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McKenzie and MediaWorks TV Ltd - 2015-055 (18 December 2015)

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Paula Rose QSO
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Kim McKenzie
Promo for Face Off
MediaWorks TV Ltd
FOUR # 2


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

A promo for Face Off, a reality competition show in which the contestants are special effects make-up artists, screened during the animated movie Chicken Run. The Authority upheld a complaint that the promo breached standards of good taste and decency. The promo’s images of gory and wounded prosthetic body parts went beyond audience expectations of a G-rated family movie and were likely to distress child viewers. The Authority however did not agree that the images showed ‘violence’ or violent acts as envisaged by the violence standard.

Upheld: Good Taste and Decency
Not Upheld: Violence
Order: Section 16(4) $500 costs to the Crown


[1]  A promo for Face Off, a reality competition show in which the contestants are special effects make-up artists, screened during Chicken Run, an animated family movie which was rated G (for general audiences). The promo featured artists competing in an ‘evil genius’ challenge and contained shots of prosthetic heads and a pregnant stomach which were bloody and scarred.

[2]  Kim McKenzie complained that the promo contained graphic violence which was unacceptable for broadcast during a children’s movie.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the good taste and decency and violence standards as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The promo was broadcast on FOUR at 6.55pm on Sunday 28 June 2015. The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Did the broadcast threaten current norms of good taste and decency?

[5]  The good taste and decency standard (Standard 1) is primarily aimed at broadcasts containing sexual material, nudity, coarse language or violence.1 The Authority will also consider the standard in relation to any broadcast that portrays or discusses material in a way that is likely to cause offence or distress.2 The purpose of the standard is to protect audience members from viewing broadcasts that are likely to undermine widely shared community standards, in the context in which they screened.

[6]  The complainant felt the promo was unacceptable for screening during a children’s movie as it contained graphic violence, in particular a prosthetic pregnant stomach ‘hacked in the middle’ and scarred prosthetic heads. The complainant said that while the movie was rated as being suitable for children, parents were unable to determine whether what screened during the commercial breaks would be suitable as they were screened without warning.

[7]  MediaWorks conceded that the promo in question was close to the limit of what is acceptable for broadcast during a G-rated film, and took the step of discussing the complaint with its promo department. However it maintained that the promo was not unacceptably challenging for a G classification and would not have disturbed or alarmed a significant number of viewers. MediaWorks argued the tone of the promo was light and upbeat and focused on tensions felt by the contestants. It considered that while the images of the prosthetics were certainly strange or gruesome, these were shown in the context of a clearly established make-up/costume competition.

[8]  When we consider a complaint about good taste and decency, we take into account the context of the broadcast, which here includes:

  • the promo was broadcast during the family movie Chicken Run at 6.55pm
  • the host programme Chicken Run and the promo were rated G (General)
  • the target audience of Chicken Run
  • audience expectations of Chicken Run
  • Face Off was classified PGR (Parental Guidance Recommended)
  • the nature of the programme promoted, a reality make-up/costume competition show.

[9]  The programme’s classification is an important consideration under this standard as classifications are a fundamental way that broadcasters enable audiences to make informed viewing choices and regulate their own, and their children’s, viewing. When audiences are adequately informed of the nature of a programme it follows that they are less likely to be surprised or offended by its content and therefore that the broadcaster is less likely to breach the standard.

[10]  We have carefully considered whether the promo was correctly classified G or whether it warranted a higher rating of PGR, which would have alerted parents and caregivers to the need for supervision. The G and PGR classifications are defined as follows in Appendix 1 to the Code:

G – General
Programmes which exclude material likely to be unsuitable for children. Programmes may not necessarily be designed for child viewers but should not contain material likely to alarm or distress them.
PGR – Parental Guidance Recommended
Programmes containing material more suited for mature audiences but not necessarily unsuitable for child viewers when subject to the guidance of a parent or an adult.

[11]  The promo contained relatively graphic and gruesome close-up shots of (prosthetic) wounded body parts. We acknowledge that the shots were brief and depicted the artists alongside their prosthetic creations, indicating that the images were not real. Nevertheless, we do not think the promo ‘excluded material likely to be unsuitable for children’. These images had the potential to distress or alarm children – who were both part of the target audience and certainly the likely audience of Chicken Run – especially when there was a real possibility that they would be unsupervised. The broadcaster has accepted that this content was close to the limit of what is acceptable for a G timeslot. In our view it crossed the line and better fit the definition of the PGR classification – particularly as Face Off itself was classified PGR.

[12]  As we have said, the approach developed by this Authority is to require broadcasters to give viewers sufficient, reliable information to regulate their own, and their children’s, viewing behaviour.3 The audience should have been able to rely on the G classification as an indicator of the timeslot’s likely content, and we therefore think parents and children alike would have been surprised by the content in the promo when broadcast in this context and during a family movie.

