BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Wolf and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2005-010

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

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Eating Media Lunch – footage from British reality series Sex Inspectors included a couple engaged in various sexual acts – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency, law and order, privacy, balance, accuracy, fairness, programme classification and programme information standards

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

Standard 7 (programme classification) – warning sufficient – not upheld

Standards 2–6 and 8 – complaint based on mistake – not relevant – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1] At approximately 9.50pm on 14 December 2004 the presenter of Eating Media Lunch on TV2 introduced a segment which was to feature in the following episode. Brief footage from a British reality series called Sex Inspectors was shown, including a couple engaged in various sexual acts.

[2] The presenter of the programme introduced the clip by saying “coming up next, [a journalist] reports on a reality sex show shocker”.


[3] Graham Wolf complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the item had breached Standards 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. These complaints were based on Mr Wolf’s understanding that the item had identified a New Zealand celebrity as being the female in the video clip. While she was not identified by name, he said, the presenter was clearly intending to refer to her.

[4] Mr Wolf also contended that the item breached standards of good taste and decency and programme classification. He referred to the “particularly disgusting and sexually graphic video” and asserted that an adequate warning had not been given.


[5] Standards 1 and 7 and Guidelines 1a, 1b and 7c are relevant to the determination of this complaint. They 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.


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.

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 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.

Guideline 7c           

Broadcasters should consider the use of warnings where content is likely to offend or disturb a significant proportion of the audience.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[6] In its response to the complainant, TVNZ stated that Mr Wolf’s complaint was based on an incorrect assumption that the sequence involved a certain New Zealand celebrity.

[7] TVNZ said the sequence was from the British reality series Sex Inspectors and it had been used in the context of a trailer for an item which was to be shown the following week. TVNZ observed that there had been no reference to the celebrity named by the complainant, nor did the pictures show her.

[8] Under these circumstances, TVNZ asserted that the eight standards cited by the complainant had no relevance, and declined to uphold the complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[9] 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 reiterated his views that the “graphic sexual footage” amounted to a breach of good taste and decency.

[10] The complainant also argued that the segment should have carried prior warnings of nudity and sexual activity. A warning had been given in the following episode of Eating Media Lunch, he said, where the video shown was much “tamer” than the 14 December broadcast.

[11] Mr Wolf also added a complaint about the use of swear words on the 21 December episode.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[12] In its response to the Authority, TVNZ maintained that the item had not associated the video clip with the celebrity named by Mr Wolf. Nor had the celebrity been named, it said.

[13] With respect to a warning, the broadcaster did not believe that a warning was necessary for a “brief, inexplicit and grainy sex scene”. The decision to include a warning the following week was made because the scenes were more explicit and prolonged, it said.

[14] TVNZ advised the Authority that Mr Wolf had not lodged a complaint about the 21 December 2004 programme within the statutory time limit. It submitted that the Authority should therefore disregard his comments in relation to that item.

Complainant’s Final Comment

[15] In his final comment to the Authority, Mr Wolf reiterated that the segment should have been preceded by a verbal warning due to its “explicit” nature.

Authority's Determination

[16] 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.

[17] In relation to Mr Wolf’s complaint about the use of swear words in the 21 December episode of Eating Media Lunch, the Authority has no jurisdiction to consider those matters as they were not included in the original complaint to TVNZ.

[18] Having considered the formal complaint, the Authority can understand why TVNZ rejected the complainant’s concerns, as they all appeared to hinge on his mistaken identification of the celebrity. However, the Authority notes that two aspects of Mr Wolf’s complaint (relating to standards 1 and 7) did not in fact hinge on this identification, and thus merit independent consideration.

[19] TVNZ responded to the Standard 7 issue in its latest correspondence with the Authority. Under Standard 7 and Guideline 7c, the complainant has alleged that no warning was given about the “graphic sexual content”. The Authority notes, however, that the following warning was screened prior to the programme:

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.

[20] The Authority does not agree with the complainant that the broadcaster was required to screen an additional warning immediately prior to the sequence complained about. The Authority finds that the above warning was sufficient in all the circumstances and, accordingly, declines to uphold the complaint about Standard 7.

[21] Finally, the Authority notes that the complainant also raised a general issue about good taste and decency.  While TVNZ did not specifically deal with the good taste and decency part of the complaint, the Authority considers it unnecessary in the particular circumstances to seek further submissions on the issue. 

[22] Following its own consideration, the Authority determines that the Standard was not breached on this occasion in light of a number of contextual factors, including:

  • the time of the broadcast, at approximately 9.30pm. The item complained of was screened close to 10pm.
  • 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 for its challenging content.

[22] The Authority agrees that the nature of the brief images was relatively explicit. However, taking into account the contextual factors above, it finds that Standard 1 was not breached on this occasion.


For the above reasons the Authority does not 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:

  • Graham Wolf’s formal complaint – 6 January 2005
  • TVNZ’s decision on the formal complaint – 25 January 2005
  • Mr Wolf’s referral to the Authority – 21 February 2005
  • TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 2 March 2005
  • Mr Wolf’s final comment – 4 April 2005