Middleton and Discovery NZ Ltd - 2022-119 (8 February 2023)
- Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
- John Gillespie
- Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i
- Aroha Beck
- Suzanne Middleton
ProgrammePromo for Comedy Gala
BroadcasterDiscovery NZ Ltd T/A Warner Bros. Discovery
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
A promo for Comedy Gala aired during the programme Newshub Live at 6pm, stating ‘Prepare your pelvic floor, as you run the risk of wetting yourself.’ The Authority did not uphold a complaint this statement breached the offensive and disturbing content, children’s interests and discrimination and denigration standards. It found the statement was a light-hearted joke directed at people generally, rather than just women as alleged by the complainant, and was suitable for a PG-rated environment. It further found the joke would not have encouraged the denigration of, or discrimination against women.
Not Upheld: Offensive and Disturbing Content, Children’s Interests, Discrimination and Denigration
 A promo for Comedy Gala aired during Newshub Live at 6pm on 15 September 2022. The promo stated:
Prepare your pelvic floor, as you run the risk of wetting yourself. Over two witty weeks it’s Aotearoa’s funniest stand-up show. Three’s Month of Comedy presents, Best Foods Comedy Gala Part 1, tonight, 7.30 on Three and Three Now.
 Suzanne Middleton complained the promo breached the offensive and disturbing content, children’s interests and discrimination and denigration standards of the Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand. She stated:
- The promo was misogynist as ‘It is disrespectful to women to refer to the pelvic floor in this way. Would you suggest that men prepare their testicles or some other private part of their body?’
- ‘I find it offensive and disturbing that the female anatomy is referred to in this offhand way. Thousands of women have serious health problems associated with their pelvic floor, usually as a result of childbirth. There is absolutely nothing to laugh about here.’
- ‘Halfway through the evening news there are so many children watching. How is this offhand trivialising of female anatomy in any way appropriate for them? What message does this send about women’s bodies to boys or girls? I believe that it could make boys disrespect women, and make girls feel embarrassed about their bodies.’
The broadcaster’s response
 Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) did not uphold the complaint for the following key reasons:
- ‘Many of the promos that air during Three’s programmes are for programmes that target adult viewers – which is a necessity given adults are the target audience for many of Three’s shows. Our classification team carefully assesses all promos to ensure they comply with the classification of the host programme.’
- ‘Newshub Live at 6pm has an adult target audience. News programmes are not, because of their distinct nature, subject to classification and because they often contain disturbing or alarming material, it is expected that parents will supervise their children’s viewing of these programmes. Therefore, given the expectation that children viewing news programmes will be subject to adult supervision, it is considered appropriate for PG-rated promos to be scheduled during news programmes.’
- It was ‘satisfied that the Comedy Gala promo was acceptable for broadcast during a news programme. The promo did not contain any graphic sexual material, violence, coarse language or other material that exceeded the boundaries of a PG viewing environment.’
- It was ‘satisfied that a verbal reference to the pelvic floor in the context of a comedic promo did not seriously violate community standards of taste and decency, or that it would cause harm to younger audiences.’
- It did not agree the promo contained a level of malice to be in breach of the discrimination and denigration standard, and was confident viewers would have understood the promo as intended to be comedic.
 The purpose of the offensive and disturbing content standard1 is to protect audiences from viewing or listening to broadcasts that are likely to cause widespread disproportionate offence or distress or undermine widely shared community standards.2
 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 or sexual 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
 The discrimination and denigration standard5 protects against broadcasts which encourage the discrimination against, or denigration of, any section of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, occupational status or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religion, culture or political belief.
 We have watched the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
 As a starting point, we considered the right to freedom of expression. It is our role to weigh up the right to freedom of expression against any harm potentially caused by the broadcast. We may only intervene when the limitation on the right to freedom of expression is demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.6
Offensive and Disturbing Content
 The question for us under this standard is whether the promo was likely to cause widespread disproportionate offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards. The complainant considers the promo’s reference to preparing your pelvic floor was offensive, as it trivialised and made fun of an issue many women experience.
