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Ngapo & Tolungamaka and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2018-099 (13 March 2019)
2018-099

The Authority has not upheld two complaints about episodes of Shortland Street, which followed the ongoing storyline of a threesome between a married couple and their nanny. The Authority acknowledged that some viewers might find this storyline distasteful and that some scenes and references might have raised questions for children. However, the Authority found that various contextual factors, including audience expectations of the long-running television drama and a warning for sexual material, prepared audiences for the likely content and minimised the potential for undue harm. The sexual material and references contained in these episodes were relatively inexplicit, with no nudity or sexual activity beyond kissing shown. Finally, the fictional sexual activity took place between consenting adults and no illegal or seriously antisocial activity was portrayed during the programme. The Authority therefore found no grounds to justify restricting the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Law and Order

Decisions
Sarah and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2018-079 (27 November 2018)
2018-079

During an episode of Shortland Street, characters Lincoln and Jack took Nicole out for drinks to take her mind off her attacker. Lincoln, who was previously in a relationship with a man, was shown taking an illegal drug which he gave to Nicole. Later in the episode, Lincoln and Nicole were shown in bed together. In the episode broadcast the following evening, Jack asked Lincoln about being gay and sleeping with Nicole. Lincoln replied that he did not have to ‘put a label on it’, saying, ‘I’m just me’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the programme’s portrayal of Lincoln’s sexuality, by a straight actor, could have damaging effects on young viewers or those struggling with their sexuality. The character explained that he preferred not to use labels and there was no suggestion that Lincoln’s sexual orientation changed under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or that his sexual orientation was ‘a phase’. While the Authority acknowledged that ensuring diversity in casting was an important issue, the casting of straight actors to play gay or queer characters was a decision for the broadcaster. The actor’s portrayal of Lincoln was part of the programme’s fictional narrative, which in context was not in breach of standards. The Authority therefore did not identify any grounds which would justify restricting the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression or dramatic license in this case.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Programme Information, Violence, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Alcohol, Balance, Accuracy, Fairness

Decisions
Hall & Large and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2018-061 (10 October 2018)
2018-061

Two complaints regarding an episode of Shortland Street were not upheld. In the episode a new character appointed CEO of the Shortland Street hospital commented, ‘Puffed up, privileged Pakeha men drunk on control, terrified of change… we are the future, Esther, not them,’ referring to the hospital’s management. Complaints were made that this statement was sexist, racist and offensive to white men. The Authority reviewed the programme and relevant contextual factors, including established expectations of Shortland Street as a long-running, fictional soap opera/drama, and concluded the character’s statement did not breach broadcasting standards. It found upholding the complaints in this context would unreasonably limit the right to freedom of expression.

Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration, Good Taste and Decency, Balance, Accuracy, Fairness

Decisions
Mclean and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2018-046 (10 August 2018)
2018-046

During an episode of Shortland Street, one of the characters, Harper, used the exclamation ‘Oh, Jesus…’ to express her shock and disgust at a flood of sewage in her new home. A promo for this episode, broadcast during the weather report on 1 News, also included Harper using this expression. The Authority received a complaint that this language was blasphemous and offensive, and in the case of the promo, inappropriate for broadcast during 1 News at 6pm when children might be watching. The Authority acknowledged that the complainant, and others in the community, might find this type of language offensive. However, the Authority has consistently found that these type of expressions are commonly used as exclamations in our society. This was reflected in recent research undertaken by the Authority, which found that the level of unacceptability for some blasphemies was decreasing among the members of the public who were surveyed. Overall, the Authority considered the broadcast of this language did not cause harm to an extent which justified limiting the right to freedom of expression, and did not uphold the complaint.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Discrimination and Denigration  

Decisions
Holding and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2018-019 (24 May 2018)
2018-019

An episode of Shortland Street featured a character using the phrase (according to the accompanying closed captions), ‘You’ve got no freaking idea…’ The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this phrase breached the good taste and decency standard because in the complainant’s view, the character actually said ‘f***ing’. The Authority noted that if broadcasters wish to broadcast sanitised versions of unacceptable words, then it is their responsibility to make it clear that it is not the offensive word that is being uttered, but rather a word which is distinctly aurally different. Here, where there was some uncertainty about what was said, the Authority did not uphold the complaint. However the Authority urged broadcasters to be careful in future, on the basis that if there is some murkiness and it is open for viewers or listeners to think that an inappropriate word has been used, the Authority may find there has been a breach of broadcasting standards.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency

