BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Pepping and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2019-040 (17 September 2019)

  • Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
  • Paula Rose QSO
  • Wendy Palmer
  • Susie Staley MNZM
  • Mary Pepping
1 News


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

A complaint that a news item which included blurred clips of a politician in a strip club breached the children’s interests standard has not been upheld. The Authority found that the short news item contained brief and inexplicit clips from inside the strip club which were shown in the context of a news item about Australian politics. Generally audiences are aware of the need to exercise discretion during news programming to regulate their own and their children’s viewing. The Authority found that due to audience expectations of 1 News, which is an unclassified news and current affairs programme, the brevity of the clip and blurring applied, the public interest, and the focus of the item being on Pauline Hanson’s response to the resignation of a party candidate, the item would not cause undue harm to children.

Not Upheld: Children’s Interests

The broadcast

[1]  A news item on 1 News covering Pauline Hanson’s reaction to a strip club scandal which resulted in the resignation of a One Nation Party Senate candidate showed blurred footage of the candidate in a strip club with a voiceover saying ‘Steve Dickson was filmed groping a woman at a Washington DC strip club.’

[2]  The item was broadcast at 6:00pm on 1 May 2019 on TVNZ 1. As part of our consideration of this complaint, we have watched a recording of the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

The complaint

[3]  Mary Pepping submitted the broadcast breached the children’s interests standard of the Free-To-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Standards for the following reasons:

  • It contained a ‘lurid sex scene’, displaying sexual material which was ‘extremely inappropriate’ for children to see.
  • ‘[B]lurring the objectionable material will actually draw attention to it, from a child, as they will think the television is faulty . . . and look even closer.’
  • It was not necessary to show the clip, and would have been adequate to state what had happened without showing it.
  • Adults who wanted to see such material could easily access it outside of children’s viewing time.
  • Parents cannot be expected to monitor every minute of children’s viewing time.

The broadcaster’s response

[4]  TVNZ responded that the news item did not breach the children’s interests standard for the following reasons:

  • 1 News is aimed at an adult audience.
  • Children of a vulnerable age are unlikely to watch the news unattended1 and there is an expectation that parents exercise discretion around viewing news and current affairs programmes with their children.2
  • News broadcasts often discuss current events ‘including serious crime such as murder, child abuse, rape, terror attacks and natural disasters of a large scale where people are killed’ and there is an expectation that the broadcasts will carry some footage of these events.
  • No nudity or sex acts are visible as the footage is blurred.
  • The introduction to the news item ‘gave a clear outline of the nature of the discussion’ which allowed viewers to make an informed decision about whether they wished children in their care to view the item.
  • ‘The story is newsworthy and of public interest.’
  • The item was presented in a way that is consistent with viewer expectations of a 6pm news bulletin.

The children’s interests standard

[5]  The children’s interests standard states that broadcasters should ensure children can be 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.3

Our findings

[6]  When we make a decision on a complaint that a broadcast has breached broadcasting standards, we first consider the important right to freedom of expression and weigh this against the level of actual or potential harm that might be caused by the broadcast. The right to freedom of expression includes both the right of broadcasters to impart ideas and information, and of audiences to receive that information. We may only interfere and uphold complaints where the limitation on the right to freedom of expression is reasonable and justified.

[7]  The role of news media is to provide the community with accurate, unbiased and timely information about news and current events without causing harm.4 The standards provide guidance as to how this obligation may be discharged.

[8]  Context is an important consideration when assessing complaints under the children’s interests standard.5 We found the following contextual factors to be relevant in our decision:

  • 1 News is an unclassified news programme broadcast at 6pm each weekday.
  • 1 News is targeted at an adult audience.
  • It would be within audience expectations of 1 News and news programming in general for such programmes to contain strong or adult material.6
  • The broadcast concerns Australian politics, so there is a level of public interest in the item for a New Zealand audience. 
  • The item was brief (around one minute) and the strip club scenes within the item were less than 10 seconds long.
  • The scenes in the strip club were heavily blurred by the broadcaster, poorly lit and not sensationalised nor described in explicit detail.
  • The focus of the news item was on Pauline Hanson’s reaction rather than the strip club itself.

[9]  While we acknowledge that the item may not be suitable for unsupervised children, we find that this item was within audience expectations for 1 News. The Authority has previously recognised that children are unlikely to be watching news programmes unsupervised.7 Viewers are aware of the need to exercise discretion during news programming to regulate their own, and children’s, viewing.8

[10]  We do not consider that the item contained a ‘lurid’ sex scene. Lurid means ‘presented in vividly shocking or sensational terms’.9 We consider the item contained a brief, blurred depiction of a sexual activity that was justified due to the focus of the news item. In the context of the programme as a whole, the blurring and the introductory statements by the presenter were sufficient to alert viewers as to the content to follow, which would enable them to take steps to protect any children who may be adversely affected.

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


Signed for and on behalf of the Authority




Judge Bill Hastings

17 September 2019



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

1                 Mary Pepping’s formal complaint – 3 May 2019

2                 TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 4 June 2019

3                 Mrs Pepping’s referral to the Authority – 10 June 2019

4                 Mrs Pepping’s further comments – 10 June 2019

5                 TVNZ’s confirmation of no further comment – 18 July 2019


1 See Barker and Television New Zealand Limited, Decision No. 2000-033, Baldwin and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2006-125 and Roberts and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2007-115
2 Bracey and EE and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2013-084 at [9]
3 Guideline 3a
4 Moyer and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2019-034 at [11]
5 Guideline 3b
6 Lowry and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2018-051 at [9]
7 See for example Lowry and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2018-051 at [9],  Lough and Television New Zealand, Decision No. 2017-080 at [14] and Lewis and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2017-069 at [13]
8 Lough and Television New Zealand, Decision No. 2017-080 at [15]