[13]  We are satisfied that upholding this part of the complaint would not unreasonably restrict the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression. If the promo was broadcast during a programme aimed at adults, or in a PGR viewing environment, we may well have reached a different conclusion.

[14]  Accordingly we uphold the complaint under Standard 1.

Did the broadcaster exercise adequate care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence?

[15]  The violence standard (Standard 10) states that broadcasters should exercise care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence.

[16]  The complainant argued that the depiction of the prosthetics constituted ‘graphic violence’ and noted most television depictions of violence are prosthetic. The complainant felt that real images are often less gruesome than what was shown during the promo.

[17]  MediaWorks considered despite the ‘gruesome images’ created by the Face Off artists, the promo did not contain any violence therefore this standard did not apply.

[18]  The creation of prosthetic body parts as part of a reality television contest, although they were gruesome, did not in our view amount to ‘violence’ as envisaged by the standard. Recent decisions under this standard have concerned, for example, footage of a mixed martial arts fight shown during a news item,4 and police officer character being murdered in a crime drama.5

[19]  We decline to uphold the complaint under Standard 10.

For the above reasons the Authority upholds the complaint that the broadcast by MediaWorks TV Ltd of a promo for Face Off on 28 June 2015 breached Standard 1 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[20]  Having upheld the complaint, the Authority may make orders under sections 13 and 16 of the Broadcasting Act 1989. We invited submissions on orders from the parties.

Submissions on provisional decision and orders

[21]  MediaWorks accepted the provisional decision and argued that for a number of reasons, publication of the decision was sufficient and no order was warranted. MediaWorks advised as a result of the three previously upheld decisions relating to promos this year,6 its promo classification process has been strengthened in several respects, including an extra layer of oversight and a procedural mechanism designed for a more rigorous appraisal process. MediaWorks also discussed the upheld decision with senior programming staff.

[22]  MediaWorks submitted that the promo in question was broadcast prior to receiving the No Strings Attached and NCIS decisions,7 and before the process amendments described above came into effect. It argued that the previous decisions about promos containing sexual material were not directly relevant, and considered the NCIS decision provided more useful guidance for appraising promos containing violence or potentially disturbing content. MediaWorks also noted that the previous decisions were upheld under the responsible programming, children’s interests and/or violence standards, while this was the first time in recent years that a promo complaint under the good taste and decency standard has been upheld.

[23]  MediaWorks did not consider that receipt of a formal complaint of itself indicates an issue with the appraisal or scheduling of promos. It stated that each formal complaint is evaluated on its merits and complaints do not necessarily indicate anything other than the complainant’s personal views. MediaWorks argued the NCIS decision on orders suggested that the Authority had already considered the present complaint in reaching that decision, which supports their submission that a further fine is not warranted in this case.

[24]  The complainant did not make any submissions on the provisional decision or orders.

Authority’s response to submissions and decision on orders

[25]  As we noted in the NCIS decision, in our view the broadcaster has received a number of signals – through both complaints and our decisions – of the need to take care when scheduling promos in G time.8 The issue of appropriately classifying promos is directly relevant to the present complaint, even if the specific nature of the promo differs from the promos we considered in previous decisions. This is the fourth upheld decision against MediaWorks relating to promo classification that we have issued this year. As such, we consider it appropriate to order the broadcaster to pay $500 costs to the Crown. However, we acknowledge MediaWorks’ thorough submission and in particular the steps it has taken to strengthen the promo appraisal and classification process, which we hope will help prevent similar breaches in future.

Pursuant to section 16(4) of the Act, the Authority orders MediaWorks TV Ltd to pay to the Crown costs in the amount of $500 within one month of the date of this decision.
This order for costs shall be enforceable in the Wellington District Court.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Radich
18 December 2015



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

1      Kim McKenzie’s formal complaint – 28 June 2015
2      MediaWorks’ response to the complaint – 21 July 2015
3      Kim McKenzie’s referral to the Authority – 31 July 2015
4      MediaWorks’ response to the Authority – 24 August 2015
5      MediaWorks’ submission on the provisional decision and orders – 24 November 2015



Turner and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2008-112

Practice Note: Good Taste and Decency (Broadcasting Standards Authority, November 2006)

Practice Note: Good Taste and Decency (Broadcasting Standards Authority, November 2006)

Malone & Sadd and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2014-155

Gregory and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2014-154

Henderson and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2014-156; Black and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2015-037; Cripps and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2015-043

See Black and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2015-037 and Cripps and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2015-043

See Cripps and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2015-043 at paragraph [22]