BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Watson and Lafotanoa and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2004-077, 2004-078, 2004-079

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Kevin and Joy Watson
  • Melanie Lafotanoa on behalf of Concerned Parents
One News
TV One

Complaints under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
(1) One News – item about model Rachel Hunter who posed nude for Playboy magazine – item showed three frontal pictures with genital area covered and nipples electronically concealed – complaints from the Watsons and Concerned Parents – allegedly offensive and inappropriate for children

(2) One News – item about singer Courtney Love apparently flashing her breasts at host of ”Late Show with David Letterman” – complaint from Concerned Parents – allegedly offensive and inappropriate for children

Findings (1)
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) and Guideline 1a – context – not upheld

Standard 7 (classification) – news unclassified – not upheld

Standard 9 (children’s interests) – majority – electronic masking evidence of broadcaster’s efforts to take children’s interests into account – not upheld

Findings (2)
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) and Guideline 1a – context – not upheld

Standard 9 (children’s interests) and Guideline 9a – no sexual allusions – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1] Model Rachel Hunter having posed nude for Playboy magazine was dealt with in an item on One News broadcast on TV One on 18 March 2004 beginning at 6.00pm. In addition to extracts of an interview with Ms Hunter, the item included three frontal pictures of Ms Hunter used in Playboy in which her genital area was covered and her nipples electronically concealed.

[2] Singer Courtney Love’s action in apparently flashing her breasts at the host of the “Late Show with David Letterman” was shown in an item on One News broadcast on TV One on 19 March 2004 beginning at 6.00pm. The item also described an incident in which Ms Love was alleged to have thrown a microphone stand into the audience injuring a fan.


[3] Kevin and Joy Watson complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the item featuring Ms Hunter included pictures in which she was “lying virtually naked”. It described the broadcast of such “voyeuristic” material at that time as offensive and irresponsible.

[4] On behalf of Concerned Parents Nelson in a complaint signed by 17 people, Melanie Lafotanoa complained to TVNZ about both items. She accepted that the item about Ms Hunter might be “newsworthy”, but stated that it was unacceptable, and merely sensational, to include the pictures of her from Playboy. She described the efforts to blur the nipples as “pathetic”.

[5] As for the item about Ms Love, Ms Lafotanoa said that it was obvious, even to her children, that Ms Love was flaunting her breasts. Complaining that TVNZ had been irresponsible in screening the item as many children watched the news with their parents, Ms Lafotanoa said tabloid journalism was not acceptable.


[6] TVNZ assessed the complaints under Standard 1 and Guideline 1a, Standard 7 and Standard 9 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice which 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 (see Appendix 1). The examples are not exhaustive.

Standard 7 Programme Classification

Broadcasters are responsible for ensuring that programmes are appropriately classified and adequately display programme classification information, and that time-bands are adhered to.

Standard 9 Children’s Interests

During children’s normally accepted viewing times (see Appendix 1), 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.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainants

[7] TVNZ advised the complainants that it considered that Ms Hunter was a celebrity in New Zealand, and contended that the general reaction was pride when she had earlier appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in more raunchy and revealing poses. Moreover, TVNZ said, as the item had noted, many famous women had chosen to appear in Playboy over the years. The magazine, it added, was now “more staid” than some of its “younger and steamier” counterparts. As for the pictures themselves, TVNZ stated that they were shown in the item either electronically masked or airbrushed to conceal Ms Hunter’s breasts.

[8] Arguing that pictures were necessary for the item about a local celebrity and that those used were “comparatively innocuous”, TVNZ contended that the item did not breach the good taste and decency requirement in Standard 1. Moreover, they were static shots of an unclad woman, they did not include sexual activity, and were similar to what would be seen in an art gallery exhibiting nudes.

[9] As for Standard 7, TVNZ pointed out that the news hour was unclassified and the caveat about the use of warnings was not relevant given the lack of offensiveness. Warnings, TVNZ added, should be used sparingly and be used with material which was genuinely alarming or disturbing.