Decisions
Lobb and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2017-013 (26 April 2017)
2017-013

An episode of Shortland Street featured a storyline about the developing relationship of a young same-sex couple, and included several scenes of the two kissing, including shots of them from the waist up in bed together. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that these scenes breached the good taste and decency and children’s interests standards. The Authority acknowledged there is value in programmes such as Shortland Street, which provides entertainment and reflects contemporary society and evolving social issues and attitudes. Shortland Street is a PGR-classified medical drama series that has screened in the 7pm timeband for many years. It is well known for featuring adult themes. In that context the level of sexual content did not threaten current norms of good taste and decency, nor would be likely to adversely affect any child viewers. The depiction of kissing in itself did not go beyond what is expected of the PGR classification, and no further sexual activity was shown. Given the nature of the programme and the PGR classification, any child viewers could reasonably be expected to be under adult supervision, and viewers were given the opportunity to make a different viewing choice for themselves and their children.  

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Discrimination and Denigration, Privacy 

Decisions
Brock and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2015-077 (28 January 2016)
2015-077

An episode of Shortland Street showed the death of a 14-year-old character, Pixie. Pixie had apparently been undergoing chemotherapy and was hospitalised for pneumonia. At the end of the episode, Pixie’s condition rapidly deteriorated and she died. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item should have been preceded by a warning because children could have been disturbed and upset by the content. Shortland Street is rated PGR and frequently features adult themes. While the fictional depiction of a child’s death was potentially upsetting, it was not outside audience expectations and parents had an opportunity to exercise discretion.

Not Upheld: Responsible Programming, Children’s Interests

Decisions
Chaney and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2013-029
2013-029

An episode of Shortland Street on TV2 showed characters smoking cigarettes and dropping their cigarette butts on the ground. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that this breached the good taste and decency, and law and order standards: the footage was acceptable in context and relevant to the developing storyline. It was well within the broadcaster’s right to employ dramatic licence.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Law and Order

Decisions
Buxton and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2009-016
2009-016

Shortland Street. Episode contained violent scenes. Programme classification, violence. Upheld. No order.

Decisions
Buxton and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2009-017
2009-017

Shortland Street. Episode contained violent scenes. Programme classification, violence. Upheld. No order.

Decisions
Turner and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2008-112
2008-112

Shortland Street. Episode included violent scenes. Good taste and decency. Upheld, majority. No order.

Decisions
Cross and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2008-059
2008-059

Shortland Street. Scene involved sexual encounter between two characters. Good taste and decency, subsumed. Children’s interests, upheld. No order.

Decisions
Denley and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2007-065
2007-065

Shortland Street. Character's dream. Good taste and decency, children's interests. Not upheld.

Decisions
Buckingham and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2002-185
2002-185

Shortland Street. Episodes about a child of drug dealer in coma having taken a capsule of cannabis oil; drug dealer said she gave child small amounts of cannabis oil to calm him as he was ADHD. Not upheld (good taste and decency, law and order). Not applicable (balance, accuracy).

Decisions
Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand and Bipolar/Manic Depression Society Inc and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2002-074, 2002-075
2002-074–075

Shortland Street. Character with bipolar disorder portrayed as obsessive, delusional and violent. Not upheld (discrimination). Not applicable (balance, accuracy).

Decisions
Viewers for Television Excellence Inc and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2001-231, 2001-232, 2001-233
2001-231–233

Shortland Street. Episodes involving casual sex, the use of toothpaste to make a child ill, ending an episode with voodoo-inspired fear, adult themes. Not upheld (programme classification, children's interests).

Decisions
Percy and Television New Zealand Ltd - 1999-118, 1999-119
1999-118–119

Shortland Street. Two consecutive episodes contained a story-line about a nine-year-old boy, previously diagnosed with leukaemia, suffering a relapse and needing further medical treatment. Not upheld: majority (good taste and decency, children's interests).

Decisions
Barker and Television New Zealand Ltd - 1998-172
1998-172

Shortland Street. Storylines which ran through five episodes concerned the intimate relationships of three sets of characters. Not upheld (good taste and decency, programme classification, children's interests).

Decisions
Stanton and Television New Zealand Ltd - 1998-097
1998-097

Shortland Street. Episode included a scene depicting a male and a female character in bed together after sexual activity. Not upheld (good taste and decency, parogramme classification, children's interests).

Decisions
Barker and Television New Zealand Ltd - 1997-187
1997-187

Shortland Street. Episode depicted the attempted murder of one character by another. Children's interests, violence, law and order. Not upheld.

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