BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Wilson and Discovery NZ - 2021-026 (21 July 2021)

Members
  • Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Paula Rose QSO
  • Susie Staley MNZM
Dated
Complainant
  • Ann Wilson
Number
2021-026
Programme
Newshub
Broadcaster
Discovery NZ Ltd
Channel/Station
Three

Summary  

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

The Authority has not upheld a complaint a news item about sex workers and escorts opening up about their work on social media breached the good taste and decency, children’s interests and programme information standards. The Authority noted the public interest in the broadcast and considered the content was within audience expectations for the news. In this context, the Authority found the item was unlikely to cause widespread offence or undermine community standards. The Authority also found the introduction to the item was sufficient to inform viewers of the nature of the coverage, enabling them to adequately protect themselves and their children from the content by choosing not to watch.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Programme Information


The broadcast

[1]  On 9 February 2021, Newshub covered an item about sex workers and escorts opening up about their work on social media. The relevant excerpts follow:

Mike McRoberts:        Stripping, escorting, and sex work have long been kept in the dark, but there is a growing trend for the workers to open up about their chosen careers on social media.

Samantha Hayes:       That’s caused concern because some of the platforms on which they’re sharing their saucy work stories like TikTok are also popular with kids.

Holly Henry:                It’s a growing trend…gaining millions of views…sex workers, sugar babies, escorts and strippers proudly outing themselves online…and the movement has hit New Zealand.

                        …

Interviewee:                For a group of women who have maybe been like shamed, or looked at in a bad light, it’s cool to be able to be the voice, to be the person who says, actually, we’re making a lot of money, we’re enjoying ourselves. We live a pretty cool lifestyle.

[2]  The item included commentary from Cherida Fraser (sex work industry researcher) and Martin Cocker (CEO, Netsafe). Relevant quotes follow:

Mr Cocker:                  On the one hand, it's great…people can present their lives and you can see, you know, worlds that you might not otherwise see. But on the other hand, you know,…those lives are exposed to people who are a little bit too young to understand them or who are not ready for it.

Ms Fraser:                   It's always important to understand that what gets presented on social media isn't necessarily the mundane reality.

The complaint

[3]  Ann Wilson complained the broadcast breached the good taste and decency, programme information and children’s interests standards for the following reasons:

  • ‘This item on the news promoted sex working very positively as a very viable occupation financially.’
  • ‘It could encourage girls to go into this occupation as a fantastic financial option with no negative messages reported.’
  • ‘I am also upset as a mother of teenaged boys. This item reports on the success and popularity of stories of sex workers in NZ. This is likely to spark an interest in searching such blogs and [following] social media beginning or flaming a pornography addiction. This is unhealthy for the minds of our young people and goes against current education recommendations and sound reporting.’

The broadcaster’s response

[4]  Discovery did not uphold Ms Wilson’s complaint for the following reasons:

  • Newshub is an unclassified news programme screened at a scheduled time each day targeted to an adult audience. It is unlikely to be watched unsupervised.
  • The introduction to the item contained sufficient information to allow caregivers to make informed decisions about whether or not to allow younger viewers to continue watching.
  • The broadcast did not contain explicit sexual material or material that went beyond what would be expected from a news bulletin.
  • The item highlighted concerns about sex workers sharing stories on social media and discussed the negative aspects of this.

The standards

[5]  The good taste and decency standard1 states current norms of good taste and decency should be maintained, consistent with the context of the programme. The standard is intended to protect audiences from content likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards.2

[6]  The children’s interests standard3 requires broadcasters to 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.4

[7]  The programme information standard5 requires broadcasters to ensure programmes are correctly classified and screened in appropriate timebands, and where appropriate, issue an audience advisory where the content of a broadcast may not be suitable for likely viewers. News and current affairs are not subject to classification because of their distinct nature. However broadcasters must be mindful of children’s interests and include audience advisories where appropriate.6

Our analysis

[8]  We have watched the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

[9]  As a starting point, we considered the right to freedom of expression. As we may only intervene when the limitation on the right to freedom of expression is reasonable and justified, we weigh the right to freedom of expression against any harm potentially caused by the broadcast.7

Good Taste and Decency

[10]  The standards recognise that news programmes are by their nature distinctive, and often include disturbing and challenging material reflective of the world we live in.8 The focus of the standards is on providing effective protections to enable viewers to make a different viewing choice or otherwise exercise discretion about what they watch. The context in which content occurs and the wider context of the broadcast are relevant to assessing whether a broadcast has breached the good taste and decency standard.9 The contextual factors relevant to our consideration here include:

  • Newshub is an unclassified news programme targeted at an adult audience. It is unlikely children will watch this unsupervised.10
  • The item is a report about sex workers sharing their experiences on social media, and the concerns that may cause.
  • The introduction summarised what the item would be about.
  • The broadcast did not include any explicit sexual images or nudity, or any material beyond what audiences might reasonably expect from a news item.

[11]  We acknowledge Ms Wilson’s genuine and reasonable concerns regarding the potential impacts of the programme. However, the issues discussed (including the effects of sex workers sharing material on social media platforms) also carried some public interest value. The item highlighted concerns about such material being accessible to children online, cautioning parents so they could safeguard their children against potentially harmful material by using parental controls on devices.11

[12]  Considering the above contextual factors, as a news item, the broadcast is unlikely to cause widespread offence or undermine community standards as contemplated under the standard. We also consider the introduction to the item contained sufficient information to enable viewers to regulate their own and their children’s viewing behaviour.12

[13]  We therefore do not uphold the complaint under this standard.

Children’s Interests

[14]  The factors discussed in paragraphs [10] to [12] above are relevant to the consideration of the complaint under this standard. We find the introduction, combined with the above contextual factors, enabled viewers to adequately protect their children from the content.

[15]  We therefore do not find a breach under this standard.

Programme Information

[16]  As this is a news programme, it is not subject to classification. In addition, for the reasons discussed in paragraphs [10] and [11] we consider the content was suitable for likely viewers and did not require an audience advisory. In any event, the introduction was sufficient to inform viewers of the likely content.

[17]  We therefore do not uphold the complaint under this standard.

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Judge Bill Hastings

Chair

21 July 2021

 


Appendix

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

1  Ann Wilson’s original complaint to Discovery NZ – 9 February 2021

2  Discovery’s response to Ms Wilson – 2 March 2021

3  Ms Wilson’s referral to the Authority – 15 March 2021

4  Discovery confirming no further comments – 17 March 2021


1 Standard 1 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice
2 Commentary: Good Taste and Decency, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 12
3 Standard 3 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice
4 Guideline 3a
5 Standard 2 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice
6 Guideline 2f
7 Freedom of Expression: Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 6
8 See Lewis and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2017-069 at [14] and Moore and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2017-059 at [11]
9 Guideline 1a
10 Pask and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2019-057 at [10]
11 See Netsafe (12 April 2021) “Netsafe’s parent toolkit resource” <www.netsafe.org> and Nelson and Mediaworks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2019-113 at [17]
12 Torrey & Mayell and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2019-102 at [22]