[10] Turning to Standard 9 and the requirement for broadcasters to consider the interests of children, TVNZ said that news was not the viewing choice except for the most mature of unattended children. Children who watched the news, it asserted, were usually under the guidance of a parent or other caregiver, and children’s interests had been taken into account by the electronic masking used.

[11] Questioning the reasoning behind the Watsons’ allegation that the screening of such material led to the erosion of standards of decency, TVNZ declined to uphold the complaints about the item which featured Ms Hunter.

[12] In response to the complaint about the item about Ms Love, TVNZ assumed that the complaint focused on the broadcast of the item on Tonight beginning at 10.30pm. It stated that an effort was being made with Tonight to offer a programme which would be of interest to young adults who did not watch the early evening news programmes. As for the complaint about the specific item, TVNZ said that scene was pixelated, adding:

The story was relevant and of interest to the young adult audience at which it was directed, because the behaviour of Ms Love in the days before this broadcast had become erratic and controversial and therefore inherently of interest to those who enjoy her style of music.

[13] Declining to uphold the complaint that the item breached either Standard 1 or Standard 9, TVNZ said that the pixelated view of Ms Love was screened two hours after the AO watershed at 8.30pm.

Referrals to the Authority

[14] The Watsons referred their complaint to the Authority as they believed that the item had breached Standard 1 (good taste and decency) and Standard 7 (classification). Ms Hunter’s role as a celebrity and her appearance in “Sports Illustrated”, they wrote, did not excuse TVNZ from maintaining standards consistent with good taste and decency. The broadcast of lewd material on the news at 6.00pm, they added, could mean that standards would progressively fall further.

[15] As for children viewing the news, the Watsons said it was common practice for families to watch the news together at meal time. They concluded:

Finally, we lodge this formal complaint because it was entirely unnecessary for TV One to show these nude pictures. If they considered the fact that Ms Hunter chose to pose for Play Boy Magazine a newsworthy item – so be it. To then show pictures of her naked was, in our opinion, a serious mistake.

[16] On behalf of Concerned Parents Nelson, Ms Lafotanoa pointed out that the complaint did not focus on Ms Hunter’s decision to pose nude for Playboy or her previous pictures in other magazines. Rather, it was concerned about the pictures used in the item, and, it emphasised, not all the static pictures were airbrushed. Moreover, it was apparent to young children what she was doing and the comparison with art was described as “naïve”.

[17] Contending that TVNZ’s central argument was that the story could not have been told without reference to the pictures, the complainants said that the children would have been aware of the sexual imagery and, moreover, the item was sensational in that it amounted to free advertising for Playboy. The part of the item which dealt with this matter and which caused offence should have been broadcast later on Tonight. The complainants also questioned TVNZ’s definition of good taste and decency.

[18] As for the Tonight item featuring Ms Love, the complainants stated that the complaint focused on the broadcast of the item on One News at 6.00pm. The broadcast of the item which, the complainant stated, was of minimal interest to many families at that time, nevertheless included behaviour which children would understand.

Broadcaster’s Responses to the Authority

[19] TVNZ reiterated its opinion that most children on their own did not choose to watch One News. Children who watched One News were usually in the company of parents and care givers. The item about Ms Hunter, it maintained, would not give offence.

[20] As for the broadcast of the Ms Love item on One News, TVNZ apologised for misinterpreting the complaint. It then stated that all news programmes reported events involving international celebrities, as they attracted “genuine public interest”. It continued:

We argue that, like it or not, Courtney Love is an international celebrity and what she does is legitimately part of news output. In this case questions were raised by what appeared to be somewhat erratic behaviour by Ms Love and two examples were referred to – the throwing of a microphone stand being one, her unusual behaviour on the David Letterman Show being the other. We submit that a decision to climb on to a television presenter’s desk and reveal her breasts would be news were it done by any female personality – let alone a “superstar” such as Ms Love. We believe One News acted properly in pixillating the shot in which Ms Love’s breasts were exposed.

[21] TVNZ argued that the pictures were not “sensationalist” but “illustrated well” the unusual behaviour being exhibited by Ms Love at the time. It added:

It is difficult to believe that this scene was the most disturbing visual imagery shown in the news programme that night.