 Caution must be exercised when considering matters of taste and decency, as attitudes – including types of humour and what people may find funny – differ widely and continue to evolve in Aotearoa New Zealand’s diverse society. However, broadcasts must not seriously violate community norms or disproportionately disturb the audience.7
 The context in which the promo aired, and the wider context of the broadcast, are crucial in assessing whether the broadcast exceeded this limit.8 We considered the following contextual factors to be relevant in this case:
- The promo was 16 seconds long and aired during Newshub Live at 6pm.
- Newshub Live at 6pm is an unclassified news programme targeted at adults. Any children watching news programmes of this nature are expected to be supervised.9 However, broadcasters must be mindful of children’s interests and promos broadcast during children’s normally accepted viewing times (between 3pm and 8.30pm in this case) must be classified accordingly.10
- There was nothing in the promo (including any images) to suggest the joke was solely directed at women as the complainant appears to have alleged. While we acknowledge pelvic floor health problems can commonly result from childbirth,11 pelvic floors are part of the anatomy of all sexes.
- The promo was for a comedy show billed as ‘Aotearoa’s funniest stand‑up show.’ The statement ‘Prepare your pelvic floor, as you run the risk of wetting yourself’ was intended as a joke.
 Taking into account the above factors, we consider most viewers would have interpreted this comment as a light-hearted joke about the potential to ‘wet yourself laughing’ from the comedy show. We do not consider the promo exceeded a PG rating (the highest classification for Free-To-Air Television between 6 and 7pm)12 or was likely to cause widespread disproportionate offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards. While we acknowledge the complainant was offended by the promo, we do not consider it met the threshold to find a breach of the standard.
 The contextual factors identified under the offensive and disturbing content standard are also important considerations under the children’s interests standard.13
 Regarding the complainant’s concerns about children’s exposure to the joke in the promo, we again note children were not the target audience of the news programme during which it was broadcast. As identified by the broadcaster, it is expected that parents exercise discretion around viewing news and current affairs programmes with their children, so they can give appropriate guidance.14
 Additionally, we consider the joke was unlikely to be understood by children. Children are unlikely to be familiar with the concept of a pelvic floor, or health problems people can develop in relation to their pelvic floor, through childbirth or otherwise. While the complainant has argued the joke could make boys disrespect women, and make girls feel embarrassed about their bodies, for the reasons above we do not consider the joke would have this effect.
 In the circumstances, we do not consider children were likely to be adversely affected by the promo, and do not uphold the complaint under the children’s interests standard.
Discrimination and Denigration
 The importance of freedom of expression means a high level of condemnation, often with an element of malice or nastiness, will usually be necessary to find a broadcast encouraged discrimination or denigration in breach of the standard.15 Further, the standard is not intended to prevent the broadcast of legitimate humour or satire.16
 While we appreciate the complainant found the promo’s joke to be misogynistic, as previously noted, the joke was not aimed at a part of the female anatomy in particular, and instead referred to pelvic floors of people generally. The joke was intended to be light-hearted and humorous, and we do not consider it contained any element of malice or nastiness. In this context, we do not agree the joke encouraged the denigration of, or discrimination against women.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
8 February 2023
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Suzanne Middleton’s formal complaint to WBD – 16 September 2022
2 WBD’s response to the complaint – 5 October 2022
3 Middleton’s referral to the Authority – 25 October 2022
4 WBD’s confirmation of no further comment – 31 October 2022
1 Standard 1, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand
2 Commentary, Standard 1, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand at page 8
3 Standard 2, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand
4 Guideline 2.2
5 Standard 4, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand
6 Introduction, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand at page 4
7 Commentary, Standard 1, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand at page 8
8 Guideline 1.1
9 Guideline 1.5
10 Guidelines 1.16 and 2.1
11 “Risk factors for pelvic floor injuries during childbirth – what can be done to help stop symptoms developing later in life?” Pelvic Health Physiotherapy (online ed, 11 July 2020)
12 Guideline 1.16
13 Guideline 2.3
14 See, for example, McDonald and Discovery NZ Ltd, Decision No. 2021-119 at para 
15 Guideline 4.2
16 As above