a democracy. We weigh the right to freedom of expression against the harm potentially caused by the broadcast. We only intervene when the limitation on the right to freedom of expression is reasonable and justified.

[7]  The harm alleged in this instance is the broadcast of unacceptable language, specifically offensive to Christians. The context in which such statements occur and the wider context of the broadcast are relevant to assessing whether a programme has breached the good taste and decency standard.3

[8]  Taking into account the following, the broadcast was not likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards:

  • The nature of the programme and target audience: The show is a reality television show with an adult target audience.
  • Classification and scheduling: The programme airs at 7:30pm and has a PG classification.   
  • Audience expectations: The use of language was within audience expectations for a reality television show airing at 7.30pm.
  • Nature of language use:

(a)  The language was used as exclamations rather than in an aggressive or vitriolic way.

(b)  One swear word was censored.

  • Relevant Research:

(a)  The words used in the broadcast are at the lowest end of the scale of offensive language. Of the words used the word ‘God’ is the only word to feature in our 2018 Language That May Offend in Broadcasting research.4

(b)  In the research, ‘God’ was ranked 31 out of 31 in the list of the most unacceptable words.5 Of those surveyed 15 percent found the word unacceptable in all scenarios and 23 percent found the word unacceptable when used in the context of a reality TV programme.6

(c)   We also note there has been a slight increase in tolerance for the use of the word since 2013, when the general unacceptability of the word was ranked 18 out of 31 words.7

[9]  While we acknowledge that words associated with ‘God’ and the Christian faith would be considered by some people to be blasphemous, these words do not amount to coarse language and in our modern secular society have come to be widely used as part of everyday colloquial speech. We have consistently found variations of ‘Jesus’ and ‘Christ’ used as exclamations do not threaten widely shared community standards of good taste and decency.8

[10]  Any potential for harm in this instance is outweighed by the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression on this occasion. Accordingly, we do not find a breach of the good taste and decency standard.

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

 

Judge Bill Hastings

Chair

9 March 2021    

 


Appendix

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

1  Clive McKane’s formal complaint – 14 August 2020

2  TVNZ’s response to Mr McKane – 10 September 2020

3  Mr McKane’s referral to the Authority – 13 September 2020

4  TVNZ’s confirmation of no further comments – 23 September 2020


1 Standard 1 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice
2 Commentary: Good Taste and Decency, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 12
3 Guideline 1a
4 See Language That May Offend in Broadcasting (Broadcasting Standards Authority, June 2018)
5 As above, page 6
6 As above, pages 6 and 25
7 As above, page 6
8 See for example Bruce-Phillips and Television New Zealand, Decision No. 2020-092; ten Hove and MediaWorks Radio Ltd, Decision No. 2020-044A; and Mclean and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2018-046