Complainants’ Final Comments

[22] The Watsons pointed out that their concern focused on the three frontal pictures of a nude woman – Ms Hunter – shown on One News, and whether the broadcast of that material was consistent with the standards of good taste and decency.

[23] Ms Lafotanoa stated that Concerned Parents remained of the view that the items breached the standards. Describing TVNZ’s response as “diverting and unimpressive”, she said that they agreed with TVNZ when it wrote that some types of programme were targeted at a specific group of viewers. Nevertheless, targeting at present was inadequate.

[24] It was inadequate, she continued, as not only were promos for adult programmes screened during the afternoons, but there was an ever increasing level of “adult” content at all times. As a result, children were mimicking inappropriate behaviour. She asked TVNZ to take more responsibility and to consider “parent viewers”.

Authority's Determination

[25] The members have viewed a tape of the items complained about, and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaints without a formal hearing.

[26] When the Authority determines a complaint that an item breaches Standard 1 (good taste and decency), it is required to take the context of the broadcast into account. The relevant contextual issues in regard to the item about Rachel Hunter were:

  • her status as a celebrity
  • her comments during the interview about Playboy
  • Playboy’s reputation
  • the length of the item
  • the use of electronic masking
  • the extent of electronic masking.

[27] Taking into account the above matters, and giving particular attention to the use of electronic masking to conceal Ms Hunter’s breasts when showing some of the photographs which appeared in Playboy, a majority of the Authority declines to uphold the complaints. Further, the majority considers the images contained in the item reflected the broadcaster’s concern for the best interests of children.

[28] A minority (Tapu Misa) disagrees. In her view, the relevant contextual factors are: the time the item was shown; the nature of the magazine – an adult publication designed largely for the titillation of its target male audience – and the way TVNZ chose to use the photographs from the inside pages of the magazine. She disputes TVNZ’s description of Playboy as “staid” and its suggestion that the Playboy pictures were no different from art gallery nudes. The poses were sexually suggestive, she argues, and the masking of the nipples so minimal as to be pointless. In her opinion, the pictures seemed to have been chosen to satisfy prurient interests rather than any legitimate news value.

[29] As for TVNZ’s comparison of Playboy and Sports Illustrated, the minority points out that when Hunter appeared on the 1994 cover of Sports Illustrated, she was clothed, albeit skimpily, in a swimsuit, as are the rest of the models featured in that magazine. The minority concludes that TVNZ showed scant consideration for the interests of children. Had it done so, it would have illustrated the item with more care or shown it on the late evening news.
[30] As the news is unclassified, the Authority unanimously does not accept that the broadcast of the items breached Standard 7 (classification).

[31] The Authority is also unanimous that the news broadcast portraying Courtney Love’s behaviour on the “Late Show with David Letterman”, while better suited for the late evening news, did not breach the standards. Some of the contextual factors listed in para [26] are relevant, but the main matter was the entire pixilation of Ms Love’s breasts. Moreover, while it was apparent what had occurred, there were no sexual connotations to the behaviour.


For the reasons above, a majority of the Authority declines to uphold the complaint that the broadcast by Television New Zealand Ltd of an item on One News on 18 March 2004 breached the Standard 9 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

The Authority unanimously declines to uphold the complaint about the item on One News on 19 March 2004.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
15 July 2004


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

1     Kevin and Joy Watsons’ Formal Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd –
      23 March 2004
2    TVNZ’s Response to the Watsons – 26 March 2004
3    The Watsons’ Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 19 April 2004
4    TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 29 April 2004
5    The Watsons’ Final Comment – 6 May 2004

The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined the complaint from Ms Melanie Lafotanoa on behalf of Concerned Parents Nelson:

1     Concerned Parents Nelson’s Formal Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd –
      30 March 2004
2    TVNZ’s Response to Ms Lafotanoa regarding the item on18 March 2004 – 16 April 2004
3    TVNZ’s Response to Ms Lafotanoa regarding the item on19 March 2004 – 21 April 2004
4    Concerned Parents Nelson’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority –
      3 May 2004
5    TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 13 May 2004
6    Concerned Parents Nelson’s Final Comment – 28 May 2004