BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Stancombe and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2004-060

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Rick and Suzanne Stancombe
  • Auckland

Complaint under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Coke Countdown – music video – “Toxic” by Britney Spears – allegedly bad taste and unsuitable for children

Standard 1 (good taste and decency) and Guidelines 1a and 1b – context – not upheld

Standard 9 (children’s interests) and Guidelines 9a and 9d – PGR viewing time – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1] The music video “Toxic” by Britney Spears was broadcast on Coke Countdown on TV2 at 9.00am on 22 February 2004.


[2] Rick and Suzanne Stancombe complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the music video was in “poor taste” and that “children should not be subjected to this sort of indecency”. They commented:

As parents of children ranging from 7 years to 15 years, we are tired of seeing these music videos of people half naked and simulating sex, being played during peak times where children and families are prime audiences. In a lot of cases we enjoy the music but to have to watch the video is a real put off.

We feel TVNZ should take a more active role in monitoring the type of music clips that are shown on TV at peak times.

It is interesting to note that recently the New Zealand Herald reported that the same video in America has been banned from public television and only played after 10pm on MTV.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[3] TVNZ assured the complainants that it took the issue of inappropriate content on screen very seriously, and had classified the video and the programme as a whole as PGR (Parental Guidance Recommended). It noted that PGR had been defined in the Free-to-Air Code as:

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.

Referral to the Authority

[4] Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response to their complaint, Mr and Mrs Stancombe referred it to the Authority for investigation and review.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[5] In the broadcaster’s response to the Authority, it submitted:

…this music track differs little from dozens of others in which young female stars are seen in skimpy attire or in which sexual innuendo is employed in either the visuals or the lyrics. It is the way of popular music nowadays, and while it may scandalize some parents, it does no more so than when a previous generation of youngsters seized upon the suggestive lyrics and driving beat of rock’n’roll to the dismay of their parents.

[6] TVNZ also maintained that:

  • The video contained no nudity.
  • The lyrics were not offensive.
  • The fact that one United States network had removed the video to a late night slot needed to be seen in the context of:
  • … what might be described as the hysterical reaction in that country to an incident in which Janet Jackson’s breast was exposed to a billion viewers or more during the live telecast of the Superbowl.
  • “Countdowns” of popular music had long been a feature of weekend morning programming on TV2 and the audience:
  • … is in the main the young people who so enjoy this sort of music and are familiar both with its varied style and with the way it translates into video presentations … .

[7] TVNZ noted that it had not nominated a standard in determining the complaint. It then recommended that the Authority consider the complaint under Standard 9 (children’s interests):

… but with an awareness of the PGR classification, and of the likely make-up of the youth audience attracted to such programmes.

Authority's Determination

[8] The members of the Authority have viewed the video complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

[9] The Authority notes that the broadcaster’s response to the Stancombe’s formal complaint did not refer to specific standards. It considers that the complainants’ original complaint ought to have been assessed by the broadcaster under Standards 1 and 9. Those standards, and their relevant guidelines read:

Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.


1a  Broadcasters must take into consideration current norms of decency and taste in language and behaviour bearing in mind the context in which any language or behaviour occurs. Examples of context are the time of the broadcast, the type of programme, the target audience, the use of warnings and the programme’s classification. The examples are not exhaustive.

1b  Broadcasters should consider – and if appropriate require – the use of on-air visual and verbal warnings when programmes contain violent material, material of a sexual nature, coarse language or other content likely to disturb children or offend a significant number of adult viewers. Warnings should be specific in nature, while avoiding detail which may itself distress or offend viewers.

Standard 9 Children’s Interests

During children’s normally accepted viewing times, broadcasters are required, in the preparation and presentation of programmes, to consider the interests of child viewers.


9a  Broadcasters should be mindful of the effect any programme or promo may have on children during their normally accepted viewing times – usually up to 8.30pm – and avoid screening material which would disturb or alarm them.

9d  Broadcasters should have regard to the fact that children tend to watch television through to midday on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and during school and public holidays. Accordingly, special attention should be given to providing appropriate warnings during these periods.

[10] The Authority must consider the context of a broadcast to determine whether it breaches Standard 1 (good taste and decency). Accordingly, it notes the following relevant matters about the “Toxic” video:

  • It was broadcast during PGR time.
  • In the Authority’s view, the video was appropriately classified PGR.
  • The Authority accepts that the target audience of Coke Countdown is a predominantly youth audience which expects and is familiar with the imagery used in music videos.
  • The video did not contain nudity, and the language used was not offensive.

[11] The Authority concludes that the broadcast of the music video during PGR time did not breach Standard 1.

[12] As the screening of the video was within the appropriate PGR time band, the Authority concludes that TVNZ considered the interests of children as required by Standard 9 and finds that standard was not breached.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
27 May 2004


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

  1. Rick and Suzanne Stancombe’s Formal Complaint to Television New Zealand Limited –
    22 February 2004
  2. TVNZ’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 2 March 2004
  3. Mr and Mrs Stancombe’s Referral to the Authority – 22 March 2004
  4. TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 15 April 2004