BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Samuel and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2014-035

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Elizabeth Samuel
TV One

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

The opening scenes of an episode of Rake included four instances of the word ‘fuck’. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that this constituted strong adult material which screened too close to the Adults Only 8.30pm watershed. The language was not so frequent or offensive that it required a restriction to a later time, and was relevant to the narrative and to character development. The programme was also preceded by a clear warning for coarse language.

Not Upheld: Children’s Interests


[1]  The opening scenes of an episode of Rake included four instances of the word ‘fuck’. The first two instances were in an exchange between two male characters arguing. The third was during an argument between the main character and his son, and the fourth was the main character muttering angrily to himself ‘fuck me’. The programme was rated Adults Only and was preceded by a visual and verbal warning which said, ‘This programme is rated Adults Only. It contains frequent use of coarse language.’ The programme was broadcast at 8.30pm on TV ONE on 5 March 2014.

[2]  Elizabeth Samuel made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd (TVNZ), alleging that the language constituted strong adult material screened too close to the 8.30pm Adults Only watershed, in contravention of Guideline 9b.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the children’s interests standard as set out in the Free-To-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  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 broadcaster adequately consider children’s interests?

[5]  The children’s interests standard (Standard 9) requires broadcasters to consider the interests of child viewers during their normally accepted viewing times – usually up to 8.30pm. Guideline 9b to Standard 9 states that when scheduling AO material to commence at 8.30pm, broadcasters should ensure that strong adult material is not shown soon after the watershed.

[6]  TVNZ argued that the word ‘fuck’ did not amount to ‘strong adult content’ and routinely features in AO programming. It said the language could not be edited out in this instance because it was important to the storyline and character development. Children’s interests were adequately considered by correctly classifying the programme AO and broadcasting a warning, it said.

[7]  The aim of Guideline 9b is to ensure that ‘strong’ adult content does not feature within close proximity to the watershed, recognising that some care is needed during the transition between the PGR time-band which is suitable for supervised children, and AO content which is not.

[8]  That said, Adults Only content is permitted from 8.30pm onwards. Rake was classified AO and screened during the AO time-band. It is reasonable to expect that AO programming will contain AO material, including some degree of coarse language. An explicit warning was given before the movie for ‘violence that may disturb and language and sexual material which may offend’.

[9]  While we accept that generally the word ‘fuck’ will be AO content, guideline 9b does not require the broadcaster to eliminate all AO content close to 8.30pm – only strong AO content. Four instances of the word ‘fuck’, used in a mild and humorous manner, did not in our view amount to ‘strong adult material’ which warranted a restriction to a later time. In some circumstances the word ‘fuck’ may amount to strong AO content, for example where it is used in an aggressive or abusive manner, but that was not the case here. The language was justified in the narrative context of the programme (for example, portraying the qualities of the main character),1 and consistent with expectations of the series.

[10]  In a similar previous decision, we did not uphold a complaint that the broadcast of the words ‘fuck’ and ‘fucking’ at 8.40pm breached guideline 9b.2 That case, and the present case, can be distinguished from, for example, Binks and 20 Others and TVWorks Ltd,3 where we determined that the frequent use of explicit coarse language in the first ten minutes of an episode of Outrageous Fortune constituted ‘strong adult material’ broadcast too close to the watershed.

[11]  For these reasons, we decline to uphold the complaint that the language used in Rake constituted ‘strong adult material’ broadcast too close to the watershed, and that the broadcaster failed to adequately consider children’s interests.


For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Radich
9 September 2014


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

1            Elizabeth Samuel’s formal complaint – 5 March 2014

2            TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 2 April 2014

3            Ms Samuel’s referral to the Authority – 2 April 2014

4            TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 11 June 2014

5            Ms Samuel’s final comment – 26 June 2014

6            TVNZ’s final comment – 27 June 2014


See discussion of ‘narrative context’ in Television New Zealand Ltd v West CIV-2010-485-002007 at paragraphs [37] to [38] per Asher J

2Steans and TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2011-105

3Decision No. 2010-141