BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Wolf and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2005-009

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Paul France
  • Tapu Misa
  • Graham Wolf
Eating Media Lunch

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Eating Media Lunch – image of a penis superimposed over a man’s face – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency, unbalanced and unfair

Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – contextual factors – not upheld

Standard 4 (balance) – not a news, current affairs or factual programme – not upheld

Standard 6 (fairness) – no evidence of unfairness – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1] At approximately 9.50pm on 7 December 2004 an item on Eating Media Lunch on TV2 showed celebrities arriving for a magazine launch on Auckland’s waterfront. The presenter of the programme spoke with two radio personalities, one of whom dared the presenter to make fun of them. The image of a penis was then superimposed over the man’s face.


[2] Graham Wolf objected to the “graphic image” and complained that the item breached standards of good taste and decency, balance and fairness. He contended that there were more tasteful ways of conveying the same satirical message, such as using a stylised drawing instead of a photo.

[3] Mr Wolf also alleged that the Eating Media Lunch programme was harassing a particular New Zealand celebrity, but did not identify any alleged breaches of broadcasting standards in relation to this aspect of the complaint.


[4] TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standards 1, 4 and 6 and Guidelines 1a and 6g of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provide:

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.

Guideline 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 4 Balance

In the preparation and presentation of news, current affairs and factual programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards consistent with the principle that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed, reasonable efforts are made, or reasonable opportunities are given, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.

Standard 6 Fairness

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are required to deal justly and fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to.

Guideline 6g           

Broadcasters should avoid portraying persons in programmes in a manner that encourages denigration of, or discrimination against, sections of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, or occupational status, or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religious, cultural or political beliefs. This requirement is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material which is:

i)    factual, or

ii)   the expression of genuinely held opinion in news, current affairs or other factual programmes, or

iii)  in the legitimate context of a dramatic, humorous or satirical work,

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[5] In its response to the complainant, TVNZ disagreed with Mr Wolf’s assertion that the programme was harassing a particular celebrity.

[6] Turning to consider Standard 1 (good taste and decency), TVNZ noted that it was required by Guideline 1a to consider the context in which the material was shown. It noted that the content was shown in a programme which began an hour after the “adults only” watershed, and that it carried an AO classification. The programme had been preceded by the following warning, which was delivered both visually and verbally:

This edition of Eating Media Lunch on TV2 is rated adults only and recommended for a mature audience. It contains material and language that may offend some people.

[7] Also important was the audience’s familiarity with the nature of a series which was “long-running and well established”, it said. TVNZ did not consider that Standard 1 had been breached.

[8] Referring to Standard 4 (balance), TVNZ noted that the standard is confined to “news, current affairs and factual programmes”. It contended that Standard 4 was not relevant to Eating Media Lunch because it did not apply to satire.

[9] The broadcaster also concluded that Standard 6 (fairness) had not been breached. Taking the satirical context into account, it found no evidence that anyone in the programme had been unfairly treated or denigrated. TVNZ maintained that, even if there had been evidence of denigration, Guideline 6g allows for such denigration “in the legitimate context of a dramatic, humorous or satirical work”.

Referral to the Authority

[10] Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr Wolf referred his complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He maintained that the radio personality had been denigrated in the item.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[11] TVNZ added nothing further to its original reply in respect of the standards matters.

Complainant’s Final Comment

[12] In his final submission, Mr Wolf maintained that the image was “graphic, offensive, and frankly, quite unnecessary”. He reiterated that there were “softer options” available to convey the same satirical message.

Authority's Determination

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

[14] When the Authority considers a complaint which alleges a breach of good taste and decency, it is required to take into consideration the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, relevant contextual factors include:

  • the time of the broadcast, at approximately 9.30pm
  • the target audience of Eating Media Lunch , young adult viewers
  • the AO classification of the programme
  • the visual and verbal warning given prior to the programme
  • viewer expectations of the programme, which is well known to contain challenging material
  • the graphic was intended to be humorous rather than offensive.

[15] Taking these factors into account, the Authority does not consider that the standard of good taste and decency was breached on this occasion.

[16] In considering Standard 4, the Authority notes that the requirement for balance only extends to news, current affairs and factual programmes. Eating Media Lunch does not fall into any of these categories, and accordingly the Authority declines to uphold this aspect of the complaint.

[17] The complainant has also argued that the radio personality was treated unfairly. The Authority does not support this view, noting that the radio personality recognised that the programme would probably make fun of him and was good natured about it. The Authority does not consider that Standard 6 was breached on this occasion.


For the above reasons the Authority does no uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

Joanne Morris
11 May 2005


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

  1. Graham Wolf’s formal complaint – 30 December 2004
  2. TVNZ’s decision on the formal complaint – 25 January 2005
  3. Mr Wolf’s referral to the Authority – 21 February 2005
  4. TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 1 March 2005
  5. Mr Wolf’s final comment – 24 March 2005